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The Bicentennial Issue Experience a ‘Sip of the South

200 YEARS: A cultural journey

SUMMER/FALL 2017 $4.95

Also: Hot Tamales

Marty Stuart • The Mississippi River

Jackson, Mississippi is American History!

Learn about the struggle, defeat, triumph and perseverance of a city that helped to shape American History! Journey through the writings and influences of great southern literature legends. Ride the blues music trail or find gospel music for your soul. Jackson, Mississippi, has it all for you! Log on to to begin planning your unique Jackson, Mississippi experience and be sure to check out the progress of our newest treasures; The Mississippi Museum of History and The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum!

City with heritage. City with history. “City with soul�.




features Mississippi Quilt Mississippi's rich culture is showcased by region in this handmade creation celebrating the state's bicentennial. Cover Shot The quilt featured on the cover was handmade by Joyce White of Clinton. Photo by Melanie Thortis

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Take Me to the River

Marty Stuart

Documentary brings state's musical magic into focus.

Seasoned star is a musical ambassador for his home state.

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Delta Hot Tamales

Greg Iles

Tasty tamale tradition digs in deep from the Mississippi Delta.

Best-selling author takes on race and ghosts of the past.

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Picturing Mississippi

Neshoba County Fair

Exhibition weaves state's history into colorful tapestry.

'The Fair' has spent 128 years as 'Mississippi's Giant House Party.'

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Freedom Summer

Mississippi Indians

Mississippi's summer '64 was a pivotal moment in civil rights.

Choctaws and Chickasaws continue to show strength and perseverance. 1

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departments IN EVERY ISSUE 4 >> Editor’s Note 5 >> 6 >> Spotlight: Contributors 36 >> ‘Sip Trip: Endangered Proper ties 68 >> ‘Sip of Nature: Southern Magnolia 85 >> ‘Sip Kitchen: Summer Panzanella 95 >> Small-Town 'Sip


96 >> The Last ‘Sip



14 | Mississippi Quilting Quilts tell the quintessential of the bicentennial Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis

MUSIC 24 | John Lee Hooker GRAMMY Museum exhibit celebrating the Boogie King

FOOD 32 | Southern Foodways Alliance John T. Edge and SFA staff dip deep into eats and roots Contents page photo by Danny Klimetz


CULTURE 46 | Mississippi Encyclopedia Mississippi’s new go-to source offers ‘surprises’

OUTSIDE 64 | The Mississippi River A beauty in its majesty, a beast in its dynamism Contents page photo by Melanie Thortis



70 | Ship Island A photo story on one of Mississippi's outdoor wonders Contents page photo by Rory Doyle

ART 74 | Celebrating Storytellers Documentary films set out to uplift Mississippi communities

HISTORY 86 | Mississippi's First General A brief history of "The Great White Chief" 2

Bicentennial 2017

What will your bicentennial destination be? Mississippi invites you to explore 200 years of hospitality in the making. Discover rich history, bright beaches, cool blues, soulful cuisine and warm welcomes. Navigate the hospitality state with MDOT travel resources. From traffic alerts and road conditions, to weather forecasts and more, MDOT gives you the information you need. And you can access it from our mobile app, your computer or by calling 511. Find out more at


Celebrating all things Mississippi!


M-Sat 10-5 | 1400 Washington St., Vicksburg | 601-636-7210


601-618-0028 3

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from the Front Porch

"It took a long time to become the thing I am to you. And you won't tear it apart — without a fight, without a heart. It took a long time to become


you. Become you." — Amy Ray

When I was in eighth grade, I entered a city-wide writing contest at my mother's urging. The theme was "Why I Should Stay in Mississippi to Pursue a Career." Back then, I have to admit, my sights were set far beyond the borders of the Magnolia State. Who knows where my teenage self thought I would be 25 years down the road. A soccer player? An actress? Ha. I was only 13. That essay, even though not giving quite an accurate view of my 1990s-era '90210' dreams, however, did provide a pretty clear picture of the path that led me where I am now — living and working in Mississippi, celebrating the state's people and culture. The essay won second place and earned me a savings bond and (mic drop) a photo with the mayor in The Clinton News. My words, which described how I would make a career out of documenting the people and places by photographing each region, were like a strange and unexpected foresight. Even as a teen with one foot out the door, I realized the uniqueness of my home state. The culture and people are, ultimately, what kept me here. In college, I went on to study the landscape about which I wrote, and my mind was opened to all the complexities — the good and, unfortunately, sometimes the bad. Mississippi became something more than the picked on, misunderstood place of my birth. It became, to me, a place of complicated beauty, a place begging to show off its positive qualities sometimes born out of the not-so-pretty past. The more positive attributes — the music, the food, the art and the literature — are often born out of the ugliest of Mississippi history, but they teach all of us who we are and what we can become. We have a chance, with the state's bicentennial, to do just that — to look at each region and focus on the cultural identity that continues to spring forth, giving us reasons to celebrate. We have a chance to become the best we can be and continue to give starry-eyed teenagers like I once was, a reason to stay. Mississippi's 200th birthday happens to come the same year my son, Henry, turns 1. I realize, now more than ever, how important a birthday is. Whether we're celebrating one year or 200, we have many moments and milestones to commemorate and from which to learn. We have to keep writing our stories and striving to make them something of which we all can be proud.

Cheers, y'all,


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Want a bigger ‘sip? Check out our 'Sip website, complete with additional content you don't want to miss! Find out how to join The 'Sip Life, our new campaign celebrating a lifestyle that embodies The 'Sip. Join our newsletter for even more 'Sip news and info! Buy 'Sip merchandise and enjoy our exclusive online extras. Subscribe, find rack locations, read stories online and find out what's happening across The 'Sip. We have all the tools to enhance your experience between issues. Don't miss a 'Sip! 5

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a big thanks to this issue’s talented contributors SCOTT BARRETTA | WRITER Scott is a writer/researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail, the host of Highway 61 on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and a music columnist for The Clarion-Ledger. He teaches courses on blues at the University of Mississippi and Delta State University and is the former editor and a continuing contributor to Living Blues magazine. He is co-author of Mississippi: State of Blues and wrote a blues curriculum for elementary school students. He is also a producer for the documentary film “Shake ‘Em on Down” about Mississippi Fred McDowell.

LANA FERGUSON | WRITER Lana hails from Mechanicsville, Va., and is a senior journalism major at the University of Mississippi. There, she serves as editor in chief of The Daily Mississippian. In addition to working at The DM all four years of college, Lana has held internships at the Calhoun County Journal in Bruce and RVA Magazine in Richmond, Va. She's reported for newspapers across the state and abroad in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. After graduation, Lana hopes to continue pursuing her seventh-grade dream of being a journalist.

SHERRY LUCAS | WRITER Sherry Lucas is a veteran feature writer in Jackson whose stories spread the word on Mississippi’s food, arts, culture and communities. A lifelong Mississippian, she grew up in Yazoo City on four acres that engendered a love for fruit trees, fresh garden bounty and walks in the woods. A University of Mississippi graduate with decades of daily newspaper experience, she’s now a freelance writer, continuing to share Mississippi’s wealth of stories.

ANNE MARTIN | WRITER Anne grew up in Greenville, the middle of the hot tamale epicenter. She is an award-winning journalist with 30 years in broadcast news with WXVT and WABG television stations in Greenville. She is now a writer, documenting the stories of her beloved Mississippi Delta. She has written for Life in the Delta, Eat. Drink. Mississippi and Delta magazine. She is also co-founder of the Delta Hot Tamale Festival and author of Delta Hot Tamales: History, Stories and Recipes. She lives on a farm in Rosedale, where she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and exploring Delta history.

ANNA MCCOLLUM | WRITER/ASSISTANT EDITOR Mississippi born, raised and educated, Anna has a deep appreciation and hunger for the South’s rich stories. It’s no surprise, then, that her time studying print journalism and Southern Studies at Ole Miss only fueled that enthusiasm. Now back in her hometown of Corinth after a six month internship in Charleston, S.C., with Garden & Gun, Anna is working to find and craft the tales of the place she loves best. Before becoming a regular contributor, Anna was an editorial intern for The 'Sip.


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Publisher/Editor Lauchlin Fields DANNY KLIMETZ PHOTOGRAPHER Based in Oxford, Danny K is an artist and self-taught photographer. A naturalborn explorer, Danny uses his photographic storytelling all over — from small towns to bustling cities — to capture moments — with skill, authenticity and wit. While he majored in geological engineering, Danny now travels the world with his photography. He also freelances for regional and national newspapers and magazines and covered President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

LORIANNA LIVINGSTON DESIGNER As a designer, illustrator and T-shirt enthusiast, Lorianna believes design is one of the most powerful platforms of communication. After receiving her graphic design degree from Mississippi State University, she packed up to Athens, Ga., to continue her career with JCG Apparel, a Mississippi-born company specializing in custom printed apparel. She stays connected with her hometown roots through her design contributions to The ‘Sip.

Consulting Editor Karen Gamble Assistant Editor Anna McCollum Outside Editor Nathan Beane Writers Jim Beaugez Gordon Cotton Kate Gregory Mary Margaret Halford Susan Marquez LaReeca Rucker Photographers James Edward Bates Ariel Cobbert & Chi Kalu Rory Doyle Danny Klimetz Melanie Thortis Design Director Erin Norwood Designers Lorianna Livingston Karla Merritt Illustrator Jamie Runnells Proofreaders Sarah Hearn Mary Kent-Walshire Marketing/Sales Director Cortney Maury

MEGAN WOLFE PHOTOGRAPHER Megan is a freelance photographer and writer who returned to Mississippi after 11 years in San Francisco. With a past life in fine art, her favorite stories highlight the pursuit of mastery through craft, including those called to culinary excellence. Her work has been featured in many publications, including The Collierville Herald, Eat Drink Mississippi, Invitation Oxford and the recently published book, The Artist’s Sketch: A Biography of the Painter Kate Freeman Clark. See more of her work at:

Business Development Clayt Gates

The ‘Sip is a registered trademark of Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC. The ‘Sip magazine is published four times a year. Some pieces in this issue were produced in partnership with GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi.

Owner: Lauchlin Fields 1216 National St. Vicksburg, MS 39180 601.573.9975 Copyright 2017 The ‘Sip by Front Porch Fodder Publishing, LLC Reproduction of any part of this publication is strictly prohibited.

Documentary brings state’s musical magic into focus

Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elvis Presley. Those are all names that pioneered the formation of America’s music. All world-class musicians. All Mississippians.


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That musical legacy — now 200 years in the making — will continue to be honored through a national concert tour inspired by a 2014 documentary, Take Me to the River. Directed by Martin Shore, a mogul of both the entertainment and real estate industries, the film documents the collaboration of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians with young artists on a new album in the cross-generational, multiracial and multigender recording style of Memphis’ musical heyday. 9

Shore grew up in Philadelphia, Pa., but his drum teacher taught him early on to appreciate the talent coming from the Mississippi Delta and Memphis region. Touring with McComb native and blues legend Bo Diddley exposed Shore further to the Mississippi sound. “At a very young age, I really understood the significance of it,” Shore said. “And it just kind of grew and grew and grew to the point where I felt like I was on this earth to make this story come alive and to chronicle it and to make sure it was looked after.” That sense of obligation became even stronger when, in the span of about a year, Memphis music lost several big names, including Alex Chilton, Issac Hayes,

from as Americans had never properly been told,” he said. “And that the leaders of the generation that inspired and influenced popular music around the world — and still does today — were leaving us quickly, and I felt like this needed to happen.” That’s when Shore and Dickinson began dreaming of which artists to pair up. They were able to recruit such legends as Bobby “Blue” Bland, Charles “Skip” Pitts, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, as well as musicians from younger generations, such as Snoop Dogg, Lil P-Nut and Yo Gotti. “Once we got in the studio and started making music, we had cameras rolling really just because we wanted to document the progress of making the

“There are special places on this Earth — places of origin. The Mississippi Delta is one of those places.” Willie Mitchell and Jim Dickinson. “That was our call to action,” said Cody Dickinson, co-creator of Take Me to the River and son of Jim Dickinson, acclaimed record producer, pianist and singer. Cody Dickinson and his brother Luther are the founding members of the North Mississippi Allstars, a Southern rock and blues band since 1996. “Martin was blown away by, if nothing else, the statistical number of people, for example, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who are from the MemphisMississippi area or region,” Dickinson said. “And we were talking about that and all the amazing people that either live here, work here or are from here — ‘here’ being the greater Memphis-Mississippi River Delta region.” It was during that conversation at Zebra Ranch, the Dickinson family studio outside of Hernando, when Shore said he had an epiphany. “It hit me that the story of where our music came


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~Terrence Howard~ record,” Dickinson said, “But it was the interaction with Al Kapone and Booker T. [Jones] that was so magical when we knew we had something really special.” Kapone, a Memphis-based hip hop artist, and GRAMMY-winning Jones were the first of many interactions caught on camera. When the album was complete, the footage had a clear theme, summed up by actor and singer Terrence Howard in an opening scene. “There are special places on this Earth — places of origin,” Howard says. “The Mississippi Delta is one of those places.” And no one is more familiar with that musical fertility of the Mississippi River Delta region than Al Bell, former owner of Stax Records in Memphis. Bell, acclaimed record producer and songwriter, worked with the likes of the Staple Singers, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and countless others during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Soul Provider OPPOSITE PAGE LEFT: Al Bell and Jim Stewart at the desk they shared in Stax (Courtesy Stax Museum of American Soul Music) OPPOSITE PAGE RIGHT: Al Bell "the Maverick" (Courtesy Stax Museum of American Soul Music) THIS PAGE: Bell outside the former recording studio and current museum. (Photo by Reed Bunzel)

“I saw the unique authenticity in the Mississippi artists and those that were so influenced by the Mississippi artists and musicians,” Bell said. “So getting to Stax, that's what I was looking for. In my own way, I would talk to the musicians and the writers and the artists, and, as opposed to telling them how to sing it, I would let them sing it the way that they actually feel it so that it becomes authentic. And then we’d put together a musical arrangement around it so that it enhances and embellishes it.” Dickinson, who moved to Mississippi as a fourthgrader and later was influenced by Hill Country blues legends David “Junior” Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, has found that genuine element to be the key to his own musical success. “That's what Mississippi has in spades,” Dickinson said. “If I can inject that into our music, then that's when people react. That's when I see people start

dancing, and that's when I feel that we're doing something special.” Though the authenticity of Mississippi music is uncontested, its origins are more of an enigma. Charlie Musselwhite, born in Kosciusko and now renowned for his electric blues harmonica, feels an attachment to the Magnolia State even though he moved to Memphis at age 3. For him, the Delta’s specialness can’t be pinpointed. “I don't know how to nail it down, really,” said Musselwhite, who collaborated with The City Champs on “If I Should Have Bad Luck” on the Take Me to the River album. “It's like a shadow; it'll move when you think you know where it is or it'll change shape.” Musselwhite is one of the musicians featured in the film who will also be part of Take Me to the River Live, a national concert tour beginning Sept. 26, with a show at the GRAMMY Museum in Cleveland. # 11

ABOVE: Mississippi native Charlie Musselwhite (Photo by Danny Clinch) OPPOSITE PAGE LEFT: Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars (Courtesy of EGBA LLC) OPPOSITE PAGE RIGHT: Al Bell with Isaac Hayes and Jim Stewart (Courtesy Stax Museum of American Soul Music)


