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    Oxford, MS courthouse

    Published 5-15-2019

    Oxford, Mississippi, located in northern MS and the heart of the South, has a long and storied history that begins with the three great tribes, the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez, that inhabited the region prior to European arrival in 1541. The land was meagerly populated until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 and in 1798 Congress delineated the Mississippi Territory. The Chickasaw Indian Cession Treaty relocated the tribes in 1836 adding 6,283,804-acres to the territory, including what is now Oxford. visitoxfordms.com 

    Sign at Old Mis

    Three inhabitants of the area donated 50-acres and named the new town Oxford after the university and town in 1836. The legislature agreed to build the University of Mississippi, ‘Ole Miss’, there and it was chartered on February 24, 1844. Sixteen-years later the institution suspended classes so that the students could fight in the Civil War. www.olemiss.edu 

    pillows and welcome mat

    Oxford is a walkable city filled with historic sites, post-war architecture, museums, entertainment venues, eclectic dining options and specialty shopping opportunities. I have outlined eight thematic clusters that make the city easier to experience. Maps and guides and information is available in hotels and the Visitor Center. 

    book store

    sign and entrance to music store

    stature of William Faulkner

                   1.   Oxford’s Historic Downtown Square has more than 100 locations of interest including commemorative markers and sculptures. Of particular note is Square Books, Their main store was voted one of the top ten independent bookstores in America. It is home to the weekly Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, a free live broadcast of music and book readings. Two additional allied bookstores,  Square Books and Square Books Jr., are also on the square. Music aficionados must visit The End of All Music,  one of the nation’s top independent record stores. Pause in a small plaza and sit beside William Faulkner. www.squarebooks.com

      poster about enslavement in Oxford, MS

    person entering red brick Oxford Mississippi museum

                 2.   African Americans settled near downtown during Reconstruction in a section called  
    Freedman Town and in 1869 they erected the first Burns Methodist Episcopal Church for $3000. The current structure dates from 1910 and functioned until 1974. After the congregation relocated, in 1993, author John Grisham purchased the building as an office. Grisham donated the building in 2002 and it recently underwent a restoration and is now a museum and community center. Museum exhibits interpret African American history from the 17th-20th centuries through a two room self-guided tour and 13-minute video. The pews and Bible date from the earlier structure. 
                 3.    In October of 2018 a marker in memory of Elwood Higginbottom was placed at the intersection of 
    Molly Barr Road and North Lamar Boulevard. Higginbottom, a sharecropper, was engaged in a land dispute with his white neighbor in 1935 and became the final lynching victim in the county. The marker has been placed where they believe he was buried. 

    Sculpture of L Q Lamar in Oxford, MS

                4.  L. Q. Lamar is represented in John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. He was a slave owner, secessionist and post-war advocate for black rights and education. Exhibit rooms are thematic and self-guided.  www.lqclamarhouse.com  
                 5.  No matter what pleases your palate you can find it in Oxford. Dine on international or southern cuisine and finish off the meal with a specialty drink.   

    Big Bad Breakfast will make this your favorite meal. Along with a plethora of choices don’t miss the house-cured Tabasco brown sugar bacon www.bigbadbreakfast.com  

    bartender mixing drink

    Saint Leo’s is a 2017 James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant. Dishes are a combination of fresh local ingredients and wood-fired Italian cooking. One block away is the Saint Leo Lounge helmed by James Beard-nominated bar director and mixologist Joe Stinchcomb. Formerly the Oxford Eagle Newspaper, the décor is thoroughly modern with a disco ball decorated dance floor. eatsaintleo.com 

    Chef Vishwesh Bhat, a 2019 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef South, reigns over The Snack Bar. The food is outstanding and the oyster bar is superb.  citygroceryonline.com/snackbar    

               6.  A tour of the University of Mississippi is a deep dive into the nation’s history. In 1961 James Meredith applied for admission into the university. After two rejections he was admitted in 1962 and was accompanied by 500 U.S. marshals and a cease and desist obstruction order. When the police were removed on September 29th a riot broke out, two people were killed and many wounded. President Kennedy ordered 11,000 MS National Guard and 20,000 federal troops to restore order. Meredith graduated in 1963. In 2003 a sculpture was placed on the Lyceum Circle entrance. Meredith is depicted walking towards the Lyceum where a bullet hole is still visible. The university offers a self-guided Meredith walking tour that can be downloaded from the web. 
    A Professional Journalism Marker on campus honors French journalist Paul Guihard who was murdered near the student union on September 30, 1962.  

    The university is also home to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Living Blues magazine. The center documents and preserves African American blues, gospel and folk traditions. In 1984 the renowned Blues Archive opened and showcases  B. B. King’s personal record collection, rare documents, books, and artifacts. This is a unique treat. Entrance is free.  

                 7.  Oxford is known as the Literary Capital of the South largely because it was home to Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner William Faulkner. He lived in his Greek Revival Rowan Oak home from 1930 until his death. All of the rooms are open to view and there are displays of personal items, photographs and listening booths. Everything is original and his funeral service was held in the parlor. Visitors can walk the 29-acre Bailey’s Woods.  

    Faulkner is buried in Oxford Memorial Cemetery and it is traditional to leave whiskey or take a drink with him while you are there. His nursemaid, Mama Callie, was originally buried at his request in the family plot. After his death she was moved to the “colored” section. rowanoak.olemiss.edu


               8.  Two mandatory music venues near Oxford are Taylor Grocery and Foxfire Ranch. Taylor Grocery is famous for its catfish and live music. People do not visit the area without stopping by. www.taylorgrocery.com  

    The 80-acre Foxfire Ranch  gives the experience of a family friendly traditional juke joint. In summer the shows are outdoors. Iretta and Johnny B. Blues Band performed there on their way to Europe. Soul food was on the menu and the music was in your soul. Call for showtimes.  

    Graduate Hotel Oxford is within walking distance of everything. It is cleverly decorated to reflect both the campus and literary atmosphere. Café 82 is open for casual fare and The Coop, a roof-top bar, is open for dining and nighttime viewing. graduateoxford.com  

    Take a tour with Oxford Historian Rhondalyn Pairs, grab a bike at the Graduate, take a Double Decker Bus Tour or stroll along the historic streets. An Oxford vacation always fits your budget and your state of mind.   .


    Renee Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper for the past fifteen years and has published articles on local, national and international travel in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and her areas of specialization are sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renee has been a guest radio commentator on various aspects of tourism and appeared in a documentary, "The Red Summer of 1919". As an educator for thirty years she was an English teacher, event and meeting planner, served as an educational consultant and intern-teacher mentor. She contributed to textbooks on women's history and classroom management and has facilitated workshops on both subjects. Renee considers herself a "missionary journalist" and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism.

    2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing

    IABTW- International Association of Black Travel Writers
    PBJ - Progressive Black Journalists


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