Nightlife and Bars In Mississippi.

Mississippi. This Deep South state, named after the river of the same name, is known for catfish, cotton and slavery. Back in the 1850s when cotton was the ‘in thing’, Mississippi land owners became exceedingly wealthy from cotton plantations. Much in demand, the price was high, but production costs were low thanks to fertile soil and slave labour. In 1860 it is estimated there were over 400,000 slaves in Mississippi, more than half the then population of just under 800,000. But it didn’t last.

Cotton prices fell after the Civil War – by which time (thanks to Reconstruction and the first constitutional convention in 1868 granting Black rights) 66% of its growers were African American – so despite years of working the land as slaves, freedom brought them little recompense. By the end of the 19th Century many had lost their land to pay debts. The early 20th century was no better for African Americans; the Jim Crow laws, lynching and disfranchisement together with failure of cotton crops and flooding, created hellish times.

By 1920, despite having been ‘free’ for three generations, African Americans in the state were mostly landless and poor. No wonder that many of them left to head north and hope for a better life in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York etc. In fact, by 1970 (having had to contend with the Ku Klux Klan and continuing discrimination) almost 500,000 people had left Mississippi, the majority black. Not a history to be proud of, really.
But something good invariably comes out of hardship and in the case of Mississippi it was music: gospel, jazz, blues, country, rock and roll – all have their heart here, being taken north with migration to cities like Chicago. Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Rogers, Bo Diddley, Otish Rush , BB King and many more all came from Mississippi (including Elvis Presley). Today visitors can follow the Mississippi Blues Trail which incorporates several historical sites, including the Delta Blues Museum, in Clarkesdale. This is also home to blues club Ground Zero, co-owned by Morgan Freeman. Great writers, too, have been inspired by the state’s despair, including Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner.

Apart from Mississippi’s turbulent racist history, the state also played a significant role during theCivil War (Mississippi was first admitted to the Union as the 20th State in 1817, left as a Confederate state in 1861 and was readmitted in 1870) after the Civil war. Almost 20 Civil War battles happened here, including the famous Battle of Vicksburg where Confederate troops surrendered to General Grant. Jackson, the capital, was burned three times by Sherman’s men. The Vicksburg national Military Park and Vicksburg National Cemetry and many other museums, monuments and historic parks that remember these violent times attract thousands of visitors every year.

Today Mississippi is still the poorest state in the US and many struggle to live from day to day. Perhaps a poor diet is one of the reasons why almost a third of residents are obese – Mississippi is the ‘fattest’ US state! It’s also one of the gayest! Equality Mississippi (formerly the Mississippi Gay Lobby) is strong here and there is a high number of same sex couples; but it’s not overly gay friendly as a state. Same sex marriages are banned here and not recognised if performed elsewhere.
In 1990 casino gambling was legalised along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, which did much to help the economy of the state. But hardship came back to Mississippi in 1995 when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the south causing destruction along the coast from Louisiana to Alabama. Casinos in the Gulf Coast towns of Gulfport and Biloxi and Bay St Louis and along the Mississippi River in Tunica, Natchez, Greenville etc, were savaged losing the state an estimated $500,000 in revenue a day.

Many of the affected casinos and associated attractions on the Gulf Coast have now reopened – some are still recovering, others will never return. At the time of writing, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has 11 casinos open – Harrison County: Beau Rivage Casino Resort, Boomtown Casino, Harrah’s Grand Biloxi Casino Hotel & Spa, IP Casino Resort Spa, Island View Casino Resort, Isle of Capri Casino Resort, Palace Casino Resort, Treasure Bay Casino Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Hancock County: Hollywood Casino (Previously – Casino Magic) and Silver Slipper Casino
Since the hurricane, however, casinos have been allowed to open in other counties (seven in total) to try and regenerate the gambling business and all are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week offering everything from slot machines to blackjack, roulette, poker, keno, baccarat, and craps.

Several also have excellent restaurants attached, offering some very tempting Southern cuisine, along with ballrooms and auditoriums with top stars performing regularly. For an up to date list visit www.visitmississippi.org.
Nightlife in Mississippi is not limited totally to casinos, although it’s a big part of it. Throughout the state you’ll find some decent bars and pubs, though most are in the casino towns. In cities like Jackson and Vicksburg, which attract thousands of visitors with their historic attractions, you’ll find a mixture of southern charm and modern culture. Vicksburg has a bustling downtown district with many good restaurants such as the Beechwood and Maxwell’s on Clay St, Rowdy’s Family Catfish Shack on the intersection of Highways 27 and 80 and Walnut Hills Restaurant on Adams St – a real institution famed for its fried chicken, casseroles, and shrimp.

Jackson is the most populated city in Mississippi and tries hard to offer a varied nightlife with some classic bars like Fenian’s on E Fortification St, Martin’s on S State St (excellent beer selection), Fitzgerald’s at the Hilton and Tico’s both on E County Line Road. Hal and Mal’s on South Commerce St is one of the city’s most popular clubs offering live music, dancing and a typically southern menu, hotly followed by Voodoo Lounge on S State St and Jack & Jill’s on Northview Drive.

What you will find in Mississippi is a plethora of live music events – mostly blues related festivals. Check out websites like www.cathead.biz/livemusic.html to find out whats’s going on in Clarkesdale and the greater Mississippi Delta.