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“There's just something about Mississippians,” Musselwhite said. “It's like they're compelled to create. They might not be a trained artist, but it's still art, and it's still true, and it's from the heart, and it's real.” But Bell, who grew up around the Arkansas portion of the Mississippi River Delta region, attributes the area’s prolificacy to the number of ethnicities that have inhabited the land through the years. “I started studying the Mississippi River Delta culture, and I realized that over the centuries you had American Indians, French, Arab, Spanish, African, German, English, Irish, Scots-Irish, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and Southeast Asian people that established and maintained their ethnic identities in the Delta,” Bell said. “What most people appreciate about America was born out of that Delta.” That’s the conclusion Shore hoped the world — particularly natives — would reach by watching Take Me to the River. “I feel it's just so important for local, indigenous Mississippians to be celebrating their contribution to America and the world's culture. And that it should be a very, very proud thing,” Shore said. “None of the modern-day music as we know it would be in existence if it wasn't for the musicians that came from Mississippi. End of story.” According to Bell, who makes an appearance in the documentary, what came out of Mississippi went on to influence not only native son Elvis Presley, but the Beatles, Chuck Berry and countless others. “It's important after 200 years for Mississippi to appreciate where she has come from and the contributions she has made to the world culturally and otherwise and that it goes on,” Bell said. “It is continuous. It hasn't tapered off; as a matter of fact, it's accelerating.” It’s accelerating because of musicians such as Musselwhite and Dickinson. “I would say about the North Mississippi Allstars that we are at our best when we look to the past with reverence and respect while we forge fearlessly into the future,” said Dickinson. But awareness and appreciation of Mississippi’s cultural gift to the world is catching on because of people like Shore, too. Not only has Take Me to the River won multiple awards at film festivals all over the country — including South By Southwest’s 24 Beats Per Second Audience Award — but it’s reaching people of all ages off screen as well. Take Me to the River has teamed up with Boston’s Berklee College of Music and their City Music Network, an educational program striving to reach underserved, school-aged children through music. “I think music is a jumping-off point for discussion in social studies and history and how it is really the soundtrack to our culture,” Shore said. “That’s our holy grail: to continue to have

“What most people appreciate about America was born out of that Delta .”

enough outreach so that we get in more and more schools so that we stay there and be part of the landscape for generations to come.” Take Me to the River Live plays into that initiative. “When we're on tour, we not only do outreach during the day when we can — and particularly on days off — but for every concert, we have students come in who are interested in production,” Shore said. “They get to watch how a concert is put on.” Shore sees this as bigger than just remembering what has been made in the Mississippi River Delta region, after all. “It’s a real opportunity to chronicle legacy and to pass legacy on,” he said. “To really be able to have a living, breathing resource for generations to come and this generation right now.” That perpetuation of positive awareness is one aspect of Take Me to the River that Bell found to be special about the film. “I'm thankful for Mississippi and what was born in Mississippi,” he said. “We can always talk about something that’s bad or something that’s negative or something that’s controversial. But what balances us in life is if we look for the good, and look what came out of Mississippi that was excellent! So I say to Mississippi


after 200 years not keep on pushing but move it on up now a little higher and start pushing forward at another level for today’s world. Move into the 21st century, not as it relates to changing the music but as it relates to recognizing that it’s there and promoting it boldly.” And promoting Mississippi — whether intentionally or not — is what Take Me to the River has done in the five years since its premiere. The film, the tour and the educational initiative continue to shine a bright light on the Magnolia State. “This is an American story made possible by Mississippians who then — a lot of them — became Memphians,” Shore said. “If you want to understand where popular music came from — what was the cultural jewel that Mississippians gave to the world that came from the Mississippi Delta — that’s it. It’s important to understand it, because you can be better for it in so many ways. What we have is our music, and it came from Mississippi. It came from the Delta. And that’s where the ethereal spirit of music lives.”

STORY Anna McCollum PHOTOGRAPHY Submittted 13

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Mississippi Quilting

Quilts tell the quintessential of the bicentennial Many celebrations tie into a thread of Mississippi’s bicentennial, but none quite as literally as quilt shows.


"Stories Unfolded " Quilt Exhibit Mississippi Civil Rights Museum 380 South Lamar Street Jackson, MS 39201 (601) 960.1515 Exhibit opens Dec. 9 HOURS: Tuesday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday 1 - 5 p.m Closed Mondays

"Mississippians have created a remarkable record of history and art in their quilts," said Mary Lohrenz, who curated "Stories Unfolded," a temporary exhibition of quilts from the state archives’ collection. The collection is part of the Dec. 9 opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Quilts, from utilitarian bedcovers crafted from scraps to high-style showpieces of imported fabrics to narrative quilts that share a story, all have a place in the state’s history and "Stories Unfolded." Practiced primarily by women, quilting has had a role in all different ethnic/cultural/racial groups and at every socioeconomic level, Lohrenz said. Each is layered with meaning — in patterns traditional, improvised or wholly original. The national quilt revival in the 1970s, sparked in part by America’s 1976 bicentennial, brought a new focus on their role in American and women’s history, and how they were viewed and valued. Formation of local quilt guilds in the 1970s and 1980s also saw the founding of Mississippi Cultural Crossroads and Tutwiler Quilters, promoting African American quilt-making, and the statewide Mississippi Quilt Association to preserve and promote the art, Lohrenz said. Famed Mississippi quilt artists Gwendolyn Magee, Hystercine Rankin and Martha Skelton, now gone, are all represented in the state archives collection. The Mississippi Museum of Art, too, showcases artistry in design and stitches in one of the dozen exhibitions showcasing Mississippi artworks in its permanent collection. "Voices in the Threads: Quilts from the Mississippi Museum of Art," will be on display at the Union County Heritage Museum in New Albany during January and February. Now Mississippi’s bicentennial becomes the framework and fuel for showcases. The theme for the recent Old Man River Quilt Fest in Vicksburg, organized by Stitch-N-Frame in Bovina, was "Twenty Stars: Celebrating the Mississippi Bicentennial 1817-2017." Quilters explored



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Sew Artistic TOP LEFT: Deep Purple Dreams quilt by Myra Cook TOP RIGHT: “You Wear It Well” quilt by Beth Burke BOTTOM LEFT: "Civil War Stars" quilt by Susie Jackson BOTTOM RIGHT: Susie Jackson stands in front of one of her star quilts 15

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Myra Cook talks about the details in her star quilt titled "Deep Purple Dreams.”

“So, they're different, but they have things in common, which I think is a good part of the theme of the way our country was born.” ~ MYRA COOK

that theme in thoughtful ways. "You Wear It Well," Beth Burke named hers, a colorful creation using the Mississippi Star block. "It’s supposed to be 200 years. It’s a birthday," and vintage-flavored fabrics lend an old-fashioned air. Libby Hartfield, for "United Stars," stitched together free cut stars fondly described as "wonky." They all had the same center but slightly different points that brushed alongside each other in what could be a hopeful vision of handholding. Symbolizing the 20 states when Mississippi joined the Union, "I wanted them to interlock as if becoming one, working together, interconnecting," she said. A block exchange in a group of 10 quilters assured every one of their quilts would share the same star blocks, in different designs. Another in Sarah Ketchum’s hands, "Thank You Stars," had a patriotic gist and destination, as a military veteran’s gift. "I like the Old Glory look, as far as red, white and blue. It’s not tattered, but aged," she said of its "antique-y" hues. Myra Cook’s "Deep Purple Dreams," a Sedona Stars pattern in hues from lavender to deep purple, with 16

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longarm quilting by Carol Kossman, had sly design at work and a 1960s pop hit for inspiration. Purple combines the warmest and coolest colors, red and blue. In her quilt, one star’s fabric was another star’s background, block to block. "So, they’re different, but they have things in common, which I think is a good part of the theme of the way our country was born," she said. In more bicentennial tie-ins, in Chickasa-Leaf Barn Quilt Trail (Greene and surrounding counties) community workshops, children pieced small fabric squares of red, white and blue prints into designs similar to quilting blocks. Once glued, mounted and sealed on plywood, the quilt-like pieces become community folk art. Trail founder Regina Breland also re-created the U.S. 20 Star Flag in paint on plywood — "We cut holes in the board to make it look as realistic as possible," she said — to add to the trail.

STORY Sherry Lucas PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis



Signed First Editions of

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Available at Square Books: Oct. 24th On the Square in Oxford

662-236-2262 17

Tamales To Go Perry Gibson of Greenville serves up hot tamales out of his modern day tamale cart, Sho Nuff.


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a lt e D e h t m o r f p e e d digs in

ROSEDALE — Locals and world-travelers who enter the White Front Café/ Joe’s Hot Tamale Place all come for the same thing — legendary hot tamales made famous by the late Joe Pope. They are part of a tradition in the Delta, one that Joe’s sister, Barbara Pope, is carrying on in the white clapboard building in Rosedale, a small community right on the banks of the Mississippi River, just west of Cleveland. Like most folks who make hot tamales, Barbara never aspired to run a hot tamale business. The beloved treat just somehow claimed her as it did the small circle of tamale people in the Delta. A Mississippi tourism booklet has even called the tamale one of the more unexpected official state delicacies. But, it took a few years to get there. The history of hot tamales isn’t crystal clear, but it is widely believed the tamale originally came into the United States from Mexico — either from soldiers returning from the Mexican-American War or from migrant Mexican workers brought to this country in the early 1900s to work the cotton fields. The tamale was portable — it could be taken to the field — and it was easy to prepare. Working alongside African-Americans, the Mexicans shared their recipe of pork and masa. It wasn’t long before the tamales were made by the African-American cooks, changing the recipe to fit their tastes and availability of meat and cornmeal. As the recipes evolved, spices were added and the hot tamale we know today was born. Z 19

Don’t ask hot tamale makers for the recipes, however, as they are closely guarded. The basic ingredients — meat, cornmeal or masa and seasonings — are the same, but you won’t find out how much of the seasoning goes into the pot. “There are three things that aren’t secret about a hot tamale,” said Eugene Hicks of Clarksdale. “The texture, the taste and the juice aren’t secret.” He should know. Hicks has been making hot tamales for more than 55 years. He serves them up, covered in juice, at Hicks World Famous Hot Tamales in a building that was once the city jail. He learned how to make them at 12 years old. By 14, he was making his own and letting friends and family taste them. “It’s a lot of work to do tamales. It takes two days,” Hicks said. “But, there is something special when a person tastes a tamale for the first time, and they like it. Money can’t buy that.” The meat, whether beef or pork — sometimes chicken — is cooked on the first day, shredded or ground up and refrigerated to make it easier to handle. The cornmeal is also prepared and cooled. On the second day, the meat mixture is placed inside the cornmeal either by hand or with the help of a machine,

was pregnant and had a craving for hot tamales. Her husband couldn’t keep up with her demand, so he decided to make them himself. When they moved to Greenville, they began to sell their hot tamales from a cart they rolled around downtown. A hot tamale stand was erected on Nelson Street, then later, Mississippi Highway 1, where it stands today. “Our daddy started this business, and we have kept it going all these years,” said Loretta Scott Gilliam. “I think he would be proud.” Today, several of Aaron and Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren gather every week in the kitchen he built especially for making hot tamales. There, they

And, no one knows his recipe — not even his wife.

then rolled in a corn shuck. Over the years, some hot tamale makers have gone to extreme measures to keep their tamale recipe secret. One of the most far-fetched has to be the late Big Doe Signa. Founder of the iconic Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, Signa got his hands on a partial hot tamale recipe that was perfected by his wife, Mamie. According to Signa’s sons, Charles and Little Doe, they would help their dad make the hot tamales in the middle of the night, after closing the eatery earlier in the evening. “When it came time to add the seasonings into the meat, Daddy would go into another room and lock the door,” said son, Charles. “He wanted to make very sure no one saw what he was putting in those hot tamales, even if it was the middle of the night.” About the same time Signa began making hot tamales, so did the Scott Family of Metcalfe. Aaron and Elizabeth Scott were living in Texas when Elizabeth


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make about 100 dozen tamales to sell at the stand. And weekly orders come in for shipping across the U.S. Mark Azlin is also working hard to introduce the rest of the country to the lure of hot tamales. Delta born and raised, Azlin invented the fried hot tamale. Since Southerners love anything fried, it was surprising that no one had thought of this idea before. A frozen hot tamale is dipped in a beer batter and deep fried until it has a crispy, golden crust. It was an immediate hit at his restaurant, Bourbon Mall. Other eateries began to copy the idea, and it took off. But Azlin wanted to take the hot tamale a step further – out of the Delta. His company, Juke Joint Foods, wholesales hot tamales to the food service industry putting them on restaurant tables across Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee. A few grocery stores even sell Juke Joint Hot Tamales — already cooked, ready to heat and serve. Z

Stuff it Hot Tamale Stuffed Peppers Hot tamales are great right out of the corn shuck, served with hot sauce, lemon juice or ketchup and saltine crackers But they also are a great ingredient in other recipes. They pair great with olives — both black and green — tomatoes, corn and onion. Hot Tamale Stuffed Peppers are just one of the recipes using tamales featured in the book Delta Hot Tamales: History, Stories and Recipes by Anne Martin (Arcadia Publishing/The History Press.) It explores the history of hot tamales, the folks who make them and why they are so loved, along with recipes on how to cook with this corn shuck-wrapped food.

By Anne Martin Ingredients: 4 bell peppers, any color, tops removed, cleaned and cored 10–12 hot tamales (depending on size), unwrapped 1 can shoe peg corn, drained 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained 1 cup colby jack shredded cheese Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Steam bell peppers just to soften slightly and remove outer film. Pat dry and place upright in a casserole dish. In a large mixing bowl, mash up hot tamales. Add corn, tomatoes and a generous cup of cheese. Stir together with hot tamales. Put hot tamale mixture into bell peppers. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until warm in the center. Remove from oven and sprinkle shredded cheese on each bell pepper. Cook an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. 21

“People love hot tamales and this is just one way we can offer them to folks outside the Delta,” said Azlin, who now lives in Oxford. “We’ve got a good Delta recipe to share with the world.” While hot tamales are known primarily as a Delta cuisine, various hot tamale businesses have sprung up around Mississippi, each with a distinct flavor and unique, highly guarded recipe. “Folks have worked too hard in developing their recipe,” says cookbook author Susan Puckett and native Mississippian. “They are a bit reluctant to share their recipe with anyone.” But sharing is how Perry Gibson of Greenville got into the hot tamale game. He wanted to learn how to make tamales. A lady who was once married to legendary hot tamale maker Joe Pope showed him the ropes. The recipe he perfected now lives in his head, but he said one day, someone will find a copy in his safe. Perry sells his hot tamales under the name Sho Nuff out of a modern day tamale cart, a decades old tradition he wanted to keep alive. It is because of hot tamales that a new tradition has evolved – the Delta Hot Tamale Festival. Founded in 2012 by three women — Betty Lynn Cameron, Valerie Rankin and me (Anne Martin) — the festival was inspired by a backyard hot tamale tasting. The inaugural festival attracted more than 5,000 visitors and has grown to about 20,000. A former Greenville mayor, the late Chuck Jordan, even had the city declared the Hot Tamale Capital of the World. Each year on the third weekend in October, visitors flock to Greenville. The event offers a hot tamale championship cook-off, a hot tamale eating



“Hot tamales just make you happy, They are a fun food.” - Betty Lynn Cameron

contest and the crowning of Miss Hot Tamale. Meanwhile, hot tamale makers across the Delta, such as Barbara Pope, usually spend a couple of days a week making hot tamales. Some use a machine to form the tubular tamale while others use only their hands to shape the treat. But all are hand-rolled. Barbara Pope said she is still amazed why people


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like them so much, but she admits there is something special about hot tamales. She’s right. After all, you can’t say hot tamales without smiling.

