The Oakes House was home to the Oakes family for almost 125 years. Today it houses the Oakes African-American Cultural Center, where visitors can take a glimpse into the lives and heritage of an outstanding African-American family.
The Oakes family moved from South Carolina to Yazoo City in 1853 after John Oakes bought the freedom of his wife Mary and her two children. In 1866 the family purchased a lot with a one-room structure that would remain the home of members of the Oakes family until 1989.
By 1930, the one-room structure had grown to the regal two-story home that stands today.
The careful restoration of the Oakes House, which occurred during the 1990s, preserved the uniqueness of the construction and it is now listed on the Mississippi and the National Register of Historic Places.
The house has many architectural features that are unusual and remarkably well preserved. The leaded-glass entrance doors, original mantels, chimneys, walls, and stairs are especially interesting. The house stands high on a hill overlooking historic downtown Yazoo City.
A.J. (Gus) Oakes, III, deeded the Oakes family home to the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League in 1990.
The works of many Yazoo artists and craftsmen, such as A.J. Muhammad, wood sculpture; Tampa Wilson, oak baskets; and Otesia Harper, quilts, are on display at the Oakes House.
The accomplishments of other outstanding African-American Yazoo natives are highlighted as well, including Dr. Robert Harrison, first Black member/president of the State of Mississippi College Board; Mike Espy, first Black in Mississippi elected to the U.S. Congress, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; T.J. Huddleston, founder of the first hospital for African-Americans in the state; and “Gentle Ben” Williams, first Black Colonel Reb at Ole Miss.