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Today is May 22, 2019

Rabbit Foot Minstrels

Spotlighting a Mississippi Blues Trail marker

By Sandra M. Buckley

Rabbit Foot Minstrels

Situated just off of the Natchez Trace Parkway, between Natchez and Jackson, is the quaint town of Port Gibson. While it may be a small town, its significance to Mississippi’s history and music is vast.

One interesting piece of Port Gibson history tied to music is that of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, which is honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker. During the early 1900s, African American entertainers took to performing under large canvas tents in rural areas, where shows consisted of comedy routines and skits, song-and-dance numbers and even marching bands. Minstrel shows, as they were called, also were largely responsible for the spreading of blues music. The Rabbit Foot Minstrels in Port Gibson was one of the most popular in the entire south, with many famous blues singers and musicians having been a part of it at some point in their careers.

“Legendary Mississippi blues singer Bobby Rush shares an amusing story of how he was part of the Rabbit Foot show for at least one season,” said Felicia Harried, president of Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, a Port Gibson organization that promotes education, culture and economic development within the community.

To honor the rich blues legacy of Port Gibson, Mississippi Cultural Crossroads is hosting an interactive exhibit called The Blues in Claiborne County: From Rabbit Foot to Blues & Cruise, May 24 through August 30. As part of the experience, visitors will be able to view authentic artifacts and original photographs of the original Rabbit Foot Minstrels. “The exciting part is a huge tent will be erected inside the Crossroads gallery reminiscent of the tent the Rabbit Foot performers might have used at that time,” said Harried. “Inside the tent, visitors can enjoy sights and sounds that might recreate the nostalgic feel of a time gone by.” 

Port Gibson is also known as the “City of Churches.” “As such, it is worth examining the impact of gospel and sacred music on life and society as well,” added Harried. “That is why Cultural Crossroads will again host the Comfort My Soul Conference in September to celebrate National Gospel Music Heritage Month.” 

Music is one of the greatest cultural gifts Mississippi has given the world – and it is a proud legacy that represents our past, present and future. “Music, regardless of the genre, has the power to move the soul,” she added, “and we celebrate that power, remembering the past, but also creating the next great thing, right here in small-town Mississippi, USA.”

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