STORY Anne Martin PHOTOGRAPHY Megan Wolfe


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John Lee Hooker

Boogie king put the funk in funky

"I’m the first person that really got the boogie goin’. Everybody now is boogie-this and boogiethat, but I am the original. And the word comes from Boogie Chillen. When Boogie Chillen first came out, everywhere you went you would hear that, ’cause that was a new beat to the blues then. And that was the boogie. And then it laid dead for years and years and then I revived it..." ~ JOHN LEE HOOKER, 1979 interview with Living Blues Magazine ~


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John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillen reached No. 1 in the R&B charts in February 1949 and, with its "new beat," it launched one of blues’ most remarkable, resilient and singular careers. A one-chord paean to simple pleasures that mixed traditional and modern sounds, Boogie Chillen’ resonated with the sensibilities of many contemporary African-Americans who, like then Detroitbased Hooker, had left the Deep South for a new life up North. Nearly 70 years later, the appeal of Hooker’s music has hardly waned, and his inimitable sound and his iconic cool persona continue to symbolize blues authenticity. Over the next year, Hooker will be honored via multiple bicentennial celebrations, including coordinated exhibits at the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland ("John Lee Hooker: King of the Boogie" premiered Aug. 22) and the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale ("John Lee Hooker: Endless Boogie" opened late July). Both are being staged in tandem with the Fourth Annual International Conference on the Blues (Oct. 1-3) at Delta State University, which will have a John Lee Hooker theme. Hooker was born on a farm 10 miles southeast of Clarksdale, near Vance, on Aug. 22, 1917, one of 11 children of Minnie and William Hooker. He got his first guitar from his sister’s boyfriend, Tony Hollins, a recording artist whose Crawlin’ King Snake would later provide Hooker with his second hit and whose Traveling Man Blues Hooker would later record as When My First Wife Quit Me. The main inspiration of his sound, though, was his stepfather, Will Moore, who never recorded. "I’m doin’ it identical to his style," Hooker once said of Moore, a native of Shreveport who had performed with Charley Patton. Hooker decided early on that sharecropping wasn’t for him, and by his mid-teens, left home for good, stopping in Memphis and Cincinnati before settling in Detroit in 1943. Hooker initially worked day jobs, playing at houseparties and clubs in Detroit’s "Black Bottom" district on the weekends. His first real recording session in late 1948 yielded Boogie Chillen, which was leased to Los Angeles’




Modern label. "The thing caught afire," he recalled in Living Blues. "It was ringin’ all around the country. When it come out, every jukebox you went to, every place you went to, every drugstore you went, everywhere you went, department stores, they were playing it there." Hooker continued to produce hit after hit, including I’m In The Mood, Hobo Blues and Crawling King Snake, and avoided contractual restrictions by recording for various labels under aliases — the relatively transparent John Lee Booker, John Lee Cooker and Johnny Lee, as well the more arcane sobriquets Birmingham Sam and His Magic Guitar and Little Pork Chops. Hooker’s ability to find so much work owed much to his rare ability to improvise new and high quality songs on demand, and the breadth of his recording legacy is expressed through the release of more than 100 albums. Hooker’s predilection for label hopping ended, temporarily at least, in 1955, when he signed with the Chicago-based label Vee-Jay, for whom he recorded, among others, the 1956 hit Dimples. In the latter ’50s, Hooker became one of the first bluesmen to benefit from the emergent folk/blues revival, appearing at the 1960 and 1963 Newport Folk Festivals, recording albums for folk-oriented labels and gigging on the coffeehouse circuit. These new audiences also were interested in buying his older recordings, which were readily repackaged as "authentic folk blues." After a 1962 tour of Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, Hooker became a frequent guest in the United Kingdom, staying for extended tours, recording with the Groundhogs in 1964 and drawing the attention of the rock crowd after the Animals had a hit with Boom Boom, originally recorded by Hooker for Vee-Jay in 1962. With the collapse of Vee-Jay in 1965, Hooker returned to label hopping, but he was now largely recording albums instead of singles. In 1971, he gained the attention of the American rock audience when he recorded the album Hooker ‘n Heat with the band Canned Heat. Despite his continuing power as a performer, Hooker’s career declined during the ’70s, though he gained renewed attention in

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John Lee Hooker: King of the Boogie will be on exhibit through Feb. 18, 2018, at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

1980 with his appearance in the Blues Brothers, performing outdoors on Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street. His career rebounded in 1989 with the success of his album The Healer, which paired him with younger admirers, including Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, Carlos Santana and fellow Mississippian and friend Charlie Musselwhite. Over the course of his last decade, Hooker became a wealthy man, selling millions of records, appearing in high-profile commercials for Lee jeans and Pepsi and commanding top dollar for his performances with his Coast to Coast Blues Band. Hooker’s increased celebrity coincided with the growing prominence of the blues in popular culture, and he arguably became the blues’ most recognizable icon. In his expensive suit, hat and dark glasses, attire he also donned while at home, Hooker stood as regal and the epitome of cool, a man Miles Davis called "the funkiest man alive." Hooker, who remained quite vigorous in his frequent performances, died in his sleep on June 21, 2001, at his home in Los Altos, Calif. He’s fondly remembered by his friends for his style, humility, generosity, love of family and friends, passion for baseball (he was an avid Dodgers fan) and as a ladies’ man whose charms captivated the women


Bicentennial 2017

and left men in awe. His close friend Charlie Musselwhite recalled, "He was always the same John Lee as the first time I met him. His outlook, his personality, his character, his humor, the way he looked at things, he was always John Lee." One of Musselwhite’s favorite stories about Hooker concerns his famously laid-back nature. Hooker had promised to overdub a part for a musician’s album, but kept putting him off until they finally agreed that they could record at Hooker’s home. "So this guy comes over there one day and knocks on the door and this girl answers the door and says, ‘Well, John’s in the bed watching TV.’ So they go back there... and John never even gets out of the bed. He’s layin’ there with his shades on watchin’ the ballgame and they turn the sound down on the TV and hold the microphone to him and put the headphones on him. And they played the cut and he does his part and they leave and he never even raised up. So that’s being pretty relaxed. So that’s being pretty relaxed. And that’s also gettin’ things to work out the way you want it to...” STORY Scott Barretta PHOTOGRAPHY GRAMMY Museum Mississippi/Getty Images


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The opening date of this exhibit has as much meaning as John Lee Hooker’s was born in the Mississippi Delta. This inimitable blues artist endures as one of the true superstars of the blues: the ultimate beholder of cool. His work continues to inspire artists around the globe and keep his fans wanting more. On display here through the fall of 2017 will be rare and never-before-heard recordings from Hooker, instruments such as his Gibson ES-335, his GRAMMY® for Don’t Look Back, performance outfits and more. This exhibit is part of a yearlong celebration of Hooker’s musical legacy that features special releases from Craft Recordings and artifacts donated by his family, friends and associates.

Photo credit: Paul Natkin/ Getty Images

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Benny Andrews (1930-2006), Mississippi River Bank (Trail of Tears Series), 2005. oil on canvas with painted fabric collage. Š Estate of Benny Andrews, Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.


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Mississippi’s story bubbles up from native soil. It also comes home to roost. This visual narrative — perspectives from insiders and outsiders — will cover the walls of the Mississippi Museum of Art in a blockbuster exhibition to greet the bicentennial of Mississippi’s statehood. "Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise," Dec. 9 through July 8, will journey through time, visiting a landscape, its people and history as pictured in more than 175 works by more than 100 different artists. In a dialogue of perception and portrayal, the exhibition will wrap in creations of indigenous cultures, European exploration and settlement, the Civil War, responses to the civil rights struggle and development of the state’s own artistic voice. Its large number of loaned works by artists from outside Mississippi includes responses to readings, visits and imaginings of the state, Mississippi Museum of Art director Betsy Bradley said. That fills in some gaps of "The Mississippi Story," which highlights the permanent collection and will be de-installed for the museumwide bicentennial show. The National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution and Minneapolis Institute of Art are among the prestigious institutions loaning works. With art during the Civil War period and works by such big names in the American art cannon as Winslow Homer, John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, "Picturing Mississippi" expands the narrative and highlights the visual art that has shaped Mississippi’s image. "The goal was not so much to be encyclopedic and comprehensive, but to give an overview of artistic life connected with this place,” said exhibition curator Jochen Wierich, adding it will celebrate the diversity of responses Mississippi has inspired over the past 200 years with the state as both exotic and as home.

Picture the state as an indigenous people, forced from their longtime lands, leaving it behind, as Benny Andrews does in "Mississippi River Bank (Trail of Tears Series)." It is a work resonating with dignity, heartache and the chasm between cultures. See it as an open invitation to adventure and commerce, as the boisterous crew in George Caleb Bingham’s iconic "The Jolly Flatboatmen" conveys. The crimps and curves of George Ohr’s vessels share another view, as clay from the land itself, guided by Ohr’s imagination and skill. Statehood’s start makes a slightly arbitrary beginning for an exhibition that also will dip further into the area’s past, with pottery and stone effigies from its native cultures, early maps and images of American Indians by Europeans, Wierich said, such as a French painter’s depiction of a Natchez Indian based on romantic literature. Throughout, viewers will learn how Mississippi’s image was shaped by its people — European Americans, African Americans and more. Z

George Ohr (1857-1918), Biloxi Lighthouse Pot, ca. 1895. glazed ceramic. Collection of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art. Gift of Elizabeth Munro and the O'Keefe Family Foundation. 29

Noah Saterstrom (born 1974), Road to Shubuta, 2016. oil on canvas. © Courtesy of the artist.

"The visual culture of this place was always shaped by these different communities," Wierich said. "They lived together but they also, oftentimes, were in conflict." That theme continues into the civil rights era’s conflicts, "and artists respond … in their own way — sometimes with images that might be upsetting, regardless of where you’re coming from or what your history is. "Then again, we also find moments where art has a way of reconciling." "Picturing Mississippi" shares the story through paintings, prints, photographs, maps, sculpture, decorative arts, furniture and contemporary expressions in mixed media. A chronological thread weaves through history, from pre-statehood European explorers and settlers, the reign of King Cotton with Natchez as its cultural center, the trauma of the Civil War, Reconstruction, early 20th century Mississippi artists going abroad to study as well as artists from outside keen on the region, Mississippi artists and modernism, civil rights, the state in recent years and a look forward into the future. Among the standouts: George Catlin paintings of Choctaw Indians after they were removed from their Mississippi homeland to Oklahoma; a major history painting by John Steuart Curry, inspired by the great Mississippi River flood of 1927; Sam Gilliam’s painting


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"Red April," an example of the Tupelo-born artist’s soaked canvases, from his MLK series referencing the civil rights struggle. "Some people regard these soaked canvases as the visceral response to the killings that were happening and the sadness that many people felt during that time," Wierich said. Another response to the civil rights struggle is Bob Thompson’s "Homage to Nina Simone," whose song "Mississippi Goddam" captured the sadness and rage about the violence. The painting’s colorful figures and idyllic setting echo artists such as Gauguin, perhaps projecting an image that tries to transcend the conflict, Wierich said, while still expressing an underlying dissatisfaction. "We call it ‘Picturing Mississippi,’ … visitors should come open to being able to explore multiple images, multiple pictures, multiple artistic interpretations. "The beauty of having a show like this is that, you can see them all in one room. You can see all these different perspectives, all these different artistic voices," Wierich said. "In that regard, it’s quite a cacophony, but it’s a beautiful tapestry of things to look at and enjoy."

STORY Sherry Lucas ARTWORK Courtesy Mississippi Museum of Art

"Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities" shares the Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection statewide in another celebration of the state’s bicentennial year. Through May, the themed exhibitions packed with artworks by such regionally acclaimed artists as Walter Anderson, William Dunlap, Marie Hull and Hystercine Rankin visit affiliates around the state. Lizzy Abston, the museum’s curator of the collection, said a good balance emphasizing Mississippi art was the aim in these dozen shows. Like many institutions, the Mississippi Museum of Art can show only about 4 to 5 percent of its permanent collection at any given time, and this gets more of the collection into the public sphere.

the remaining schedule "Eudora Welty’s Women," through Sept. 9, Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, Port Gibson "Narratives of the Land," Sept. 1-Oct. 14, McComas Hall Art Gallery

Theora Hamblett (1895-1977), Hamblett Hill, 1965. oil on canvas. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum. Bequest of Theora Hamblett.

"More than Meets the Eye: The Art of the Mississippi Blues,” Sept. 8-Oct. 23, E.E. Bass Cultural Arts Center, Greenville "A Social Art: Mississippi Art in the Early 20th Century," Sept. 15-Oct. 27, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Gautier, and Feb. 9-March 23, Meridian Museum of Art, Meridian "Voices in the Threads: Quilts from the Mississippi Museum of Art," January through February, Union County Heritage Museum, New Albany "Formal Explorations: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection," December through March, Gumtree Museum of Art, Tupelo

Andrew Bucci (1922-2014), The River, ca. 1955. oil on canvas. © Courtesy of the Estate of Andrew Bucci.

"Southern Gothic: Spiritual Sites and Evocative Spaces in Mississippi Art," Feb. 1-March 15, Historic Jefferson College, Natchez "Fine/Folk: Modes of Representation in African-American Art," March 12-May 19, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi 31


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Southern Foodways Alliance Dips deep into eats and roots

One of the country’s foremost food organizations was established on a hot summer day in Birmingham, Ala. The late John Egerton, an author and activist, convened a two-day meeting of 50 people who lent their names to a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, study and celebration of the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The year was 1999 and what Egerton started was truly groundbreaking — using food as a way to learn about other cultures and to see how those cultures are interwoven with the culture of the South. The SFA provides the pathways to consider the history of the South as well as the future in a spirit of respect and reconciliation. The name most often associated with the SFA is John T. Edge, who has served as director of the organization since its founding in 1999. He came to his position in a serendipitous way, beginning with his dissatisfaction with working in a traditional corporate job in Atlanta. Despite not having finished college, Edge worked in sales, then marketing and, finally, corporate



Bicentennial 2017



FOOD OPPOSITE PAGE TOP AND THIS PAGE : Food and drinks served at past Southern Foodways Alliance Symposiums, held annually in Oxford OPPOSITE PAGE BOTTOM: John T. Edge, executive director of SFA and author of many book on Southern foodways

engineering. And although he continued moving up in that world for a decade, Edge had a niggling feeling he simply could not shake. “I was doing the same work as others in my company who had advanced degrees,” he said. “I felt bad and knew that I really wanted to finish college.” About that time, the Georgia native was having deep thoughts about the South as a region. He became increasingly frustrated with the decisions made in the region. “I felt myself often angry at the people and the place,” Edge said. He had read about the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in Oxford. Following a business trip to Memphis, he drove to Oxford and toured the Center. Within a month, he had sold his house, quit his job and moved to Oxford, where he finished his undergraduate degree at Ole Miss. Feeling he had found his purpose, Edge went straight to graduate school, where he began exploring the many ways people thought of the South. He wrote his master’s thesis on potlikker, the broth created when cooking greens. He found a 1931 debate that examined whether cornbread should be dunked or crumbled into potlikker. Surprisingly, that debate, which ran in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, spurred many letters to the editor and, in addition to very strong stances on dunking and crumbling, the letters included larger issues such as race relations, gender and identity. “Writing about food makes you think about the bigger issues at hand,” Edge said. Those bigger issues are constantly explored through the many efforts of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Mary Beth Lasseter is the associate director of the SFA, and her enthusiasm for SFA’s projects is boundless. “From Foodways Symposiums to the many food trails and regional projects, as well as our quarterly Gravy publication and now the Gravy podcast, with its collection of original, fresh and thought-provoking stories, our little staff is busy all the time,” Lasseter said. Each member of the SFA staff is passionate about what they do. “Look at Sarah Camp Milan and Osayi Endolyn who produce and edit the Gravy podcasts and journal,” Lasseter said. “The journal won the James Beard Foundation’s Publication of the Year!” The idea behind both is to tell stories in a compelling way. “These are nuanced stories about a rapidly changing Southern narrative,” Lasseter explained. “The podcasts are recorded non-fiction, many of which are conversations. We wanted to do something different, allowing our reporters to do long-form conversations about the South when they travel somewhere.” The SFA also produces documentaries with Ava Lowery leading the film charge. A Pihakis Foodways Documentary Fellow, Lowery is a native of Alexander City, Ala., and her films focus on her Southern roots, sharing untold stories centered on the South. Content produced by the SFA is shared on the association’s website,

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On the Edge THIS PAGE: John T. Edge at home in Oxford OPPOSITE PAGE: SFA Symposiums are held annually and offer lectures, tastings, and experiences centered on Southern foodways.


