Quilts and Community at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads

Close-up Julia Dotson string quilt at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Close-up of a Julia Dotson string quilt on display at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in Port Gibson, MS.

I first heard of the town of Port Gibson, Mississippi while exploring the nearby Sunken Trace, which is part of the centuries-old footpath and wagon road from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi that today is the pretty 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway.

Port Gibson is about a 40 minute drive south of Vicksburg, and it is the closest town if you want to see the haunting Windsor Ruins.

If you are around on a weekday, stop in at the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads community center, located right downtown on Market Street, across from a small park with one of the blue Mississippi Blues Trail signs, for singer Lil Green.

Take a little time to admire some of the gorgeous quilts made by the local “Crossroads Quilters” and displayed in the main meeting room. They are stunning.

Three quilts on display in early 2020 at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads Port Gibson MS (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Three of the many colorful quilts on display at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in Port Gibson, MS.

I am not a quilter, or really any sort of seamstress beyond the occasional loose button or torn seam, but I do admire the artistry and color combinations of beautiful, distinctive quilts. The local women who call themselves the Crossroads Quilters make these pieces, and many are for sale.

There is a quilters’ mini-museum in the main room, with all sorts of historic photos and descriptions of key Mississippi quilt artists over the years including Master Quilter Hystercine Rankin. She quilted a poignant tribute to her father, who was murdered when she was a young girl.

This video from Craft in America does a nice job of introducing the artists and how they approach their work…

The day that we visited, Port Gibson local Mr. Melvin Anderson was kind enough to give us a quick tour.

The back workroom didn’t have any classes or quilting projects going on at the time, but we admired a vibrant work-in-progress and imagined busy people at all the sewing machines, or stitching as a group.

Mr. Melvin Anderson in the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads work room with quilt in progress (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Local activist, Southern Dreams Team Leader, and MCC Board of Directors VP Mr. Melvin Anderson showed us around the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads sewing workroom, with a quilt in progress.

Such a combination of colors; it’s a good thing this quilt wasn’t completed or for sale yet, or I’d have bought it on the spot.

Close-up of orange and blue Log Cabin quilt in progress at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads Port Gibson MS (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Close-up of orange and blue Log Cabin quilt in progress in the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads sewing workroom.

The mural behind Mr. Anderson in the photo above includes an image of the Our Mart, Inc. grocery store.

Below is a more complete photo of the mural. Our Mart is a landmark in the U.S. civil rights struggle. In the 1960’s, local white merchants in Port Gibson refused to hire Black cashiers or clerks, nor were there any Black elected officials in a county (Claiborne) that was 76% Black. Most Black residents were afraid to register and/or vote.

Black Port Gibson residents launched an economic boycott, which included the VP of the local NAACP chapter opening Our Mart Grocery, so Black residents wouldn’t have to drive to Vicksburg or Jackson for groceries, to adhere to the boycott.

The boycott worked, so a number of local white merchants got mad and sued the NAACP for damages. The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court and was settled in the NAACP’s favor, but, incredibly, not until 1982. (!!)

Wall mural in the sewing room Mississippi Cultural Crossroads Port Gibson MS (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Wall mural in the sewing room of the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads features Port Gibson local landmarks, including Our Mart grocery on the left-hand side.

Across the street from Mississippi Cultural Crossroads is a small park.

It has one of my favorite items of decorative art – a bottle tree. Look closely; there are glass electrical insulators up there, too.

Community Bottle Tree downtown Port Gibson Mississippi by Stephanie Dwyer (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Community Bottle Tree in downtown Port Gibson, Mississippi, by artist Stephanie Dwyer.

One last distinctive thing to look for in Port Gibson – the Hand Pointing to Heaven.

Yes, that is a 200 pound golden hand with a four foot-long pointing finger.

It was originally commissioned and installed atop the First Presbyterian Church steeple in 1901, and was recently refurbished so that it glowed in my sunset photo…

Hand Pointing to Heaven on steeple of First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Mississippi (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The golden “Hand Pointing to Heaven” (including the Moon) on the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Have you visited this part of Mississippi? What did I miss? Let me know down in the comments.

(All photos by the author)

If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is toward the top of the right sidebar. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.