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Mississippi: Past and present

Robert Johnson’s grave, courtesy Greenwood CVB

History lives in Mississippi, where a past full of original music, beautiful architecture and colorful characters still plays an important role in modern life.

From DeSoto, a town named after the famous Spanish explorer who first visited this land centuries ago, to Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, communities throughout Mississippi revel in their history. Visitors will even find entertainment history in Greenwood, a town that was instrumental in the development of blues music and recent historical films.

Groups have lots of options for exploring history on a tour through Mississippi. On your next itinerary, spend some time visiting these three historic towns.

The development of blues music stands out as one of Mississippi’s great historical contributions. In Greenwood, visitors will find seven historic sites that are part of the statewide Mississippi Blues Trail.

“The most visited one we have is Robert Johnson’s burial site,” said Paige Hunt, executive director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Robert Johnson was the grandfather of the blues. He’s considered one of the greatest guitarists of all times, and people like Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt were influenced by him.

“His burial site is at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church. A lot of people love to visit his grave. I’ve never been there and not seen a tourist.”

For people who don’t have a keen interest in blues music, Greenwood has Fort Pemberton, which was built during the Civil War. Troops first built the fortress out of cotton bales and mud. Today, visitors can see the embankments and read about the fort’s history. Nearby, the Museum of the Mississippi Delta has an exhibit with more displays and artifacts about the fort.

Much more recently, Greenwood served as the backdrop for the popular film “The Help,” which depicts Mississippi life in the 1960s.

“For groups, we can offer a guided tour of the movie locations,” Hunt said. “We give them some behind-the-scenes tidbits and can add some really fun extras to the tours. We can get one of the food stylists from the movie to come and demonstrate some of the things that were cooked on the film.”