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“We are fully independent,” Lasseter boasted. “We are member-supported, but we also depend heavily on sponsors and donors who support us because they believe in what we do. I guess it boils down to this: we are a documentaryproducing organization. We have hired foodways professionals and film professionals, and we are starting an MFA program on filmmaking.” The cost to be a member of the SFA is $75 a year. “That’s a $75 investment in the storytelling mechanism of the South,” Edge said. “Food is a cultural product, and the study of food as a product of a region is a way to learn about ourselves. People tell stories about food because we like telling stories about ourselves. It’s not about the latest hip chef, but instead, people are interested in the overallwearing farmer who is raising collards and has been before collards were cool.” The organization is an institution of the University of Mississippi, where the Center for the Study of Southern Culture agreed to act as an incubator for the SFA early on and provided start-up capital earned from the sale of the Center-researched and written cookbook, A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South. When Edge became the executive director of the newly formed SFA in 1999, he remained its only employee until 2004, when Managing Director Melissa Booth Hall was added. Hall was introduced to the SFA in 2003, when she volunteered at the Fall Symposium in Oxford.


“We have grown to a staff of eight now,” said Lasseter, who also explained that all staff members are employed by the university. Lasseter said the events the SFA presents are a celebration of a changing South. “We embrace change,” she said. “As a matter of fact, we don’t ever use the word ‘preserve’ because we don’t like the idea of a static food culture.” Edge continues his quest to spread the gospel of Southern foodways in his latest book, The Potlikker Papers, a Food History of the Modern South. The book begins in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott and shows how black cooks leveraged their skills of baking cakes, pies and fried chicken to raise money for the growing civil rights movement. “I see this as a collection of untold stories,” Edge said. “When we respond to the South and when we respond to Southern food, we are actually responding to the stories embedded in that food. These are the stories I think aren’t told enough. Food is one way to see how the South has reinvented this region by finding beauty in the kitchen.”



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Bicentennial 2017

Marked by an influx of outsiders and three abominable murders, the summer of 1964 goes down in Mississippi history as a turning point of the civil rights movement. The story of Freedom Summer, during which hundreds of white, college-aged volunteers flooded the state to work on voter registration, has been dramatized in movies and analyzed in books. Now a museum opening in Jackson this bicentennial year will even further lock it into memories.

In 1964, the percentage of registered voters in Mississippi was lower than any other state’s. Freedom Summer was the brainchild of New York native Robert “Bob” Moses, who wanted to change that statistic. A leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Moses became co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella coalition of the major civil rights groups working in Mississippi. COFO included SNCC, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

(NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The plan was to join the forces of those grassroots organizations with outside volunteers in order to overcome the white Citizens’ Council and Sovereignty Commission — two groups that perpetuated Jim Crow in Mississippi. “It was a huge turning point for the country,” said Dr. Susan M. Glisson, co-founder and partner of Sustainable Equity, a minority consulting firm based in Oxford. “Civil rights activists in Mississippi had been working for several years without getting a lot of support or attention from the rest of the country (except for a lot of intimidation and violence), and they made the strategic decision to invite the sons and daughters of wealthy northerners to come to Mississippi because they knew that they had to exploit the nation's own bias.” For some volunteers, the decision proved to be fatal. On the night of June 21, James Chaney, a 21-year-old black civil rights worker from Meridian, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — Z 39

LEFT: Civil rights activist Flonzie Brown-Wright at home in Canton RIGHT: Brown-Wright, left, stands with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., far right, in Canton in 1966.

both white workers from New York state — went missing in Neshoba County. Schwerner, 24 years old, and his wife Rita had moved to Meridian earlier that year to establish a COFO office. Chaney had been working with CORE for about a year, and Goodman, 20 years old, had just arrived in Mississippi from a Freedom Summer orientation in Oxford, Ohio. The trio left the office with the intent of investigating a black church burning outside of Philadelphia. Once within Neshoba County lines, though, they were arrested by deputy sheriff and Ku Klux Klan member Cecil Price. Later that evening, they were beaten, shot and buried by Klansmen linked to him. Their bodies weren’t found until early August and, despite damning evidence, the Mississippi state government refused to prosecute the white men involved. “We already knew they were dead,” said Flonzie Brown-Wright of Canton, one of many Mississippians who invited Northern volunteers into her home during Freedom Summer. Two years later, Brown-Wright became the first black woman elected to a public office in Mississippi post- or pre-Reconstruction when she

“It was sort of like I became an activist overnight” -Patti Miller


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won a position on the Madison County Board of Election Commissioners. And on April 28, Brown- Wright was recognized by former FBI Director James Comey for her more than 50 years of service to her community through civil rights advocacy. “The question was to these young people — 18-, 19-year-olds — ‘Do you still want to go to Mississippi?’” Brown-Wright said. “We contacted their parents and told them, 'You have an option to not go.' Not one said no. They all said, 'We're going to catch those buses, and we're going.’” Patti Miller of Fairfield, Iowa, was one of those volunteers. “I was very fearful, but I never once had the thought, 'I'm not going,’” she said. “I think a part of it was my naiveté.” Miller grew up in an all-white community and was unaware of Jim Crow in the United States until she visited the Deep South her junior year at Drake University in Des Moines. “It was sort of like I became an activist overnight,” said Miller, who is president and founder of the Keeping History Alive Foundation. “I saw that they were separating the blacks from the whites, and it just infuriated me. Something in me just said, ‘This is so wrong.’” When Miller returned to school, she saw a brochure about Freedom Summer hanging on a bulletin board on campus and immediately signed up. Because Miller was enrolled in summer school that year, she missed the large orientation in Oxford, Ohio, where Moses and other leaders taught volunteers of Mississippi’s

social ways and how to physically defend themselves from harassment and violence. By the time Miller was on a bus to Jackson, where she would go through orientation at Tougaloo College, hundreds of FBI agents had been dispatched to the Magnolia State in search of the missing civil rights workers. Once in the state’s capital, Miller’s heart sunk when a worker called out her name and assigned city, Meridian. “Of course, I knew that Meridian was where the three who had been killed were from,” she said. “So that bus ride from Jackson to Meridian was absolutely the most fearful time that I had the whole summer because I was completely alone. I was going into the heart of what I understood to be the territory where they were killing people, and I knew no one.” Brown-Wright is no stranger to that feeling. As a branch manager for the NAACP in Canton in 1964, she’d often arrive to work to find a card under her door

Miller received a similar comfort and security from her host in Meridian, Alice Robertson. “I was never afraid when I was in her home. Never," Miller said. “It couldn't have been more comfortable or easy. She was so welcoming.” According to Glisson, Freedom Summer was successful especially because of those “ways that local, black community members invited these strangers into their homes, and they demonstrated to the world that people who are not supposed to have anything in common could very quickly create a loving community.” Dr. Robert Luckett, director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, said Freedom Summer was made possible not only by the volunteers and not only by the black locals, but also by the hard work of the grassroots organizations. “It speaks to the work of the people who made

LEFT: Patti Miller reads to children in Meridian during Freedom Summer RIGHT: Miller with Alice Robertson, who housed Miller during Freedom Summer / Photos courtesy of Patti Miller

reading, “The eyes of the Klan are upon you.” “I was just too afraid to be afraid,” Brown-Wright said. “It's a strange dichotomy.” But when it came to housing volunteers as she did during Freedom Summer and again two years later during a continuation of the voter registration project, Brown-Wright did not let fear intimidate her. “I took them to the sheriff's office, and I identified each one of them to the sheriff. I said, ‘These are my children. They're going to be going door-to-door doing voter registration.’ And I said, ‘Don't arrest them. Don't beat them. Do not crack their heads. If anything comes up, you know where I live.’ I felt that I had to do what I had to do to protect them,” she said.

up COFO, who were on the ground,” Luckett said. “Particularly SNCC and the NAACP — those two organizations did more work in the state of Mississippi than any other two organizations.” MacArthur Cotton was part of that network. Born in Kosciusko, Cotton knew early on that he wanted to attend Tougaloo College, like his older sisters. “I wanted to go because it was a progressive place,” said Cotton, who joined SNCC upon his admission. “But joining the movement? I think I was maybe born into it.” Cotton’s civil rights work began early on and spanned decades. While at Tougaloo, he worked with civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and Bob Moses, Z 41

“MacArthur (Cotton) is one of the most modest, once witnessing the beating of a close friend, who humble people I have ever met — just a quiet kind of was hit with a circuit clerk’s pistol on the steps of the strength.” Walthall County courthouse. Later, Cotton and a But for Cotton, it was never a matter of valor. group of civil rights workers were sent to Parchman “They were looking at it as a movement, and we (Mississippi State Penitentiary) where he hung by were looking at it as a struggle — you know, survival,” handcuffed wrists from a bar on the ceiling for three he said of the Northern volunteers. “Not what we can days. do this year or year after next — what can we put in “I never thought about wanting to give up,” he said. place that's going to be “What would that look substantial and is going to like?” sustain us forever?” When it came to The same is true for Freedom Summer, Brown-Wright, who has though, Cotton played a devoted more than half a more discreet role. First, century to that struggle. he worked in Memphis “I felt that if I could to further orient the just play a small role in latecomers like Miller who awakening people to had missed the Oxford, their rights, then I had an Ohio, session. obligation to do that,” she “You had some students said. “It wasn't a choice. that had been involved all I just felt that I had to be their lives through their involved and engaged in parents or whatever, and this movement. I was just then you had what we caught up.” called 'Friends of SNCC' And, ultimately, they who had been involved both acknowledge that in local stuff for years,” Freedom Summer, though Cotton said. “And then violent, achieved its you had the other group purpose. who had read about it in “It was a success for the newspaper who were what it was intended to naturally green, and so do,” Brown-Wright said. what we tried to do was Civil rights activist MacArthur Cotton of Kosciusko “It brought awareness to pair them with more the power structure that we experienced people. We had all bleed red even though the color of your skin may be some that really looked like they might not cut it in different than mine.” McComb and maybe found something for them in Miller, who worked with children at the Meridian Jackson or some of the places where we didn't expect as COFO office and community center during the much trouble.” summer of 1964, continues to learn from her lifeLater in the summer, Cotton worked in Jackson and changing experience as a volunteer. all over the state doing behind-the-scenes work, such “The lesson didn't become apparent to me then, as delivering donated textbooks and other odd jobs “to but in the long run, it's that people can really make a keep things running smoothly,” he said. difference,” she said. “I think it's pretty much agreed That dedication to both the humdrum and that had it not been for Freedom Summer and the risky became, for both Cotton and Brown-Wright Selma to Montgomery campaign that the Voting Rights and so many other black Mississippians, a lifelong Act (of 1965) would not have been passed. That was commitment to the movement. because individual college students were willing to give “They're both overlooked heroic figures,” Glisson, up their summer and work in the civil rights movement a founding former director of the William Winter that that was able to be brought to the forefront Institute for Racial Reconciliation, said of the two.


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of people's awareness and that pressure was put on the government to change things.” Even 40 years after the fact, Freedom Summer was spurring change. In 2004 and 2005, Glisson worked with the community of Philadelphia, Miss., to reconcile its ugly past and bring charges against Edgar Ray Killen, a former KKK member and conspirator in the murders of the three civil rights workers. The work was a continuation of what happened in 1964 — a change in the mindset of a group of people. “I think that they were able to really highlight the hypocrisy of the nation,” Glisson said. “I often say that when the country looks at Mississippi, they try to act as if they're looking at a foreign country, but in reality, they're looking in the mirror. And I think that Freedom Summer was the first shift in beginning to recognize that mirror.” According to Luckett, that change was no small feat. “That shift in power was incredible,” he said. “In terms of the 200 years of state history, that summer of 1964? That's got to be in the Top 10.” Educating people about Freedom Summer has the potential to effect positive change in Mississippi for its next 200 years, Glisson said. Fifty-three years after Freedom Summer, Patti Miller’s foundation teaches that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, after all. "After the Killen trial and conviction in 2006, we were able to get legislation passed to mandate teaching civil rights and human rights history in Mississippi classrooms,” Glisson said. Educating locals and visitors about those rights and the history of the struggle is the very goal of the forthcoming Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, slated to open in Jackson in December. “I think that is going to create a shift. It's going to be powerful,” Glisson said. “When people can engage with the history honestly and openly, it helps them shift in ways that are very effective."


TWO MUSEUMS The legacy of Freedom Summer, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers and other Mississippi-related people, events and incidents will be preserved by the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. It, along with the Museum of Mississippi History, is one of two institutions opening in December to celebrate the state’s bicentennial. “What the museum — and the wonderful people and scholars who are working — has done is that we’re getting images and audiovisuals that are going to bring the story of Freedom Summer together,” said Pamela Junior, director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. “What’s important to us is for the children to learn about this movement because there’s so many movements going on now. The mission is to be able to share the stories of the Mississippi movement that changed the nation. What we want people to come out with is that, ‘If they did it, we can do it.’” Both museums are a product of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Two Mississippi Museums project. “In the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum’s central gallery, visitors will experience ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ signifying that everyone has a light,” said Katie Blount, executive director of MDAH. “In the Museum of Mississippi History, a map made of Mississippians’ portraits embodies the museum’s theme: ‘One Mississippi, Many Stories.’” The Two Mississippi Museums will open Saturday, Dec. 9, “as the centerpiece of the state’s bicentennial celebration,” according to Blount. The brand new 200,000-square-foot center is located at 222 North St., in downtown Jackson and will include more than 22,000 artifacts, including fingerprint cameras and kits that would have been used by the Jackson Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations after the disappearance and murders of the three civil rights workers during Freedom Summer. For information on the two museums, visit 43

To curious minds, courageous hearts, and adventurous spirits: We’ll see you soon. Be one of the first to experience the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening side-by-side December 9, 2017, in Jackson, Mississippi. Plan your visit now. For Group Rates and More:


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Mississippi Encyclopedia

Nine-pound book a new go-to source for the state


Six-hundred-fifty authors. More than 1,500 entries — from Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a Gulfport High School graduate who went on to be one of the most recognized figures in American basketball, all the way to Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker and businessperson from Yazoo City. Weighing in at nearly 9 pounds, The Mississippi Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive volume ever written about Mississippi. It covers every county, every governor, numerous musicians, writers, artists and activists, as well as essays on agriculture, archaeology, the civil rights movement, the Civil War, drama, education, the environment, ethnicity, fiction, folk life, foodways, geography, industry and industrial workers, law, medicine, music, myths and representations. It covers Native Americans, nonfiction, poetry, politics and government, the press, religion, social and economic history, sports and visual arts — all in one 1,451-page volume published by the University Press of Mississippi. It’s the first encyclopedic treatment of the state since 1907. “It is our hope that this book gives people pleasure through browsing,” said Ted Ownby, who along with Charles Regan Wilson, served as senior editor for the book. “Someone may be looking up something and find several other topics of interest in doing so. Unlike the internet, where people can get distracted by emails and such, a book can hold someone’s interest for a longer period of time as the reader explores what lies within the pages. There will be a lot of surprises.” The project began, as all do, with an idea. Suggestions came from Seetha Srinivasan at the University Press of Mississippi. Former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat and his chief of staff, Andy Mullins, energetically supported the idea. Wilson, along with Ownby and Ann Abadie of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture became involved in 2003. Dean Glenn Hopkins of the


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university’s College of Liberal Arts and Chancellor Dan Jones also backed the project. As the players in the project came on board, the next step was funding. First came an appropriation from the Mississippi Legislature. Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History helped sustain the project, as did funding from the University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts. Funding also was provided by a major grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation and gifts from Lynn and Stewart Gammill and other supporters from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “This book is not necessarily a celebration, defense nor critique of Mississippi,” Ownby said. “Instead, it studies how things happened and how people reacted to those events. There are examples of people thinking and about events and their interpretation of them.” Coordinating a book of this magnitude took very deliberate planning. Ownby explained that they relied on the expertise developed by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, which had extensive experience with similar encyclopedia projects, especially the “Encyclopedia of Southern Culture” (1989) and its update, “The New Encyclopedia of the Study of Southern Culture” (2006-2013), both published by the University of North Carolina Press. The editors of “The Mississippi Encyclopedia” identified 30 leaders in their fields to serve as subject editors. Further suggestions for topics came from other sources, including authors, editors, colleagues and friends. “Each topic editor was a scholar,” Ownby said. “Each sent a list of 30 to 40 topics for consideration, and often they sent a list of potential authors.” Once the book’s topics were chosen, managing editors Andrea Driver and Odie Lindsay worked with the editors and associate editors to consult with authors.




