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The USA National Parks Have Their Eyes on Mississippi

The US National Parks celebrate historical sites as well as natural wonders, and the ones in Mississippi are no different. 

However, some historic sites have a darker story than others. The National Park Service (NPS) aims to add some areas from more recent events thanks to the efforts of local activists.

So, what will these sites look like, and what other national parks does the Magnolia State have to offer?

Let’s explore!

NPS Considering Several Historic Mississippi Sites

For decades, several groups have worked to preserve historic sites in Mississippi that played a significant role in the civil rights movement. After consulting with experts and surveying over 200 sites, the NPS identified nine potential locations.

One of the locations is the Mount Zion Methodist Church in Neshoba County. It was one of 20 churches the Ku Klux Klan firebombed in the summer of 1964. They also selected Bryant’s Grocery, where 14-year-old Emmit Till first entered the history books. 

Bryant’s Grocery needs many repairs, as well as some of the other historic sites. Local groups have raised money to preserve other locations.

The NPS could help these areas get federal funding for protection. It’ll also make them more accessible to people who want to learn about the region’s history. 

How Many National Parks Are There in Mississippi?

There are currently nine NPS sites and three associated areas in the state. These parks celebrate places of historical significance as well as preserve natural wildlife. 

For example, Brices Cross Roads is a civil war battlefield. It was a significant victory for the Union that set them on the path to capturing Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail is a 444-mile route through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. It was once a Native American route. 

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a world-renowned beach destination along the coast of Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. You can hike, swim, and camp while enjoying the local wildlife. 

Welcome to Mississippi sign
Explore the nine Mississippi national park system sites while in the Magnolia State.

What Is the National Park Service?

The NPS is a federal agency established in 1916. While the headquarters are in Washington D.C., they have 424 units in every state and US territory. Not only do they preserve ecological and historic areas of significance, but they’re also responsible for welcoming the public. 

Over 85 million acres of land throughout the country are managed by the NPS. The agency serves 318 million visitors annually across the country. They depend on volunteer efforts and private partnerships to care for their sites and keep them open to the public. 

Most national parks are free to enter, though about 100 of them require an entrance fee. Many of the parks allow public camping on undeveloped land. There are also fee-based campgrounds with utilities for tent campers and RVs with hookups. 

Pro Tip: Looking for unique spots to explore in Mississippi? Find out Why Do People Visit the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi?

Who Was Emmett Till?

Emmit Till was an African American born and raised in Chicago. In the summer of 1955, he visited relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was 14. Chicago had segregation at the time, but the differences between the two places were stark. 

While in Money, he visited Bryant’s Grocery, where he encountered Carolyn Bryant working the counter. The actual events are still in question decades later, but records state Till offended Bryant before leaving the store. 

A few days later, her husband and his brother abducted Till from the side of the road. They tortured the teenager before killing him and dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River. The two men were found not guilty but later sold their story to a magazine.

Till’s murder sparked outrage and helped rally communities into the next phase of the civil rights movement. 

Scenic view over Mississippi River
There are plenty of soon to be national park sites in the state of Mississippi.

How Many National Park Sites Are There?

The NPS has 423 park units, and 63 have national park status. The different titles help distinguish each location. For example, monuments are usually smaller and focus on one significant resource. For example, Dinosaur National Monument in Utah protects one of the biggest fossil sites in the country. 

On the other hand, national parks are generally vast areas of land or water with many protected resources. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Zion are some of the most notable. The NPS also protects various battlefield and military sites for their historical value. 

Pro Tip: While exploring Mississippi, grab a glass at one of these Mississippi Wineries That Are Actually Good.

Who Creates National Parks?

Yellowstone, the first national park, was created by Congress in 1872. They continued to pass legislation to protect more critical areas around the country. 

In 1906, the Antiquities Act spelled out the requirements to create new national parks. It allows the government to protect public land and evaluate it for inclusion in the park system. The permit process can happen through the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and War. 

Once public land has all the necessary approval, the president can declare new NPS sites. Congress also has the power to pass legislation to create national park sites. The Antiquities Act simplified the process and gave the government authority over protecting national resources.

Preserving Historic Sites For Future Generations

While these places in Mississippi aren’t national park sites yet, they have met the necessary qualifications. President Biden or Congress could finalize their inclusion at any time under the Antiquities Act,  

A national park designation would open up new resources to protect and preserve the areas. It’ll also mean people interested in learning about them will have easy access. In the meantime, you can explore many national treasures in the Magnolia State and across the country.

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