The Natchez Trace Historical Tour: Expedition 2022

By Augusto Macedo

Famed American author William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past[.]” this proved to be accurate in our experience as we, a group of 13 (“G-13”) friends, cycled from April 1-6, 2022, from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN on the Natchez Trace Parkway (“N.T.”). The NT is a managed National Park Service scenic 444-mile road through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee that roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” and “Trail of Tears,” a historic travel route used to remove Native Americans from their homeland forcibly. Our lives became enriched daily as we journeyed and visited with the people of that region, who welcomed us and shared their knowledge and experience. They showered us with “southern hospitality.” After planning for over a year and meeting weekly for five months via Zoom, our cycling journey took six days with overnight stays in Jackson, Kosciusko, Houston, Belmont, Collinwood, and Nashville.

In Natchez, Executive Director Bobby Dennis of The Natchez Museum of African American Culture escorted us through the Museum. He highlighted, among other exhibits, “The Black Butterfly,” Daisy Newman, a renowned hometown opera singer. In addition, he challenged us to be the authors of “our own” stories. With our minds enriched, it was time to enrich our bodies with southern cuisine. A fantastic meal was prepared specifically for us by Chef Jarita Frazier-King of Soul Food Natchez. While feasting, she educated us about the meal’s preparation and her family’s quest to preserve Southern African American recipes. Complementing our visit, we were honored to meet Natchez City Ward 2 Adelman, Billie Joe Frazier, who shared the history of his city, its county, and the state of Mississippi.

The following morning, the first day of cycling from Natchez to Jackson began with a wealth of anticipation and the “Circle of Life,” where everyone circled together in prayer for a safe journey, our daily ritual before each ride. Afterward, we dined at Ms. Darlene Wilson’s Southern Style Restaurant & Catering before our respective two wheels began turning northward. When we entered the N.T., several historic stops emerged, including Emerald Mound, Mount Locust, and the Sunken Trace, providing a wealth of historical and educational opportunities. We unexpectedly met Nashvillian Brad Meshell on his N.T. 444-mile journey to raise autism awareness in honor of his son. After lunch, Major Taylor affiliate Jackson’s Soul City Cyclists Club graciously met up with us on the N.T. and escorted us into the City of Jackson. Later that evening, President Aree Williams hosted G-13 at his home to a southern spread that included fish, chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cobb, and certainly, southern iced tea. We were treated like royalty!

We met Oral Historian Alissa Rae Funderburk from Jackson State University (“JSU”) Margaret Walker Center the next morning. She gave us a tour of the Council of Federated Organizations (“COFO”) Headquarters, where we learned about COFO’s execution of voter registration and education. The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was led by Robert (Bob) Moses, whose efforts Dr. King had described then: “Our nation sent out Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the under-developed nations of the world, and none of them experienced the kind of brutality and savagery that these voter registration workers have suffered here in Mississippi.” From JSU, we paid a visit to the state Capitol where we encountered a Post Reconstruction Era Confederate monument, which praised the enslavement of humans, a stark reminder that racism never really goes away. It just changes forms.

Leaving Jackson on our shortest daily ride of 55 miles to Kosciusko, we experienced the picturesque Ross Barnett Reservoir, Cypress Swamp, and more joshing with thoughts of “sexy blue,” “Dr. One Glove,” “Screwdriver,” “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” “G.C. a/k/a L.T.,” “Ms. Brown Rice,” “My Black Gummy Bear,” “u good?” “Professor,” “Black Bourgeoisie,” “Ms. Garmin,” “Doppler Master,” and “Mr. Heinz,” among others. Nicknames and key phrases led to laughter galore, which became daily shenanigan rituals!

Kosciusko native and retired educator, Mr. Charles Hall, visited with us and shared his wealth and rich experiences of his and Oprah’s hometown, including the horrific events described in Stokes McMillian’s book entitled: “One Night of Madness,” while we dined, more like threw down on collard greens with rice, Liberian style. In our Antebellum mansion over breakfast, we learned about Oprah’s financial support and the appreciated benefits to the local Kosciusko Boys and Girls Club.

From Kosciusko through Houston, Belmont, Tupelo, Collinwood, and finally Nashville, we toured the Bynum Burial Mounds built between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D., Monroe Mission, where the Europeans imposed Christianity on the Chickasaw Nation, Pharr Mounds, and Nomadic Burial Mounds built around 1-200 A.D., all the while marveling at the accomplishments of the Native Americans. We visited Commander Meriwether Lewis Memorial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who died there in 1809. A surreal and amazing highlight was the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, where we were blessed to meet the spouse and dog of Tom Hendrix, who had hand-built the wall to commemorate his great-great-grandmother’s return journey after she was forced from her native land during the infamous “Trail of Tears and Death.”