Peggy Jeanes, editor emerita of Mississippi History Now, wrote four of the entries in the encyclopedia. “I was introduced to the idea of The Mississippi Encyclopedia at an annual meeting of the Mississippi History Society,” Jeanes recalled. “Ted Ownby spoke at our meeting and encouraged those in attendance to visit the Center for Study of Southern Culture website. I did just that, and there was a list of potential topics for the encyclopedia. They were seeking writers who had knowledge of the topics. I chose three, then pitched a fourth and they told me to go ahead with it.” The entries Jeanes’ wrote include an article on Ingalls Shipbuilding, “the state’s major employer,” and Entergy Mississippi. “I was the editor and writer for Entergy for 13 years, so I knew it was a remarkable company and a strong corporate and civic leader,” she said. While writing about those companies was easy for Jeanes, due to good sources, her other entries were more challenging. “The first was ABC’s Robin Roberts, who was on their list of topics. She had just published her book, Seven Rules for Life, and it was not long after Hurricane Katrina when Robin took the opportunity to broadcast from her hometown of Pass Christian, telling a national television audience that Katrina had hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” The fourth entry Jeanes wrote was the one she pitched. “I’ve been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson Young for some time now,” she said. “He wrote a beautiful book years ago about a sharecropper who sought permission of the land owner to paint his house white. It received great accolades and was chosen as a Reader’s Digest Book-of-the-Month.” It took 13 years to produce The Mississippi Encyclopedia and much of that time was spent just updating entries. At its publication, those involved with the book admit that in some sense, the book is already outdated. “Even so,” Ownby mused, “the idea of trying to include everything and everybody is daunting. There are people, groups and events that identify as Mississippian, and plenty of other stories and perspectives. I thought I might be defensive at first if people pointed out what didn’t make the book, but now that it’s published, I don’t feel that way at all. What we have is a really big book that people can learn from and enjoy, and even think about what would be there.” Choosing a favorite entry for Ownby is much like a parent choosing a favorite child. “The truth is, I love all the entries,” he said. “Our writers did a great job with both the obvious topics and the most obscure and interesting ones as well. I love that there are entries that don’t conform to what most people may think about Mississippi — like the one about Euna Lee, a woman whose works were published in New York literary journals and who started a literary cultural exchange between the United States and Latin American countries.

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"It conveys what Mississippi is. It's like a box of chocolates. You can open it, but it's hard to close it. It is such a remarkable work." ~ PEGGY JEANES ~

“And there’s Juanita Harrison, a black woman who wrote My Great Wide Beautiful World, an autobiographical book about her travels around the world. I love learning about all the wonderful authors this state has produced, as well as the many musicians, like Wadada Leo Smith, a jazz artist who grew up in Leland. At age 15, his band director allowed him to do a jazz version of ‘Fever’ during the halftime show of a football game. He went on to become one of America’s great jazz trumpeters, involved with dozens of albums, including his boxed set, ‘Ten Freedom Summers.’” Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, said the book is a great reference resource for anyone who wants to know more about anything to do with Mississippi. “I just used it the other day to look up a court case I was curious about. The book is amazing. All 82 counties are in there, and it lists all the facts. I love that it’s written by scholars. The encyclopedia pulls together in one place the historical and cultural significance of our state.” The Mississippi Encyclopedia appeals to anyone who wants to know more about Mississippi and the people who call it home. Jeanes said that the book “conveys what Mississippi is. It’s like a box of chocolates. You can open it, but it’s hard to close it. It is such a remarkable work.” “The Mississippi Encyclopedia” is available at independent bookstores throughout the state, as well as online. Ownby, sometimes accompanied by Wilson, has been touring the state for book signings and talking about the book. The book is also reaching a national audience, with an event at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and a couple of signings in Atlanta in conjunction with the Mississippi in Atlanta Society. The book was celebrated at the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson in August. For information about The Mississippi Encyclopedia and book tour dates, log on to

STORY Susan Marquez PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis


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09.23.17 #TCR2K17








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a musical ambassador for The 'Sip In 1958, the same year Mississippi native Marty Stuart was born, country music legend Johnny Cash released a single called “Don't Take Your Guns To Town.” “There's a saying in Nashville – 'It all begins with a song,'” Stuart said. “That song captured my imagination and transported me from my Mississippi bed to the days out West.” “Don't Take Your Guns to Town” is a song about a young cowboy named Billy Joe who is filled with wanderlust and leaves home to see the world. It's a song about a young, naive man who wants to escape the monotony of daily life, but isn't quite capable of handling his emotions. He doesn't heed good advice. He isn't prepared for the cold, cruel world. He seeks adventure, but meets his doom in a duel. Cash's ballad about Billy Joe and the television series “Gunsmoke” helped provide a Western fantasy for Stuart as a child. Inspired by his youthful visions of the West, Stuart included the ballad “Lost On the Desert" — also once performed by Cash — on his new album “Way out West.” He is currently touring and performing the album. While the song inspired Stuart, Billy Joe's life doesn't mirror Stuart's. Even though Marty Stuart also left home in his youth seeking musical adventure, he wasn't shot down.

A STAR IS BORN Stuart's earliest memory is in infancy. “My first memory on this Earth was being a baby in my mother's arms and crying,” he said. “I didn't know why I was crying. I remember feeling the fabric of her dress. I heard the music of the Methodist church, and that music touched my heart and made me cry.” He also recalls being moved to tears by the music of a local marching band. “Growing up, my world was music,” he said. Born Sept. 30, 1958, Stuart was raised on Kosciusko Road in Philadelphia, Miss., near a train track. The train often came through at night while Stuart slept, and he loved the sound. He spent much of his youth listening to Howard Cole, a radio announcer for WHOC-AM, who introduced him to several music genres, including country, Top 40 and classical. “It was a wonderful way to grow up,” he said. Stuart also was influenced by African-American musicians who played at a local cafe. Some sported gold teeth, and Stuart said one of his earliest goals was to have a gold tooth. As a child, he routinely attended the Choctaw Indian Fair in nearby Choctaw and visited his grandfather, an old-time fiddle player, who lived about 10 miles outside of town. Stuart hunted and fished on his property and spent time in his grandfather's home with no telephone or running water. He often played music on the front porch. “I would play and pretend the Grand Ole Opry, or something, was my actual stage,” he said. Influenced by his musical family, Stuart started his first band at age 9 and played in local bands until age 12 when he went on tour as a mandolin player with the Sullivan Family, a Pentecostal bluegrass gospel group. “When I came back, I didn't want to be in school,” he said. “I went to school until the 9th grade. I was kicked out. I was a pitiful excuse for a student.” At 13, Stuart began playing mandolin with American bluegrass legend Lester Flatt and his band, The Nashville Grass. Flatt was a guitarist and mandolinist best known for collaborating with banjo picker Earl Scruggs as The Foggy Mountain Boys. They toured bluegrass festivals and concerts, and Stuart met many musical greats, including Bill Monroe, Scruggs, the Eagles, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan.

Stuart and his guitar joined Johnny Cash's back-up band in 1979 and eventually married Cash's daughter, Cindy. But after parting ways with Cash in 1985 to focus on his solo career, he and Cindy divorced in 1988. Today, Stuart is touring and performing Way out West, a mix of songs and instrumental music that blends modern and classic country, Western and gospel with Native American and country-psychedelic sound. “I followed my heart, and it paid off,” Stuart said. “I went into a creative space I had not been in before ... When I was in Johnny Cash's band, he was one of the most creatively fearless individuals in my life. If he got something in his head or in his mind, he did it. He went for it.” The Way out West tour also features some of Marty Stuart's collection of country music memorabilia. He said he started collecting memorabilia as a child when bands came to Philadelphia. He'd collect autographs, guitar picks, etc. He got serious about it in the 1980s and now has about 20,000 items. “I think that in a few years we will have a museum in Philadelphia,” he said. Stuart said the Way Out West tour collection features such items as Johnny Cash's first black performance suit, Hank Williams' handwritten notes for “I Saw the Light" and the boots Patsy Cline was wearing the day she lost her life.

MISSISSIPPI ROOTS Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, said she's heard Stuart's plans for creating a country music memorabilia museum in Mississippi. “His collection of artifacts is extensive and beautiful,” she said. “Marty has been a great ambassador of music and its history in Mississippi. He always makes time to give back to projects in this state.” Stuart has been a member of the Advisory Board for the museum since 2011 and toured the museum during its development and construction phases. “In February 2012, Marty performed at Mississippi Night held at the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live for us during GRAMMY week," Havens said. “He also conducted an education program earlier in the day for students in L.A. Marty has loaned the museum artifacts for several exhibits in Mississippi.” Z 53

Craig Ray, director of Visit Mississippi, met Stuart April 26, 2007, at one of the Mississippi GRAMMY celebrations. He said Stuart also performed when Mississippi hosted the National Governor's Association Conference, and he's booked him for many other events. “He's been very involved (in the state), and he's also very involved in our Country Music Trail, where he has a marker,” Ray said. “He's been very influential in serving on that board and helping select the markers.” Ray said he's aware that Stuart is planning a museum with his 22,000-piece collection of country music memorabilia in Philadelphia. “It's one of the largest country music collections in the world, I've been told,” Ray said. “It's exciting to have him bring all those pieces back to Philadelphia to share, not only with Mississippians, but with all of our tourists.” Ray said Stuart's work with the Country Music Trail, GRAMMY Museum and his own museum plans are part of the state's effort to reclaim Mississippi as the birthplace of America's music. “It's really developed into a unique tourism product that we have,” Ray said, echoing the same sentiment as Havens in calling Marty a great ambassador for the state. “Everywhere he goes in the world, he leads with Mississippi. He leads with his roots and where he learned his music growing up, and he is an incredible talent for songwriting and performing.


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“It's a great Mississippi story. I guess I'm just fascinated that, at such a young age, he went to the Neshoba County Fair and showcased his talent there, and how he was discovered in his own backyard and became a country music icon. He's up there at the top as one of our great ambassadors.” In 1989, Stuart topped the charts with Hillbilly Rock, the album's title track. In 1992, partnering with Travis Tritt, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Collaboration for The Whiskey Ain't Workin. In 1993, he won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance partnering with Chet Atkins, Vince Gill and others. Stuart is thrilled that Mississippi is focusing on its musical history. “What we have in the state is something no one can match – the creativity that has come out of this state,” he said. Stuart still comes to Mississippi about twice a month to work on various musicrelated projects. He and wife, Connie Smith, who is also a country music legend, own a cabin in the woods on his grandfather's farm. “For the last 15 years, I've loved being part of the new Mississippi – the new creative Mississippi,” Stuart said. “I dearly love this state. I consider it an honor to be a Mississippian. It's the most precious place in the world to me.” STORY LaReeca Rucker PHOTOGRAPHY Danny Klimetz

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The third annual Mississippi Book Festival — a “literary lawn party” — was held August 19 on the State Capitol grounds in Jackson and drew thousands of avid readers from across Mississippi and beyond. Two discussion panels on the lineup were “Mississippi History” and “The Heritage of Mississippi Series,” which “offered a unique opportunity to look back at pivotal events in our history through a literary lens as our state celebrates its bicentennial,” said Executive Director Holly Lange.

PANEL: The Heritage of Mississippi Series In celebration of Mississippi’s Bicentennial, Katie Blount of Mississippi Department of Archives and History led a discussion between writers of the Mississippi Heritage Series. “The Heritage Series authors weave these stories together using the latest scholarship and engaging narrative style. Our Book Festival panelists represent some of the rich and complex topics that the Series addresses.” — Katie Blount James F. Barnett, Jr., Mississippi’s American Indians

Timothy B. Smith, Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front Randy Sparks, Religion in Mississippi

Lorie Watkins, A Literary History of Mississippi PANEL: Mississippi History Leading history writers came together with Pamela Junior, Director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, to discuss pivotal moments in Mississippi’s history. Charles Eagles, Civil Rights, Culture Wars: The Fight Over a Mississippi Textbook Jeffery B. Howell, Hazel Brannon Smith: The Female Crusading Scalawag Carter Dalton Lyon, Sanctuaries of Segregation: The Story of the Jackson Church Visit Campaign Carol Ruth Silver, Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes from Parchman Prison Kathleen Wickham, We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss


Bicentennial 2017

Celebrate the Bicentennial with new book releases from the University Press of Mississippi

The definitive guide to two stateof-the-art museums—the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Compiled by Mississippi Department of Archives and History

A Mississippi A-to-Z of people, places, and events throughout the state’s history

A treasure trove of photographs of musicians in the cradle of the blues

Edited by Ted Ownby, Charles Reagan Wilson, Ann J. Abadie,Odie Lindsey, and James G. Thomas, Jr.

Written by Panny Flautt Mayfield

A gripping reexamination of the abduction and murder that galvanized the Civil Rights Movement

A paean to the vanishing family cotton farm

The first comprehensive history of literature from a state with perhaps the nation’s richest literary lode

Written by Devery S. Anderson

Written by Gerard Helferich

Edited by Lorie Watkins

Available at your local bookseller.

Moments from all seasons in the Capital, the Delta, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, and the Coast Edited by Charline R. McCord and Judy H. Tucker | 800.737.7788

Greg Iles The Triumph of

Best-selling author takes on race and the ghosts of the past in ‘Mississippi Blood’

NATCHEZ — Tearing open the wounds of the past is an uncertain business. When that past involves smoldering racial tension and injustice, it can be incendiary. Author Greg Iles has learned, however, that dealing with the past can also cauterize what would otherwise fester. When “Natchez Burning,” the first book in a trilogy dealing bluntly with the complexities of race in Mississippi, began bringing black and white folks together, he felt relief. “Until it came out, nobody had any idea what would happen,” he said. “But John Evans from Lemuria [Books in Jackson, Miss.] told me, four months after it came out, ‘You've done something that nobody else I've seen come through here has done yet. You've got white people and black people reading about race.’” When Iles asked him why, Evans told him, “Because you're willing to portray it as bad as it really was.” And, added Iles, “It was bad.” The Natchez-based author’s quest to tell “the unvarnished truth” about the civil rights era over three books totaling more than 2,000 pages was a gamble that cost him his publisher. But after narrowly escaping death in a car accident on U.S. 61 south of Natchez in 2011, Iles’ concerns changed. “When a truck literally slams an inch from your head and rips your aorta, you suddenly perceive that life is truly ephemeral in a way that you don't before,” he said. As Iles clung to life with the torn aorta, his ribcage a shattered mess and his pelvis broken in four places, doctors placed the odds firmly against him surviving.

