The Regional Review

Volume V - No. 1

July, 1940

Interpreting the Natchez Trace National Parkway

By Jesse D. Jennings,
Associate Archeologist.

. . . The interpretative possibilities of the Natchez Trace National Parkway represent a continuum of events which emerges from the mists of prehistory to end in the social and economic forces at work in the South today. Tile need is for interpretation of this shifting, kaleidoscopic pageant which is the South, with all the forces, extraneous and internal, which combine to make its colorful heritage, into a coherent whole. The monumental task . . . is one of research, accumulation of data, assimilation of the facts acquired, synthesis, evaluation, and finally welding the material into a simplified exposition of the country so abruptly sectioned by the parkway motor road.

Some of the simplest possibilities in presenting to the traveler current Southern problems, culture, and an appreciation for its rich resources lie in explanations of such prosaic things as conservation of the soil through erosion control and crop rotation, or of the forests through fire prevention and forest management. Any treatment of these points leads naturally into an analysis of the peculiar problems of Southern agriculture . . . Again the staple crops of the South and the shifting basis of Southern agriculture can all be exemplified along the parkway motor road.

In the city of Natchez itself and in its vicinity, we find the thought and artifacts of the historic old South stricken immobile in an embalmed nostalgia. Here, perhaps better than any other place in the South, the story of slavery and plantation life, with its magnolia and mint julep connotations, could be presented. Here the streamlined modern world meets and fails to conquer the genteel lassitude of the South's once most opulent city . . . The world of tomorrow would receive attention in a simplified exposition of the architectural and engineering features involved in the construction of the motor road to make it a restful, attractive avenue for business and recreational traveler.

The program affords a promise of significant accomplishment, but at the same time represents a major challenge to interpretative ingenuity for development of a logical narrative sparkling with humor, given a grim vitality with inescapable facts, and memorably punctuated with dramatic highlights from the old and new South. . . The plan as visualized requires years of intelligent thought and effort. If, however, some compromise can be achieved between the ideal and the practicable, we shall have contributed greatly to the awakening among parkway travelers of an awareness of America and its complex heritage. ---From Mr. Jennings' monthly report for May 1940.


An appropriation of $350,000 for purchase of lands to be added to the Natchez Trace National Parkway has been provided by the State of Mississippi. With previous funds voted for the purpose but not yet expended the total monies available for acquisition exceeds $650,000. Land purchases in connection with the parkway development are made from general highway funds in Alabama and Tennessee.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002