August in Mississippi is particularly notable for more than 1,000 Black-owned businesses that operate in The Magnolia State. National Black Business Month, which is celebrated across the country, offers an opportunity to highlight some of the businessmen and women contributing greatly to the state’s culture while offering experiences to those who vacation there.
Each year, millions of people—21 million in 2020—visit the state, contributing billions to the state’s economy. That travel also supports over 100,000 jobs in Mississippi, making the hospitality industry the fourth largest employment sector.
While Mississippi has always been a state rich with African-American history, that history includes dark periods of yesteryear and today. Still, the Black businesses throughout the southern U.S. state are bringing enticement to a place that has drawn more attention for its political views than its vacation offerings.
African American Heritage Tours of Jackson, Mississippi offers mid-day excursions to some of Jackson's most treasured historic gems and cultural sites. Tour guide Clotie Graves spends her days sharing civil rights history with buses full of visitors, telling the story of the fight against racial injustice.
Before the tour, visitors can stop off at Ethel Mae’s, owned and operated by De’Jonae Curtis. Starting off as a home baker at 9 years old, Curtis now owns her own business at the age of 12. Dee’s Babycakes bakes and sells specialty cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and more. As a young entrepreneur, Curtis dreams of becoming a franchise and getting her homemade frosting on grocery store shelves.
In Tupelo, Mississippi Ethel Mae’s restaurant, owned by Demetra Sherer and Chef Reginald Scott, is a neighborhood gem, offering great vibes and delicious southern food. The business was born out of tragedy when Sherer lost her mother to a car accident in 2005. Today, she operates the restaurant in honor of her mother’s legacy, serving up croquettes, BBQ shrimp, hoecakes and honey butter, shrimp & grits, chicken and waffle, and much more.
Over in Vicksburg, Mississippi is Catfish Row Museum operated by Linda Fondren. The Catfish Row Museum recently received a grant from the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services and introduces a cultural heritage experience that showcases the unique and diverse aspects of Vicksburg—from its music, history, and storytelling to its vibrant food heritage, worship and the visual arts.
For a unique way to tour the city, there’s Battlefield Bicycle, owned by Leo Turnipseed. Operated by a family of cycling enthusiasts, Turnipseed started the company as a mobile business to be able to bring bicycles to even the remotest towns where bicycle shops are rare. While visitors love the opportunity to see the area on bike, Turnispeed also caters to the local community who may need a tune-up on their own bikes.