By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
At the Monday August 26, 2019 meeting, the Natchitoches City Council introduced an ordinance that proposes that the City and the National Park Service partner to reopen the Trudeau Street Train Depot. The Park Service will lease the Depot from the City (which owns it). The Park Service will use the space for offices while also dedicating a space within the building to display local African American history. At this point as I understand it, they are referring to that space as an “interpretative center”. (It’s unclear what that will be. I hope it is more than a display or two in a corner. But it sounds hopeful.)
The ordinance is just an introduction at this point. It will have to go through the necessary stages and be voted on by the council Still, that evening, the news was greeted positively and for good reason. Many groups—including one I was part of—have tried to turn the beautiful 1920’s Art Deco Style depot into a black history museum, hoping it would highlight black history and add to the historic charm of Natchitoches. None of those plans succeeded. And I want to stress that this will also not be a museum. It’s actually simply, the Park Service moving offices from its current location into the Depot and offering a certain area to display African American Culture.
So in other words, if the ordinance passes the final vote, when you visit the National Park Service new offices at the Depot, you will be able to learn something about African American history as part of the visit. That may not seem like much to some. But I think it is significant that the depot will be reopened at all in the first place and that it will house information about local black culture in a neighborhood with a significant African American population. Families and especially children are just a short walk away. I give a thumbs up to both the City Council and The National Park Service and pray this wonderful plan will succeed I have always felt Natchitoches could and should do more to highlight the rich contributions of the African American people who have lived here in eras past. Although I realize recognizing African American Culture is just a small part of this project, it’s a small gesture that could surely help.
“Commit your work to the LORD and he will establish your plans.” –Proverbs 16:3