President Donald Trump will visit Jackson for the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the president’s visit during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who was in Washington, D.C., personally asked Trump to attend.
“Several months ago, I invited President Trump to our Bicentennial Celebration. We have not received confirmation from the White House that he will be able to attend Saturday’s event, but would very much like to have him here,” Bryant said through his spokesman Clay Chandler.
Ceremonies marking the opening of the state’s two new museums will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. The state’s bicentennial is the next day, Dec. 10.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights veteran Medgar Evers, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and former Govs. William Winter and Haley Barbour are also slated to speak.
The opening of the The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are the keystone events marking the 200th anniversary of Mississippi becoming the 20th state to enter the union.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the state’s only Democrat in Congress, said he hopes Trump’s visit to Mississippi will help him understand the “pain he’s causing to black and underserved communities.”
“His unfair budget cuts in agriculture, education, healthcare and housing disproportionately impacts people of color and is viewed by many as an act reminiscent of Jim Crow policies of the (S)outh,” Thompson said in a statement.
Other Mississippi Democrats, however, directly spoke out against the president’s visit. On Tuesday, the Mississippi Association of County Democratic Chairs and Jacqueline Amos, chairperson of the Hinds County Democratic Party, cited the president’s support among white supremacists and urged officials to cancel the president’s visit.
“Any reasonable person knows that the presence of such a hugely divisive and polarizing figure will pervert and diminish what could otherwise be a healing and teaching moment for our state. Mr. Trump attained to the highest office in the land by appeals and tactics that do great and lasting violence to our civil rights heritage. His campaign appealed to the very worst demons of the American soul,” the press release said.
“He has no place at a celebration of the very values and aspirations his presidency is clearly committed to destroy. Mr. President, leave Mississippi alone. We have had far too much experience with your kind already.”
But many Republicans in the state have urged Mississippians to unite behind the president’s visit. On Monday, House Speaker Pro-Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, tweeted that Pres. Trump would bring national attention to the state museum.
“Nothing could bring more national attention to the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Civil Rights Museum than an appearance of the President. Embrace it, Mississippians! Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative . . . embrace it!” Snowden’s tweet read.
Trump will be the latest in a long line of commanders in chief to visit the Magnolia State in the past 200 years.
Arguably the most famous visit by a U.S. president to Mississippi was the November 1902 hunting trip by President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid big game hunter. Unable to find a bear to shoot, Roosevelt declined as unsportsmanlike an offer to shoot a bear that had been captured and tied up. News stories and a cartoon about the incident near Onward led a toy manufacturer to begin mass production of stuffed “Teddy bears” that remain popular today.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has recorded these visits to the state by U.S. presidents:
• President Barack Obama visited the Gulfport area in 2010 following the BP oil spill.
• President George W. Bush toured the Gulf Coast in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina and also gave a speech at Madison Central High School in August 2002.
• President Bill Clinton visited Clarksdale in July 1999 for a forum on economic development in the Delta.
• President George H.W. Bush made a campaign stop in Gulfport in 1992 after the Republican National Convention and a campaign stop the same year at the Greenville airport. He also visited Meridian in 1991.
• President Ronald Reagan held a campaign rally in 1984 on the Mississipi Gulf Coast.
• President Jimmy Carter went to Yazoo City in 1977, spending the night with a family there. He also made a campaign stop in Jackson just prior to the 1980 election.
• President Gerald Ford campaigned in the state in 1976 seeking a full term.
• President Richard Nixon spoke in Jackson in 1974, went to Naval Air Station Meridian in 1973 and toured the Mississippi Coast in 1969 after Hurricane Camille.
• President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech in Tupelo in November 1934 heralding it as “The First TVA City,” a reference to the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also visited the Gulf Coast in 1937 and reviewed troops at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg in September 1942.
• President Woodrow Wilson spent Christmas of 1913 in Pass Christian at the home of Alice Herndon, a family friend. The home became known as the “Dixie White House,” and several other presidents visited the home after they left office.
• President William Howard Taft visited Vicksburg and Natchez in October 1909 on a Mississippi River tour. Taft then visited Jackson on Nov. 1, 1909 and Mississippi University for a Women (then Mississippi Industrial Institute and College) on Nov. 2, 1909.
• President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in Vicksburg in 1907 in addition to his 1902 bear hunt visit.
• President William McKinley visited Jackson in April 1901 while on a tour of the region and he delivered a speech in Corinth on April 30, 1901.