Yet, he woke up two weeks later to a realization of “the transitory nature of life,” and began the slow climb back to health even as he lost much of his right leg. His outlook wasn’t the only thing to change. The Natchez story grew to three books, culminating in the final installment, “Mississippi Blood,” which topped both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists this spring. The story brings the trilogy he started in 2014 with “Natchez Burning” and continued with “The Bone Tree” to its denouement. “After the accident, I realized I can't halfway do this,” he said. “You can't deal with race and family and those things pulling punches.” Iles never cared much for taking the safe path, anyhow. In a literary world that segments “serious” writers from commercial authors, Iles found his own way by hacking away the kudzu from the old idols of the South and weaving those galvanizing topics into more than a dozen bestselling thrillers. *** Growing up in Natchez, Iles had a natural talent for writing but didn’t spend much time mastering the craft. His interests leaned more toward playing music, which he did professionally for about a decade after college. Before he graduated from Ole Miss, though, he took a class under Willie Morris that broadened his perspective on writing. What Morris did for Iles — and other young writers such as John Grisham and Donna Tartt — was show him that it was possible to make a living, and a life, from writing. He brought authors such as John Z 59

"it doesn't enter your mind to be an artist. the artists in mississippi were rebels." Greg Iles


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Knowles to speak to the class. Iles listened to author James Dickey talk about Deliverance before a class screening of the film at the Hoka theater. Those experiences altered the course of his life. “You grow up in Mississippi in my generation, you're expected to be a doctor or lawyer if you're gonna succeed,” he said. “It doesn't enter your mind to be an artist. The artists in Mississippi were rebels.” Iles’ writing style developed directly from his love of music and his innate sense of timing and grooves. Early in his writing career, when editors would suggest rewordings and other edits, Iles would balk if they threw off the rhythm. “Music is inherently rhythmic, melodic,” he explained. “When you're a musician, you understand (how) every note is transitory. It exists for a while, it goes away — everything exists in relation. Writing is the same way. It happens to be static on a page, but people experience it one word at a time, the same way we listen to a song.” Iles had two paragraphs written for his debut novel, Spandau Phoenix, when his band Frankly Scarlet disbanded. He committed the next year to finishing

the book, and hit pay dirt when it came out in 1993. His popular character Penn Cage first appeared in The Quiet Game in 1999 and, although Iles never intended to build a franchise around a recurring character, the pull of storylines brought Penn back for three more successful thrillers before Iles conceived of the Natchez trilogy. Mississippi Blood finds protagonist Penn unraveling the crimes of the racist Double Eagles and VK gangs while his father, Tom Cage, sits on trial for allegedly murdering Viola Turner, his former black nurse and mistress. Like Penn, Iles grew up the son of a doctor who provided services to the black community. Although Tom is loosely based on his own father, he asserts that “(Tom’s) sins are not my father’s sins.” There’s little more common ground between Penn and Iles, either, beyond a few garnishes — Penn drives a sporty black Audi, which Iles drove until the day of his near-fatal wreck, and lives at Edelweiss, Iles’s 19th century Swiss chalet overlooking the Mississippi River. Penn is too much like a “Boy Scout,” unlike himself, Iles said. Z

LEFT: Mississippi novelist Greg Iles' Natchez office, Edelweiss, overlooking the Mississippi River RIGHT: A custommade banister at the base of the stairs inside Edelweiss

Like Iles after the accident, Penn takes more chances in Mississippi Blood, now that his life has been upended by his father’s murder trial. He pulls a gun on members of the VK gang and gets his hands dirty eluding both the gang and the FBI agents who are protecting him to secure witnesses he believes can help his father. Before it’s over, though, Tom has to deal with all that he’s wrought. “Even a good guy like Tom sees things through a sort of rose-colored lens without even being aware of it,” Iles said. “We all tend to judge ourselves in the fairest light, all the time. And that's not how history will judge us.” *** Iles doesn’t carry the weight of his characters and stories on his shoulders, at least not visibly. He is a lively, animated speaker with a passion for music and arts and strident moral and political beliefs. As a man who bears the scars of life so plainly, he seems somehow unaffected by its burdens. He had his first big stirring of hope for race relations in his home state while helping coach his son’s little league game, where teams of white and black kids played together on fields that were still segregated when he was a kid playing Dixie Youth baseball. On his son’s team, there was no favoritism or prejudice in who played what — it was a meritocracy based entirely on talent.


Bicentennial 2017

“I'm not saying that's the be-all and end-all and everything's solved, but I knew if you've got black kids and white kids on those old segregated fields playing baseball, whooping it up, you're on the road to something good,” he said. “If you can have that, you can have it all.” Some other things have changed, as well, especially since Iles has taken on the ghosts of the Old South in his books. He’s had a stalker scare. He doesn’t spend as much time at Edelweiss, opting instead for his 40-acre tract outside Natchez. When he gave the Statehood Address at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson in 2016, he brought a security detail for the first time ever — he anticipated threats after speaking out against the state flag of Mississippi. “[There’s a] dichotomy in Mississippi to me. On a one-to-one scale, relations are often very, very good between the races, even in places you assume are very prejudiced. It's when you get together in groups or start talking to people as groups that Mississippi suddenly becomes polarized. “I love the South,” he added, “But it doesn't do anybody good to pretend it was a bed of roses. It clearly wasn't.”

STORY Jim Beaugez PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis


Celebrate Mississippi’s Bicentennial on the banks of art history.

MAY 2017 through MAY 2018


DECEMBER 9, 2017 through JULY 8, 2018


The Museum shares art from its collection with venues across the state. More than 175 artworks depicting the state’s rich cultural legacy over two centuries, brought home to the Museum in Jackson.



The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the city of Jackson and Visit Jackson. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Bicentennial exhibitions created by the Mississippi Museum of Art are supported by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation and:

Robert Brammer (American, 1811-1853), Mississippi Panorama (detail), ca. 1842-1853. oil on canvas. Private collection.


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The Mississippi River

A beauty in its majesty, a beast in its dynamism

Top: Sunset on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg Below: Layne Logue canoes along the river


Bicentennial 2017

For many who grew up along its muddy banks, the Mississippi River is a thing to be admired, respected and, for some, feared.


It’s a winding body of water known across the globe for its volume and strength with murky waters that are tranquil yet intensely forceful, touching 10 states. The river has not only carved a physical path along the Magnolia State, shaped the scope of Mississippi even before statehood 200 years ago. Before the state of Mississippi was on a map, Native Americans heavily depended on the river for their livelihood and survival, with Indians from the Northwest designating it “missi,” meaning “large,” combined with “sippi,” meaning “flowing water.” As years went on, more and more settlers made their way to the Delta, draining swamps to create useful farmland. Today, the river remains a recreational playground, a cultural and literary focal point and a commercial highway for the region, the nation and the world. Any body of water has always held a certain fascination for Adam Elliot.

“Even as a kid, if there was a mud puddle, I was going to get in it,” Elliot said. The Natchez native who spent his childhood along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, like many, was told to appreciate the beauty of it, but beware of the danger. “I always heard, ‘Don’t go down there into it. The whirlpools will suck you in,’ things like that,” Elliott said. “And I stayed away until my late 20s. Then, I decided to engage, and I was hooked from there. I got into the sporting aspect and it just kind of grew.” Around the time Elliot first ventured onto the river, he was restless in his job. “So, one day I left the keys on the desk and kayaked down to the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. From there, he became an official river guide and manager of the Natchez outpost for the Quapaw Canoe Company. “It’s not the place people think it is. It’s not what they see from the bridge,” Elliot said. “There’s miles and miles of this wild space that’s rather secluded. It’s incredibly beautiful, and it has so many things to offer us. Our towns wouldn’t be what they are without that river; there’s just so much tied up in it.” Layne Logue heads the Vicksburg Quapaw Outpost and, for him, the trick to managing a trip on the Mississippi River is to take it slow. “Usually people who have never paddled it are scared of it,” Logue said. “But we’re moving slow. We’re paddling close to shore, because that’s where the wildlife is.” Logue is part of River Angels, a group that helps those traveling recreationally down the river by giving them a place to stay the night during bad weather, offering a lift to the grocery store or helping restock supplies. During his years with that organization, he’s come across dozens of people who have been drawn to the river from all over the world. “I love hearing stories from the river paddlers,” he said. “Some people do it before they enter the real world after graduation, some quit 6-figure salaried jobs to make a change in their lives and do something fun and some just like adventure.” Once, he met a man from France who was traveling for




two years before he settled into his job as a farmer. As a child, the man watched Tom Sawyer cartoons in France and decided the river was synonymous with adventure. “Because of Mark Twain, his notoriety and writing skill put the river on the map all over the world,” Logue said. Over the years, the river has been a compelling backdrop for famed works of art — especially literature. “Many of Twain's stories and certainly the characters of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, exist so deeply in the American consciousness that we cannot separate what we know about the river from what Twain portrayed,” said Jennie Lightweis-Goff, an English literature professor at the University of Mississippi. In fact, when visiting friends in Kentucky not long ago, Lightweis-Goff realized that everything she knows about the river, she learned from books — Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and others. “I might not be the norm here, since I'm a literature professor, but these novels far exceed the boundaries of the classroom,” she said. And, though she’s found a bit of a difference from Mark Twain’s experience in “Life on the Mississippi,” Sondra Wright of Columbus, Ohio, has seen the past coming to life in Vicksburg in June when she was a passenger on the renowned Mississippi Queen paddle wheel-driven steamboat. “This was on our bucket list,” Wright said of her trip on the Mississippi with her husband, Wayne. “It’s more intimate than the big ocean liners, and you get to know more people.” During the 10-day excursion, Wright and other travelers made stops along the way from New Orleans to St. Louis. “It’s been wonderful,” said Charlotte Wierd of Michigan, who took the river cruise as a celebration of her 51st wedding anniversary with her husband. “We’ve really enjoyed meeting all the people in the towns along the way.” As part of their trip, the group made a stop in Vicksburg, where Laura Beth Strickland, the city’s deputy director of the Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau, said the river is the area’s No. 1 attraction. “With river cruising rising as a travel trend, Vicksburg

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is greatly benefitting from the return of the paddlewheelers on the Mississippi River,” Strickland said, noting that last year, the city welcomed more than 20,000 passengers. That number is on track to increase this year. In 2008, riverboats stopped docking in Vicksburg because of problems caused by Hurricane Katrina, as well as an overall economic downturn that led to the company filing bankruptcy. New owners took over in 2011 and, with the return of the boats in 2012, came a boost to the city’s tourism. “Our local tourism economy has increased 27% over the last 10 years, and I believe the return of the riverboats has contributed to that rising number,” Strickland said. “From checking out its wonder from the overlooks by our casinos to hiring a river guide or going on a fishing excursion, people want to be part of that Mississippi River experience. We are hoping more opportunities will continue to help our visitors get that experience in Vicksburg.” The story is similar about 85 miles north in Greenville, where Catherine Gardner, Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau communications chief, said a number of opportunities are available to people who visit via river cruises — or independently. “Our river is a big driver in visitors from around the world,” Gardner said. “The ship planners are often looking to book tours with sites along the river as a step-on and stepoff tour. What we find is that traveler is interested in local history, food and culture. We have activities that involve the river for people to partake in, such as fishing tournaments, duck hunting and children’s fishing activities.” Though many feel a strong connection to the entertainment aspect of the Mississippi, others work day in and day out to keep the waterway open as one of the premiere commercial highways of the nation. “Most of our region's exports are done so by waterways. Most of our local commodities depend on water access,” said Austin Golding, president of Golding Barge Line, headquartered in Vicksburg with barges moving along most every inland navigable channel in the country. “The Lower (Mississippi River) is an unlocked, or dammed, masterpiece — a literal superhighway that links our nation together like no other river.” Golding Barge employs 230 people and is charged with transporting refined petroleum, chemical and petrochemical products. And the company officials are aware of the importance of what they do and how they do it, as well as the major role the company will play in commerce in the future. “Safety is our first priority. We have an entire safety department and have several programs that are active at


Bicentennial 2017

all times. We keep detailed safety stats to track trends and prevent repeat accidents,” Golding said. “I think our industry is overlooked and underappreciated but here to stay. As the world gets more crowded, look for the water to pick up the slack and excess.” And, since the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has fought to manage and maintain the powerful waterway and its surrounding areas to keep it a viable highway for businesses such as Golding Barge though flood control and navigational improvements. “These efforts allowed the Mississippi River to develop into the vital commercial artery that it is to this day,” said Brian Rentfro, historian for the USACE Mississippi River Commission and Mississippi Valley Division. “(And they) provided flood protection for the cities, towns and agricultural lands that lie within the floodplain.” Though the river has served as such a life-giving piece of the state, it’s size and power can also lead to catastrophe. “The dual role of the Mississippi River as a provider and a destroyer was never more evident than during the 1927 flood, the most devastating natural disaster in the nation’s history,” Rentfro said. “Perhaps nowhere was the river more destructive than in the Mississippi Delta.” Because of that flood, Congress authorized a USACE project to make sure a flood like that could never happen again through the help of stronger levees and floodways, as well as channel improvements. Ninety years later, USACE engineers and scientists still battle each day to combat the ever-changing waterway. Because of their efforts, the flood of 2011, where the river crested at a record 57.1 feet at Vicksburg and 61.9 feet at Natchez did not have the impact it could have. The river at Vicksburg, where flood stage is 43 feet, beat its previous record of 56.2 feet in 1927. “A historic flood did not lead to historic levels of destruction, and the reason why was the work that the Corps has done since 1928,” Rentfro said. While so much is now known about the river, even skillful people like Elliot are still learning and adapting each day they spend on the water. “Like everything, there’s a healthy amount of respect to have for it,” Elliot said. “People come for that, though; they come to the Mississippi River for the allure — that little bit of mystery, that little bit of wilderness.”

STORY Mary Margaret Halford PHOTOGRAPHY Melanie Thortis

"PEOPLE come to the Mississippi River for the allure — that little bit of mystery, that little bit of wilderness." Adam Elliott

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N Southern Magnolia: (Magnolia grandiflora)

One of the earliest signs of summer is the sweet fragrance provided by our state tree and state flower, the Southern magnolia.

hair. This strategy entices birds flying nearby to feed on the protein-rich seeds hanging from each ‘cone’ and provides a hearty meal as the birds prepare for a southward migration. This mechanism of dispersal allows for the continued existence of Southern magnolias. Southern magnolias have few pests and, as an evergreen tree, provide year-round shade. Applying mulch around the base of the magnolia prevents the tree from drying out during the hot, Mississippi summers and aids in the retention of water for its shallow roots.

g by nathan beane


With large, white flowers expanding to 10 inches across, the fragrance is as grand as the showy blossoms. This tree is truly a Southern species, naturally occurring in the southern half of Mississippi and throughout the Southeastern Coastal plain. However, magnolias can be planted throughout the state and have been planted ornamentally as far north as Vermont. While the blossoms are the primary draw, the magnolia has many unique features. Growing primarily in mesic, deciduous forests, this evergreen species particularly stands out in winter when other hardwoods have shed their leaves. Southern magnolias have thick leaves that are shiny and waxy above and velvety brown and fuzzy beneath. Southern magnolias are one of the oldest flowering plants, dating to the Jurassic era. This beetle-pollinated species has stood the test of time. Its ample stores of pollen provide the beetles with necessary protein and increase the likelihood of fertilization as the beetles feed around the flowers. As summer temperatures rise, the large petals eventually deteriorate and a fruit resembling a woody cone develops at the end of the trees’ branches. As the fruits mature, many large and shiny red seeds eventually erupt and hang suspended on a white piece of silk-like


Bicentennial 2017



'SIP OF NATURE the‘ 69


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Ship Island

A Mississippi outdoor wonder PHOT O S BY RORY D OYLE


Bicentennial 2017





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Blue Magnolia Films

Community filmmakers tell Mississippi's story Blue Magnolia Films founder Alison Fast, left, and Aaron Phillips, right, record audio of Harry Ross at Port Gibson City Hall as part of the Mississippi Bicentennial project, “Celebrating Storytellers,” a statewide celebration. Courtesy of Blue Magnolia Films

Celebrating Storytellers Scan the QR code below to view one of the "Celebrating Storytellers" films:



Bicentennial 2017

Blue Magnolia Films, a documentary film company founded in 2013 by filmmaker duo Alison Fast and Chandler Griffin, strives to keep alive Mississippi’s vibrant storytelling tradition. For the bicentennial year, they have partnered with Natalie Irby, founder of Corner to Corner Productions based in Los Angeles, on “Celebrating Storytellers,” a statewide project to celebrate themes of creativity, resilience and the magic of place. Ten small towns have been chosen to participate in the project with individual stories and storytellers nominated by members of each community. The project’s goal is to produce 100 photo stories by the end of the year. “Stories are a powerful catalyst to uplift communities and spark renewal,” Fast said. “We are storytelling with small towns across the state to reclaim those aspects upon which future generations can build.”



