New resource focuses on history of east Biloxi sites

There’s a new resource to help appreciate the rich history of Biloxi’s predominantly African American community: “East Biloxi African American and Civil Rights Historic Resources Survey.”

The 29-page compilation, produced by the city with funding from the National Parks Service through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, draws from a wealth of historical resources to focus attention on the “back of town”

The effort, which also included a successful initiative to see Dr. Gilbert R. Mason’s medical office added to the national Register of Historic Places, actually began with a small meeting at Our Mother of Sorrows school in January.

“We’ve worked with the East Biloxi Community Collaborative and a few other groups on a few projects, and this seemed like a logical step,” said Biloxi Historical Administrator Bill Raymond, who helped guide the project.

Researching and writing the document was Laura Ewen Blokker, principal investigator with Southeast Preservation, a Greensburg, La. firm, that has worked with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on previous projects. She also is an adjunct professor at Tulane University School of Architecture.

“Archives and History had a track rec0rd with her, and everyone loves her proposal,” Raymond said. “And today, everyone is very pleased with the results.”

The National Parks Service and the Mississippi Department of Archives and history provided the city $2,700 in funding for the $6,600 project.

An online version of the resource is on the city’s website and 150 copies of the booklet is available for free at the Biloxi Visitors Center. To see it, click here

The plan is to use the information as a foundation for future programs and projects.

“This is really the first step,” Raymond said. “Now that we have the survey, we know what’s out there. One of the things that we would like to do, sometime in the future and when funding is available, is to erect historical markets that tell the story of the area, the places that are significant and why they are significant.

“We’re also looking to use this information for the Preservation in May series. The legwork has been done and now it’s a matter of using it in our historical programming to promote the history and culture of this significant area of our community. This designation of Dr. Mason’s office points out, once again ,that areas of our city are not only significant to us but to the country.” 
Read the online version