The National Park Service does this about five days every year, and the weekends surrounding those days, opens their parks without admission charge. And the MLK Holiday is one of those times. Saturday through Monday you are invited to come take a free look at our parks.
In Mississippi, I suppose the first National Park that comes to mind is the Vicksburg National Military Park. And this is an appropriate time to tour it with the nation marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War years right now.
Vicksburg is perhaps the most beautiful of all of the National Military Parks in the country. It has been called the "Art Park" because of the statuary and monuments that have been put here in the century plus since the park opened. Newest of these monuments is the one dedicated specifically to the involvement of African American's in the siege of Vicksburg. And Martin Luther King weekend is an appropriate time to come discover it. And this monument is proof that history is not something carved in stone. It is not a fixed set of facts, but a fluid ever flowing into new interpretations as we move farther away from the subject and can see it more broadly and inclusively.
If you want to keep the Civil War theme going, Shiloh Park is free this weekend, too, just north of Corinth in North East Mississippi a few miles. The Battle of Shiloh's 150th anniversary comes in April of this year. Over 35 hundred killed, 16 thousand wounded at Shiloh, not counting the missing and captured. Shiloh is a tranquil place today. Especially considering the raging battle that went on here those two days in April 150 years ago.
But that is what a war is supposed to do, isn't it? Bring peace?
The Natchez National Park, Melrose and the Barber of Natchez' house are open free thru Monday, too.
And if you are adventuresome, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is open for free this weekend at Gatlinburg, too. Wonder what kind of traffic jam you could get in Cades Cove on a free weekend?
But celebrate the MLK weekend by celebrating history at a nearby park for free. But take your coat, there's no heat. Well, except indoors at Natchez.
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