ART Right, top: Ronnie Drew's Bluestown Music in downtown Clarksdale / Photo by Sarah Levingston Middle: Inside Meraki Coffee Roastery, which offers job training and life skills to Clarksdale youth / Photo by Yasmine Malone Bottom: The Greenhouse on Porter, a cafe and "third place” in Ocean Springs / Photo by Carmen Lugo

Through photography workshops led by the project, towns across Mississippi are examining the theme of revitalization and what that means in their specific situation. "So much of the story we hear about Mississippi is told from the outside, but this project aims to communicate the value of the state for those who live here,” Irby said. But “Celebrating Storytellers” has a goal beyond documenting Mississippi’s past and present. Participating towns are encouraged to address a series of questions with each photo story: What brings life and vitality to our community historically and presently? How can we build on Mississippi heritage and traditions while casting a positive vision for the future? “Technology is now accessible to anyone, whether you are 100 years old or 16 years old,” Griffin said. “Using Apple smartphones, we’ve been able to train communities to tell their own stories and collectively renew our sense of what it means to be from Mississippi through the lens of one another’s experiences.” According to Fast, the films will be posted online, travel to bicentennial events and the Mississippi Museum of Civil Rights and the Mississippi History Museum next year and will comprise a book project highlighting Mississippi “bright spots” and community voices. Additionally, each town is launching an interactive gallery using outdoor public spaces leading up to the official bicentennial in December. Clarksdale — Through A Youth Lens In March 2017, students from public and private schools in Clarksdale came together in a one-week workshop to tell stories of revitalization from a youth perspective. The photo stories launched in conjunction with Juke Joint Festival in April as a way for visitors to interact with the city of 17,000 and share in its vision for the future. Visit Clarksdale Director Kappi Allen encourages visitors to engage with the large scale images using smartphones: "Look out for massive 5x5 images in our community gallery on Yazoo Avenue. Each image has an interactive QR code. Scan and play to view the story on your phone,” Allen said. Ocean Springs — The Spirit of Place In April, community members from Ocean Springs worked together to produce documentary photo stories on the theme of revitalization through the arts. The photo stories engaged artists, designers and community leaders to explore an aspect of the community that they wish to pay forward to future generations. What memories attach us to a sense of # 75


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A.K. Shaifer House in Port Gibson

place? Who and what are our community treasures? What memories, no matter how special, are we ready to leave behind? How do we approach the inevitability of change? What themes will carry us into the future? Each participant captured the details of a landscape, person, found or beloved object during the week leading up to the Mississippi Bicentennial South celebration and screened their stories at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education and the local cafe, Greenhouse on Porter. Greenville — Unity In Diversity In May, a diverse group of community leaders produced stories to engage with the mayor’s vision for One Greenville. "Mississippi’s bicentennial is a moment to take pride in our success stories to date, while casting a positive vision for the future. We are proud of the multiplicity of voices that came together for this project,” Mayor Errick Simmons said.


Bicentennial 2017

Port Gibson — Reclaiming Threads of Kinship: Past, Present & Future In June, Port Gibson community leaders came together to reclaim ties of kinship that form the basis of community. Crossroads Culture Center, hosting some of the finest master quilters in Mississippi, played a central role in hosting a final screening, engaging youth and several prominent senators, aldermen and mayors. “It means a lot to me and the residents of Port Gibson to highlight the revitalization of the community," Mayor Fred Reeves said. “If we can coalesce around community organizations to work together, it will empower our next step.”

STORY Anna McCollum / Blue Magnolia Films PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy Blue Magnolia Films

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NESHOBA COUNTY — In its 128-year history, the Neshoba County Fair has amassed many nicknames, the most lasting of which has been “Mississippi’s Giant House Party.” To most, however, it’s simply “The Fair.” The Fair has something for just about anyone — from sports and outdoor activities to music, art and politics. Even if for only a day, visitors can leave with a strong taste of Mississippi history and tradition — and they can wash it down with ice-cold lemonade. Founded in 1889, The Fair has been an epicenter of some of the most notable moments in state political, cultural and agricultural history, despite its beginnings as a campground fair. At its core, it remains just that — a community of families who love spending time with each other so much that they shuck most everyday comforts for a week in multi-story cabins, with tens of people sharing one bathroom, sleeping in bunk beds and fighting to be near window air conditioners. It’s rustic, but The Fair has come a long way since its early days. The cabins evolved from simple one-story structures to larger, more comfortable and colorful vacation homes. As new cabins were built, The Fair community expanded into neighborhoods with such memorable names as “Happy Hollow,” “Sunset Strip,” “Pleasant Hills” and “Bourbon Street,” all with their own special personalities and traditions. At night, for example, Pleasant Hills illuminates with strings of white lights, turning the Weyerhauser sawdust that covers the red clay ground into a street Z 79

of gold more magical than the towering Ferris wheel at the midway. Elsewhere, residents of the cabins encircling the horseracing track get a bird’s eye view from their top-floor porches of horse races in the afternoons, often placing friendly bets on the harness and quarter horse races. At night, the Grandstand stage features concerts by such nationally renowned entertainers as Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and Trace Adkins. Throughout The Fair, local agriculture plays a large role. The numerous livestock shows include the popular “Pretty Cow” contest, a farmers’ market and a rodeo. A spacious exhibit hall is open to the public all week, showcasing locally made arts, crafts and homegrown produce and canning, which are judged and given prizes. Jeannette Mars of Philadelphia remembers the days before The Fair grew into what it is today. Her late husband George’s parents, Henry and Gladys Mars, purchased their cabin in the Founders’ Square neighborhood for $100. The previous owner, hearing rumors that the outbreak of World War II would cause The Fair to be shuttered permanently, decided to liquidate. After the war, when The Fair reopened, the previous owner approached Mrs. Mars with $100 asking to buy back the cabin. Mrs. Mars, already recognizing the value of owning a cabin, declined the offer. Cabin 15 has belonged to the Mars family ever since. Mars’ first time to visit the Fair was while she was dating her husband in 1968. Coming from an apartment in the urban state capitol city of Jackson, The Fair was quite a different experience. “It was hot, dusty and muddy,” she said. “I usually didn’t like dirt or sweat. It was culture shock.” She remembered the original cabins of those days being like “shacks.” “The ceiling was 7 feet tall and open air,” she said. “There was no stove, and food had to be brought in from town every day.” She still has the antique icebox from her family’s early days in the cabin.


Bicentennial 2017

TOP: Peyton Howell, left, and Kennedy Loper, both age 6, during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia BOTTOM LEFT: Blue ribbon-winning vegetables at the Neshoba County Fair BOTTOM MIDDLE: The Neshoba County Fair midway in Philadelphia BOTTOM RIGHT: Miss Neshoba County Fair 2017 Abby Stokes, 18, at the fair ILLUSTRATIONS: Drawings from a 1983 sign of the Neshoba County Fair.

Mars said she kept coming back because she was “intrigued,” and, of course, liked George. They married the following year, and Mars has not missed a Fair since. “I’ve learned to relax out here,” she said. “I enjoy the time with my Fair family.’” Now, Mars enjoys The Fair as an uninterrupted week to spend with her daughter and son-in-law, Grayson and Chad Miller of Vero Beach, Fla., and their four children, Lance, Caleb, Owen and Rosalie. Miller has lived away, including in Indiana, but no matter where, she and her family have never missed The Fair. “I can’t imagine missing it,” Miller said. “Even if I could only come out here for a day, I would drive all that way to come out here for just that one day.” Miller also enjoys the chances to reconnect with old friends at The Fair. “I don’t feel like I just have great friends out here. I feel like they’re part of my family, too,” Miller said. “I enjoy seeing them year after year.” Miller’s children are developing a shared love of The Fair. On the drive up from Florida, 7-year-old Rosalie, asked, “Are we going to see our cousins this year?” She was referring to the Mars cabin neighbor children, with whom she plays every year. “She already understands the concept of Fair family,” Miller said. The Fair is a homecoming for many, as exhibited by the longstanding “Hometown Proud Day” program, a one-day event that celebrates the city of Philadelphia, as well as “Meridian Day,” which celebrates the nearby Queen City. Lauren Pratt, a marketing specialist at Meridian Community College and a regular Fairgoer, enjoys being a part of Meridian Day. “I love the fact that we get a chance to promote our city and our college to people all over the state Z 81

and beyond,” she said. Knowing the sheer number of Neshoba County Fair attendees and the wide array of places from which they come, Pratt said, Meridian Day is a great opportunity to expand Meridian’s reach beyond the borders of Lauderdale County. Pratt, too, loves the sense of community at The Fair. “The Fair is like Mayberry to me — with everyone sitting on their porches talking, playing cards, watching their kids play with other kids,” she said. Pratt loves that few televisions and computers are dragged to The Fair, allowing people to connect in more personal ways. Cities such as Meridian aren’t the only ones getting a message across at The Fair. From their porch, Mars and Miller can listen to one of The Fair's oldest oratory traditions — the political speeches on the stump at the historic Founders' Square Pavilion. They are regularly scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday of Fair Week. Governors of Mississippi and other state officials, especially those representing the Neshoba County area, as well as members of the state's congressional delegation, regularly attend the Fair. In election years, the appearance is a key to their campaign, and the candidates arrive with volunteers and staff in tow who pass out fliers, T-shirts and other campaign memorabilia. The Fair also is a bright spot on the national political map. President Ronald Reagan, along with wife, Nancy, spoke at The Fair as a part of his 1980 campaign, and just last year, The Fair was a stop for Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest son, who spoke to a large crowd of fairgoers in support of his father’s bid for the


Bicentennial 2017

presidency. Longtime editorial cartoonist for The ClarionLedger Marshall Ramsey has witnessed a number of political appearances in his 20 years of covering the Neshoba County Fair. “This is very unique. I’ve lived in a lot of different states, and you don’t see anything like (The Fair),” he said. Ramsey noted the “fiery” rhetoric has toned down over the past couple of decades, but The Fair still is a great way for people to connect with the people they elected. “The politics are great. It’s like having a master class in Mississippi politics. You get to sit on porches and talk to people and catch up on the latest gossip,” he said. Outside of politics, one of Ramsey’s favorite reasons for visiting The Fair is the home-cooked food at his friends’ cabins, specifically the Southern standard dessert, banana pudding. One of the great traditions of The Fair is the food. From casseroles and cakes to pies and potatoes, one does not have to look far for hospitality and a great meal. Families pass down recipes for generations, many of which appear only at Fair time. Mars and Miller always enjoy a barbecue dinner with all the trimmings, and Pratt’s family hosts luncheons for friends and co-workers and a shrimp boil with homemade ice cream and strawberry cake for dessert. “I’ve made so many friends out here in the 20 years I’ve been coming that it really is like a family reunion for me,” Ramsey said. “I don’t have any family with cabins out here, but now I feel like I do.” STORY Kate Gregory PHOTOGRAPHY James Edward Bates

TOP LEFT: Happy Hollow cabins at the Neshoba County Fair MIDDLE LEFT: Family cabins next to the race track BOTTOM LEFT: Cash James prepares to wash his cow for showing. TOP RIGHT: Randale Pope drinks his morning coffee at the Ladd's Landing cabin. BOTTOM RIGHT: Harness racing at the Neshoba County Fair. 83

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Bicentennial 2017

8/23/17 1:55 PM




Classic Summer Panzanella Recipe by EMILY BLOUNT — SAINT LEO, OXFORD

The RECIPE Ingredients:

10 ounces tomatoes, cut, assorted (grape, sungold, heirlooms)

¼ cup cucumber, sliced into half moons, de-seeded ½ cup basil, large chiffonade

¼ cup mint, medium chiffonade ¼ cup parsley, flat leaf

1 Tablespoon red onion, sliced 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar 3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 slices bread, grilled, torn into 2- to 3-inch pieces 3 pinches salt

1 pinch pepper Instructions:

In a large bowl add tomatoes and cucumbers and

season with 1 pinch of salt. Add herbs, vinegar, oil and toss. Add bread and toss so it soaks up the dressing. Visit


for more 'Sip Kitchen recipes.

The restaurant Saint Leo opened on Jackson Avenue East just off Oxford’s idyllic courthouse square in June 2016. The wood-fired Italian restaurant, with its sleek, city style quickly garnered national attention as a 2017 James Beard Foundation "Best New Restaurant" semifinalist. Emily Blount Saint Leo is the brainchild of Owner owner Emily Blount, a California native who married a Mississippian and is raising two boys here. The restaurant serves up brunch, lunch, dinner and specialty cocktails with an emphasis on locally grown and simple, from-scratch cooking. “I did a lot of research for Saint Leo,” Blount said. “I traveled to many different restaurants around the country; I went to a Neapolitan pizza-making school in Los Angeles. I did a workshop with the Union Square Hospitality Group in NYC. I wrote and re-wrote a business plan endlessly so I could be as clear as possible about my vision.” Today, Blount works a few shifts each week as manager while handling all other aspects of her business, including accounting, training new employees and special events. “I love to bring people to the table to break bread together over food that is truly delicious,” she said.



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Mississippi's First General A brief history of "The Great White Chief"


He was Mississippi’s first general, a member of the Territorial Legislature, a planter and merchant, an official with the Bank of Mississippi and a hero of military expeditions on the frontier. But until recently, the burial site for Gen. Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne, which is unmarked, was unknown. Sue Burns Moore, historian and genealogical researcher and writer from Longview, Texas, discovered the place of Claiborne’s burial while reading an account of his wife’s death in the Natchez Free Trader for Nov. 5, 1851. His wife, who remarried, survived Claiborne for 36 years. Her lengthy obituary included the statement that her first husband “has long reposed in his grave, which is the Grand Council Mound of the White Apple Village, one of the cities of the farfamed Natchez near Second Creek…” Claiborne was Virginian, born in Sussex County in 1772. His ancestors were politically prominent in early Virginia and his brother, William C.C. Claiborne, was the youngest member of the U.S. Congress in that era and was later the first governor of the Mississippi Territory, appointed by President Thomas Jefferson on May 25, 1801. Another of Claiborne’s brothers, Nathaniel B., and his uncle Thomas also served in both the Virginia and national legislatures. Claiborne was 21 when his military career began, being commissioned an ensign in the United States Infantry and serving in northwestern frontier under Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was promoted to lieutenant on Aug. 20, 1794 for his outstanding performance in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which effectively ended that war with several Indian tribes for control of the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region. After the war, Claiborne worked as a recruiter for the army in Richmond, Detroit, Norfolk and Pittsburgh. By the time he resigned from the army in 1802, he had achieved


