JANS – The Unita Blackwell Property, the property of the first African American woman in the state elected to the office of mayor, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The United States Secretary of the Interior approved the addition upon the recommendation of the Mississippi National Register Review Board.
“I am ecstatic about this news. I am humbled that the family matriarch is being honored in this fashion.” said son of Blackwell, Jeremiah Blackwell Jr.
The Unita Blackwell Property consists of the Freedom House, the Ranch House, and the neighbor’s shotgun house.
The Freedom House was Blackwell’s primary residence and was used to host numerous civil rights meetings between the years of 1964-1970. The Freedom House hosted many groups associated with the Civil Rights Movement as well such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The Ranch House was added for its association to Blackwell’s productive life during her career as mayor of Mayersville, and its use for political work sessions and meetings during her mayorship. Lastly, the neighbor’s shotgun house was added for its architectural significance and association to the civil rights leader.
The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects wrote the nomination for the Unita Blackwell property and will work to operate the site as a community center in the future.
“We are thrilled to have played a role in the first steps toward institutionalizing the legacy of the Honorable Unita Blackwell, by having her former home named to the National Registry. The next steps for us is building a museum worthy of her name and her comrades,’” said president and founder Natalie Collier. “Such a space will not only be a gathering space in Mayersville, but will also remind the Mississippi Delta, Mississippians and beyond of the dignity, tenacity and charm of a Black woman who succeeded in “Barefootin’” her way to personal, civil and humanitarian freedom. Ms. Unita has long-since been a point of personal inspiration, so I’m grateful her son, Jeremiah, worked with us to achieve this milestone.”
“Unita Blackwell was an amazing local leader and trailblazer. Her story is one that everyone should know,” said executive director Katie Blount. “I am so glad her property is being preserved for future generations.”
The National Register of Historic Places was established by Congress in 1966 to help identify and protect historically significant properties. National Register properties enrich our understanding of local, state, and national history by representing significant events and developments, the contributions of notable people, and important types of buildings and architectural styles. National Register listing can also help preserve these important properties through tax benefits, grant assistance, and protection from demolition or development.
National Register listing does not restrict a private owner’s use of the property, unless development of the property involves federal funding, federal rehabilitation tax credits, or participation in some other federal program. There are no requirements for public accessibility, and information about sensitive sites can be restricted from the public.
By preserving Mississippi’s diverse historic resources, and sharing them with people around the world, MDAH inspires discovery of stories that connect our lives and shape our future.
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