The morning we left Houston, we had awakened to SAD news before Ms. Carol Koutroulis’ Bridges-Hall Manor (“BHM”) best-served country breakfast of the entire trip. Alexis Richburg, a friend, and brother, who had ridden with us on the 2021 Gullah-Geechee Tour to raise awareness for the cure of cancer, had lost his battle with cancer. The strong thunderstorms (thunder-boom!) that jolted G-13 and BHM were Alexis’s earthly farewell, and we dedicated that day’s ride to his honor. While in Belmont and after giving tribute to Alexis, we were reminded about the 1972 movie “Deliverance” and to be mindful of our surroundings, to which we adhered.

Doppler Master Glenn graciously informed us we had at least four category climbs to contend with over the next 95 miles into Nashville on the morning of our last cycling day. Shortly after that, we encountered and elected to take a “road less traveled,” a semi-paved road that led to a section of the original Natchez Trace Trail. We transported ourselves back in time as we traveled the 1.5 miles until it reconnected with the N.T. Cycling into Nashville was physically the most challenging as we encountered many rated long climbs often accompanied by strong headwinds. Still, we were elated at our safe completion of 444 miles without a single mechanical or flat tire! To the dismay of a few riders, there was no actual Mile Post (“M.P.”) 444 to indicate the end of our Amazing six-day journey. Screwdriver and Ms. Garmin went off in a desperate search to locate the M.P., to no avail! Fact, MP 444 doesn’t exist. As the day closed, Ice Cube reminded us that “Today was a good day!” While in Nashville, we visited Black institutions, including American Baptist College, Fisk University, and Meharry Medical College, and enjoyed a guided tour provided by Mr. Grant Winrow, a/k/a “the Mayor” of Tennessee State University. We also visited Black restaurants Slim & Huskies, Swett’s, and Prince’s Hot Chicken. We concluded our expedition with a tour of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green Distillery for some good ole Tennessee Whiskey, which we downed with homemade “fufu and soup” prepared by Screwdriver. Experience, simply PRICELESS!

Augusto Macedo masterminded the G-13 expedition. It included Carl Adoph, Edward Dunn, Glenn Daniels, A.J. Haney, Carole Harris, John Johnson, Jerry Macauley, Teddy Macauley, Carolyn Misick, Toni Moore, Latricia Turner, and Howard Tyndle.

About the Author

Augusto “Gus” Macedo is hilarious, fun, Liberian war survivor, child trauma survivor, husband and father extraordinaire, lawyer/entrepreneur, beautiful loving kind friend, seeker of knowledge and truth, carrier of light and wisdom, pursuer of equity, kind soul, and gracious spirit who explores history, especially African American history while cycling. He received his BS from Tennessee State University and his JD from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He resides in Maryland with his wife.

The Power of Will – and Its Limits

Moments of crisis force a reexamination of priorities that has the power to open new possibilities. What had seemed a bad idea or not worth the effort in a moment of tranquility can become essential. Crises, such as the Great Depression on World War II, generate a will that had not existed and, when channeled toward common goals, that will can make the impossible possible.

As detailed in this volume, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a crisis that has amplified disparities that have long plagued our society. In health and schools, housing and the workforce, the pandemic further exposed the vulnerabilities keeping so many from reaching their potential or even from finding basic stability. These gaps have existed for years and have been tolerated as merely a cost of a system that delivered national prosperity, however unevenly spread. There had been no will to comprehensively address housing and employment instability, gaps in the infrastructure of technology or the delivery of health care. The pandemic made addressing some of these longstanding problems more imperative.

All of a sudden, an evicted family that needed to search for new housing in the midst of the pandemic became a potential spreader of the virus. In a wrecked and uncertain economy, a worker who’d lost their job faced the possibility of months without any income, with impacts felt within the most vulnerable families and in the economy at large. What to do about children who would be attending school virtually, but whose homes did not have reliable access to the internet? Before the pandemic, such lack of connectivity might have seemed merely an inconvenience, a barrier to effective communication or robust research; in the midst of the pandemic, it became a barrier to participating in school at all (Camera, 2020).

In response, many discovered a new will to strengthen the safety net for the most vulnerable in our midst. Policies that had seemed out of reach entered the realm of the possible due to the pandemic. Most notably, the federal government instituted a widespread moratorium on evictions (Ramsey Mason, 2020) and increased financial assistance to the unemployed (Alcala Kovalski & Sheiner, 2020). Other anti-poverty measures that had been fringe ideas, such as direct payments to individuals, families, and businesses (Edmonson, 2020) and forbearance of student loans (Rowan, 2021), became realities. Local governments, too, addressed needs exposed by the pandemic. Here in Memphis, the Shelby County government created relief funds for various categories of affected workers (Dries, 2021) and the Shelby County Schools worked to ensure wi-fi connectivity to students in need (Holguin, 2020). Having redefined the possible in the throes of the pandemic, policymakers have begun to consider how some of these measures can survive into the post-pandemic world, tightening the social safety net.