Bicentennial 2017

the rank of captain and was acting adjutant general for the forces in the northwest. Congress created the Mississippi Territory comprising most of present-day Mississippi and Alabama on April 7, 1798, soon after the United States acquired the region from Spain. A territorial militia was organized a few months later with the highest offices being lieutenant colonel and major. It was about this time that Claiborne, no longer in the army, moved to Natchez. He managed a plantation and operated a mercantile business, and he soon married Magdalene Hutchins, the daughter of Col. Anthony Hutchins, an officer in the British army who settled in Natchez before the American Revolution. The Claibornes lived in a rural home, Soldiers Retreat, and had seven children. Claiborne was soon involved in local events. He was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1804, and the next year he joined the militia as a major. It wasn’t long before his talents were needed. It was feared that Spain was planning an invasion of American territory along the Sabine River in Louisiana. Commanding U.S. troops was Gen. James Wilkinson, and the local militia, headed by Claiborne who had been promoted to colonel, was sent to support him. Another possible threat occurred in January 1807. Aaron Burr, former vice president of the United States, had organized a flotilla of volunteers headed down the Mississippi River, and rumors were rampant that Burr planned to create a new nation somewhere in Spanish territory. Claiborne, with a detachment of 275 men, was dispatched to Jefferson County to arrest Burr. But there was no need as he quietly surrendered. Claiborne’s military ability did not go unnoticed, and on Feb. 5, 1811, he — now a brigadier general — was placed in

charge of the militia. A year later, he was named brigadier general of U.S. Army volunteers and, at the request of Gen. Wilkinson, furnished a brigade from Mississippi and Louisiana. Claiborne and his men marched to Fort Stoddert north of Mobile in late July 1813 in order to defend that coastal city, which had recently become an American possession. The entire region was ripe with rumors of impending Indian attacks, led by Chief Billy Weatherford of the Red Stick faction of the Creek nation. Claiborne divided his troops between Forts Glass, Mims, Madison and St. Stephens. Each day they inspected the stockades. Claiborne personally checked on Fort Mims and instructed the commander, Maj. Daniel Beasley, to build two more blockhouses and send out frequent scouting parties. Beasley did increase the fort’s defenses, but he failed to construct the blockhouses, and he allowed free access to the fort by leaving the gates open. It was an invitation for the Creek warriors to attack. The gates had been left open so long that dirt and debris had built up so they couldn’t be closed, and 250 inhabitants of the fort were massacred. Claiborne hoped for an opportunity to avenge what has happened. In November 1813, Claiborne’s men were ordered to establish a supply depot near present-day Monroeville, Ala. They named it Fort Claiborne. The general felt his reputation had been sullied by the massacre at Fort Mims, so he got permission to attack Econochaca, a village which the Creeks called the Holy Ground. They thought it was impenetrable — that it was encircled by an invisible barrier that no white man could cross. Claiborne’s men, along with troops of the U.S. Third Regiment, led by Lt. Col. Gilbert C. Russell and Choctaw warriors, led by Lt. Col. (and Chief) Pushmataha, reached The Holy Ground on Dec. 22, 1813. The battle began the next morning. The surprise to the Creeks warriors was that the advancing soldiers did not drop dead once they crossed the invisible line. Many of the Creeks, including men, women and children, escaped through a gap in the lines. Others, vastly outnumbered, found a way out, leaving Chief Weatherford practically alone. Legend has it that he jumped from a bluff into the nearby Alabama River. Casualties were few: only one of Claiborne’s men was




killed, and 33 Creeks (including 12 escaped slaves who fought with them) died. Claiborne also captured food for his men. Following the war, Gen. Claiborne bought Pushmataha a uniform of regimentals, with gold epaulettes, a sword and silver spurs. Psychologically, the victory was important — for the Americans had advanced deep into Creek territory. The Red Sticks no longer posed a threat along the lower Alabama River, and the war shifted north to Horseshoe Bend on the Tallopoosa River, where Andrew Jackson ultimately defeated the Creeks. During his military excursions, Claiborne’s men were often without supplies or adequate food, and the general had mortgaged his own property in order to have the needed supplies for his troops. Not only had the war wiped out his holdings, it had also taken a toll on his health. He served briefly in the Territorial Legislature where he was elected Speaker of the House but, in a few weeks, on March 22, 1815, he died at the age of 43. Many years later, in 1852, the editor of The Natchez Free Trader, described Claiborne as “One of God’s noblest works.” He wrote that he had died just before peace was declared between England and the United States. He stated that Claiborne’s sacrifices to his country were unrewarded, that the debts he made for his country would have made him destitute, swept away his entire plantation, “and had not the friendly hand of death intervened, he would have lived to have seen himself without a home in the land he defended by both treasure and by blood.” He told of the burial of Claiborne, “on the summit of one of the Sacred Mounds of the Natchez Sun Kings...Here rests the Great White Chief with the Chiefs of the most remarkable race of aboriginal men that ever lived on this continent. His dust mingles with that of those who trod these fair and glorious fields before Washington or Independence was born.” Today, most have probably never heard of Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne, Mississippi’s first general who rests in an unmarked grave. But, fame is fleeting.

STORY Gordon Cotton ILLUSTRATION Erin Norwood 87



Indians A story of strength and undeniable perseverance


The state of Mississippi is known for a lot of things: breeding musicians, creating writers and even its picturesque magnolia trees. One of the state’s most important assets often gets overlooked, though.



Bicentennial 2017

The history of the Mississippi Indians begins before Mississippi was even a concept. The land's native tribes have influenced many aspects of the state's culture and history, according to historian James F. Barnett, author of “Mississippi's American Indians.” “It’s impossible to say where the state would be without the tribal history," he said. "Of course, only one of Mississippi’s tribes is still resident here and that’s the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. All the other tribes, including the Chickasaws, the Natchez, the Yazoo and all of those other groups left the state due to pressure of one kind or another. We only have this one small group to represent all of the tribal groups that once lived here.” While the Choctaws are the only tribe still thriving in Mississippi, the Chickasaws have an undying connection to their land of origin. The Choctaws and Chickasaws were once a single tribe, and what caused the division is still debated. Each version of the story — whether it has a Choctaw or a Chickasaw origin — includes a journey from the West, a sacred pole and a virtually unavoidable division of the group. Collectively, the tribal land stretched across Northeast Mississippi into parts of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Chickasaws, who’ve now settled more into Oklahoma, still claim Tupelo as their homeland. It’s been almost two centuries since the Chickasaws lived there, but, when they did, it was a hotspot with nearly 40,000 people. They’re proud of it, too. Tribe members will ride buses 500 miles from their home in Oklahoma to Tupelo down Highway 6 in an attempt to reconnect with their past. “For obvious reasons, this land that we inhabit today was theirs first and some of their influence can still be found in the way our roads are laid out and why towns have their names,” said Neal McCoy, executive director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. Z

TOP: Children perform Choctaw dances at a Choctaw spring festival. Photo by Ariel Cobbert MIDDLE: Chief Phyliss Anderson at opening festivities at the Choctaw Fair. Photo by Chi Kalu BOTTOM: The tribal seal and other traditional beadwork on display at the Tucker spring festival. Photo by Chi Kalu

“The Chickasaw Nation is a very successful nation from terms of financial stability, but their values and hospitality really align well with the people of North Mississippi." Many say they do feel at home when they’re there. The trees grow in size and lushness, and they can picture the stories their elders have shared with them about living off the Mississippi land. They feel the connection in their bones. Tupelo was an easy choice for the Chickasaws when they were deciding where their new state-ofthe-art heritage center should be. The Chickasaw Inkana Foundation has been a major player in getting the multi-million-dollar center up and running. The plans have been in place for years and are picking up steam. Once completed, the center will play an important role in both preserving the Chickasaw tradition and heritage, as well as raising awareness of the tribe’s existence. “This is a reconnection to the tribe’s homeland, which, for them, is a very emotional and sacred place,” McCoy said. Two hours south, about four miles west of Philadelphia, marks the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ reservation. Driving up at night, a golden moon off the peak of one of the tribeowned casinos lights the way. The Mississippi Choctaws were historically one of the poorest populations in the entire country until Chief Martin turned everything around when he found inspiration in Europe post-WWII. He brought the ideas of the Marshall Plan back to the tribe with him. “When Chief Martin saw that Europe had rebuilt itself from rubble to prosperity under the Marshall Plan, he realized if the Choctaws were going to improve, they’d have to do it themselves,” John Hendrix, the tribe’s director of economic development, said. The chief continued to be aggressive with the economic plan and, in turn, the tribe created their own jobs through businesses like a greeting card assembly plant. The Choctaws were known as the civilized tribes, staying very active in commerce and


Bicentennial 2017

business and doing a lot of trading. “They were basically the Mississippi economy before Mississippi became a state,” Hendrix said. “Now, the Choctaws are one of the largest employers in Mississippi with half of the employees being non-Indian. Without that we wouldn’t be as strong of a state as we are today, especially east central Mississippi.” The Choctaws, who have a population of about 11,000 people right now, have been busting at the seams in some places. They, like the Chickasaws, have the power of self-governance within the reservation and have flourished. Being able to govern themselves also allows them to take care of their people, and they do. They’ve made investments in their future, such as educating the youth on the tribe’s native language or building new hospitals to work toward a healthier community. These last couple of years, the Choctaws have upgraded from a hospital designed to accommodate a population of 1,500 to a stateof-the-art facility with all of the latest equipment. The new facility also houses specialists, so tribe members no longer have to drive an hour or more to see a specialized doctor. There’s also a whole section dedicated to the prevention and treatment of diabetes, which is an issue that has plagued the tribe for decades. “This transition improved patient care and service,” Hendrix said. “People are more likely now to come to the hospital because they can get treated in a timely fashion by professionals.” Hendrix said there are also a lot of programs in place working to preserve the Choctaw culture. There are programs in the elementary school teaching the native language, opportunities for anyone to learn traditional crafts like dress-making and every year the tribe hosts the Choctaw Indian Fair. Stickball is still one of the most dominant activities. The sticks are similar to those in lacrosse, but are smaller and made of wood. Each player gets two. There’s a pole in the middle and players score points each time they hit it with the ball. The game is harder than it sounds and the Z

z "I think it’s good for the people of Mississippi to know the history of the land and the history of the people that inhabited the land before they came along and the state even existed.� John Hendrix

z Choctaw Princess Emily Shoemake at the spring festival. Photo by Ariel Cobbert

LEFT: At the Chickasaw Cultural Center mock village, Glen Leming shows off his hand-made buckskin outfit. Photo by Chi Kalu TOP RIGHT: The illuminated orb atop the Golden Moon casino lights up the night sky on the busy highway that traverses the Choctaw reservation. Photo by Chi Kalu BOTTOM RIGHT: This representation of an ancient Chickasaw village shows a stickball game going on to the left of the stockade.

Choctaws aren’t playing around. Stickball is hardcore and physical with pushing and shoving, but it’s the No. 1 pastime. “I think it’s good for the people of Mississippi to know the history of the land and the history of the people that inhabited the land before they came along and the state even existed,” Hendrix said. Barnett added that knowing Mississippi history is knowing the deep, and sometimes dark, history of the natives. “An understanding of the history of the state’s native people is vital to any understanding of how Mississippi developed and how it became the state and culture it is today,” he said. “Anybody who lives in Mississippi is living on land that was once the possession of tribal groups in the state, and it’s important to understand that when European settlers came to Mississippi, they weren’t just putting up their tents and cabins on different land and settling, they were taking the place of the native population that lived here.” Despite the story of the Mississippi Indians not being in the spotlight in a lot of areas of the state, evidence of their

Holding hands provides encouragement as children await their turn on the dance floor. Photo by Chi Kalu


significance can be found all over from historical markers to statues in Tupelo and even Indian mounds scattered throughout the land. Once you know of them, it’s hard to ignore them. Both the Chickasaws and Choctaws are on the rise, doing better than they have in many years. One of their biggest challenges now is racing against time to preserve their culture, attempting to document elders’ oral histories, teaching the younger generation about how things used to be and standing up for themselves like they’ve always done. The clash of present and past can be hard to handle, but if anyone can come out

triumphant, it’s the Mississippi Indians. “I think if people only took away one thing, it should be the importance of recognizing Mississippi’s American Indian heritage,” Barnett said. “So many aspects of our state are constant reminders like the names of counties and towns. Plus, the names of rivers and geographic places. Mississippi has a very rich and diverse past, especially when you begin to look at the tribal roots.”

STORY Lana Ferguson PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of the University of Mississippi 93

We believe that every life matters, no matter how many breaths were or were not taken outside of the womb.

* Avery Sorrells and her father, Richard, lighting a remembrance candle.

We invite you to a special event celebrating the lives of our babies gone too soon

of A ainb w ngels R Remembrance Celebration

Since 2008, Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation, a Mississippi non-profit, recognizes Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day with a memorable candle lighting remembrance event. Parents who understand the often silent grief of losing a baby gather together in a community of understanding and support as we share our stories, our memories, and our babies. Rainbow of Angels Candle Lighting event is completely free and open to all family and friends, including small children and infants.

Saturday, October 28, 2017 Flowood, Mississippi To learn more or to register, please visit us at or scan here


Bicentennial 2017

4:30 - 6:00pm

* We understand and respect that being around young children may be difficult for some and we are happy to help you find one that is exclusively for parents.

Two Hundred Years Young BY A L E X E V A N B E U R E N

It has become fashionable, as of late, to pretend that aging does not happen. Or, rather, it does happen, but suddenly — like a chasm opening up on a hiking path around a hidden bend. An inevitable physical fact that cannot be avoided, but for most, is around a hidden corner and will come upon us suddenly and without warning, forever separating us from the land of the not-old. I am 34. This is an age that is not supposed to be old. I’m not going to argue that it is. But it’s old enough for me to suspect that age is not some sudden tiger that will spring upon me decades from now, but, rather, something that sort of laps at the ankles, swirls around the calves, envelopes and tugs and transforms. I have some kind of silver streak developing. I have lines at the corners of my eyes and funny vein smatters behind my knees and something about having children made my right hip a bit stiff when I don’t get enough exercise. These things aren’t all that visible yet. Sometimes someone thinks I’m an Ole Miss co-ed. But, not as often as they used to. (And mostly, the few who are mistaken assume I’m a grad student.) For some reason, aging doesn’t feel like a good topic of conversation with the folks my parents’ age. I don’t bring it up, because, if reminded, they seem bewildered and slightly resentful. “You are almost 35?” my mother said recently. “How can that be?” And my grandparents — all four of them — have passed on.

There’s only one I could have probably asked anyhow. I would have liked to know what she had to say. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been mildly obsessed with the question of what makes a good life. So far, my answers are luck, health, marrying the right person. But, what about after the kids are gone? What about as life slows down and the nights get long? What keeps you from becoming a person like a nameless elder I heard recently, saying crossly and accusingly, “What do we have to drink besides orange juice, water, milk, beer and wine?” Denial seems to be the current refuge of choice. You can have kids into your 50s, be mistaken as a college co-ed for decades after graduation, achieve miracles of exercise-induced flexibility, wear open-toed shoes and open-backed dresses elegantly into old age. I’m not anti these developments. I’m basically a fan of people doing things and living their lives in a way that make them engaged and happy. But I want very much to know what life holds between the ages of 40 and 80, and I’m pretty sure that the answer isn’t that you’re done learning and growing after the age of 30. I think surely things come up that I haven’t even thought of yet. For instance, how come Snooky and Mary Lou Williams, commonly referred to as the King and Queen of Water Valley, have coasted into their 80s with a sea of energy, iPhones in their hands,

emailing with aplomb? And how come, on the other hand, I know a 65- year-old accomplished business man who can’t be reached any other way than a landline (his choice, sure, but it’s made life pointlessly difficult for his fellow business associates). How come some places see nothing but opportunities to try to make life better, and some places cling stubbornly to the line of “this is how it’s always been?” I’m a native Virginian, and thus, I’m a fan of the past. I’m a history major to boot, and I’ve been known to argue that a history-based curriculum could teach every child everything they need to know. I’m a Luddite, and I have sympathy for those who can’t bend in the wind of new ways. But I am also absolutely sure that things can be made better. And that it is our job, while we are here on this earth, to make them so. Denying that things can be improved upon strike me as being in the same category as denying aging. Time is moving past us. It can move us with it, towards some hopefully better future that we can be involved in crafting, or it can gradually erode us like a sullen rock sulking in a stream. Sitting there immovable until chip-by-chip, we too are gone. Mississippi is celebrating its bicentennial. Two hundred years of history I can’t begin to imagine. Accomplishments and failures and a sheer breadth of human experience that boggles the mind. Let’s take a moment to have a party, and toast those who came before us. And then, in their memory, for their honor and our own, let’s go make things better. For everyone who lives here, and everyone who will be coming.

Alexe van Beuren grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She moved to Water Valley, Miss., in 2006 with husband Kagan Coughlin of Vermont. They have two Mississippi-born children, Annaliese and Caspian. In 2010, Alexe opened the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, which has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Southern Living, Garden & Gun and, most importantly, Miss Betty's Week. Alexe and her business partner, Dixie Grimes, authored the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from A Southern Revival in 2014. She contributes to The 'Sip regularly as a columnist for Small-Town 'Sip.


Bob Thompson (1937-1966), Homage to Nina Simone, 1965. oil on canvas. Minneapolis Institute of Art, The John R. Van Derlip Fund, 89.83 © Estate of Bob Thompson, Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.




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somewhere in attala county

photo by Melanie Thortis TH OR T I S P HOT OGRAP HY.C OM


Bicentennial 2017

Happy Birthday, Mississippi!

you can win this very special, commemorative handmade quilt celebrating mississippi's bicentennial! Visit for details on how to win.

When the lights go down, the music heats up in the Birthplace of America’s Music. Take a trip down the Mississippi Blues Trail and you’ll see the thrill is far from gone. The beat goes on where it all began—in Mississippi.


The 'Sip | The Bicentenial Issue | Summer/Fall 2017  
The 'Sip | The Bicentenial Issue | Summer/Fall 2017  

We're celebrating Mississippi's bicentennial with a special, extended issue dedicated to some of the things that have defined Mississippi ov...