The power of more focused will was also evident in the response to the murder of George Floyd. The vulnerability of African Americans in encounters with law enforcement was certainly not a new or unknown phenomenon. However, activists protesting the dehumanizing, even lethal, treatment were often stymied in efforts to build support to enact more effective policies to reduce the number of such encounters and increase accountability when they did occur. Floyd’s murder, along with contemporaneous killings of others, such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, decreased the tolerance for inaction. Symbolically, there was a move from a world in which Colin Kaepernick was vilified for a solitary and silent protest during the national anthem in 2016 to a world in whicH entire sports leagues were supporting players in declaring Black Lives Matter in 2020. On a policy level, ideas for criminal justice reform that had been moving glacially or had stalled, such as eliminating chokeholds (Kindy et al., 2020), reexamining immunity for police officers (Gipson, 2021), and reconsideration of police involvement in non-violent circumstances (Thompson, 2020), found more favorable reception within many levels of government.

The reforms made possible in the pandemic or in the wake of George Floyd’s murder were neither perfect nor complete, but they revealed a shift in the universe of possible policy change to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Introduced in a moment of crisis, they have revealed that the failure to consider such policies in more stable moments is due to a lack of collective will rather than to some inherent impossibility. The pandemic has revealed a new category of what is possible, if only we can muster the will to pursue it.

However, the pandemic has also revealed challenges to doing so. After all, will can be fleeting. As the focus of crisis dissolves, addressing the vulnerabilities it revealed can seem less imperative. Further, new enthusiasm for once-impossible policies can also have the effect of intensifying enthusiasm for opposition. Both of these limits on the power of will have emerged as the pandemic lingers.

While there has been talk of continuing many of the pandemic-related reforms, particularly those involving strengthening the safety net, those suggestions have been met primarily with concerns about costs. This presents a test as the urgency of the pandemic subsides. Having seen the benefits of a stronger safety net, will policymakers maintain the will to leave them in place? Or, absent a crisis at hand, will they be tempted to make cuts that shift the costs back onto vulnerable individuals and families? Similarly, translating the anger from the summer of 2020 into a sustainable effort to address criminal justice will require maintaining the will generated in a passionate moment through the tedium of policymaking.

Doing so becomes an even greater challenge because as an emergency pushes the bounds of potential policy change, opponents of that change strengthen their resistance. This was evident in the backlash against 2020’s Black Lives Matter movements – in the moment, resistance often took the form of criticism of the protesters, but as the work shifts to policymaking, those pushing for greater law enforcement accountability will do so in the face of fierce opposition. The opposition to extending the pandemic safety net or expanding health benefits is likely to be less emotional, but no less organized. Indeed, the politicization of the pandemic more broadly, seen in resistance to health directives, mask mandates, and vaccines, demonstrates the depth of the challenge ahead. Such resistance presents a true test of will.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered so much about the way we see the world and it is unlikely that we can ever return to the world that existed before such a formative societal experience. Amidst the trauma, however, we have been pushed to find new solutions to long-existing problems. The pandemic created a space to reimagine what
is possible and revealed that old excuses for not taking action to assist the most vulnerable could be removed so long as there was a will to do so. Having now seen how policies can provide stability within our community, the challenge is ensuring that such policies will continue to do so.


  • Research: Study the effectiveness of pandemic-related responses to persistent social problems, such as housing instability, employment instability, disparate access to technology, and reduction in bail, to demonstrate the impacts of these policies and their value even outside the context of the pandemic. Collect both qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Organize: Build coalitions of individuals, community groups, and institutions to support efforts to pursue extension and expansion of successful pandemic-related policies addressing persistent social problems.
  • Advocate: Identify policymakers at all levels of government willing to lead in extending and expanding successful pandemic-related policies addressing persistent social problems; prepare to respond to criticisms of such extensions or expansions from unsympathetic individuals, groups, institutions, or policymakers.
  • Persist: Prepare for long-term work in preserving successful efforts as immediate urgency wanes, attention

shifts, and work evolves to more tedious efforts to build and implement policies.


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  • Dries, B. (2021, Jan. 6). Harris proposes county $2.5million restaurant workers relief fund. The Daily Memphian. Retrieved from
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  • Ramsey Mason, K. (2020, September 3). What the CDC eviction ban means for renters and landlords: 6 questions answered. Associated Press, Retrieved from article/17b98671a11b95772dc2cdf1d9bcd490
  • Rowan, L. (2021, August 6). Biden Education Department announces one more student loan forbearance extension. Forbes. Retrieved from forbearance-additional-extension/
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