Delta Center

NEH Chairman Jon Peede Visits Delta State, Dockery Farms

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National Endowment for the Humanities congratulates Delta State University for the 10th anniversary of The Delta Center’s Most Southern Place on Earth workshop. Pictured left to right: Vincent Ricardel, NEH; Provost Charles McAdams, Delta State; President William N. LaForge, Delta State; Lee Aylward, The Delta Center; NEH Chairman Jon Peede; Dr. Rolando Herts, The Delta Center; Craig Ray, Visit Mississippi; and Dr. Stuart Rockoff, Mississippi Humanities Council.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently collaborated with Delta State’s Office of the President and the Mississippi Humanities Council to host Jon Peede, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Chairman Peede congratulated Delta State for recently being awarded a $170,000 grant supporting The Delta Center’s Most Southern Place on Earth workshop for K-12 educators. This is the tenth year that the workshop has been awarded a NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture grant. To date, the NEH has awarded over $1.5 million in grant funds to support the Most Southern workshop.
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Delta State’s International Conference on the Blues

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Delta State University’s 5th Annual International Conference on the Blues will celebrate the region’s connections to the art form by honoring blues legends and investigating gospel music’s links to it. The event takes place Sept. 29-Oct. 2 on the campus of Delta State.

“Our theme this year is ‘Spirit of the Blues,’” said Don Allan Mitchell, conference co-chair and chair of the languages and literature department at Delta State. “We examine how spirituals and gospel inform the blues and the African-American music tradition.”
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Blues Conference Brings Musicians, Musicologists to Campus

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September 30-October 2, 2018

The fifth annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University from Sunday, Sept. 30 through Tuesday, Oct. 2. Events include a Morganfield Family Reunion for the extended family of the late Delta blues legend and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner McKinley “Muddy Waters”’ Morganfield, and a performance by Grammy nominee Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue.

The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together blues scholars, musicologists, blues enthusiasts, and fans from all over the United States in a place known as the center of Delta blues music and history. In addition, registrants may purchase tickets for Trombone Shorty’s Tuesday evening concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Highlights of this year’s blues conference include:

  • The pre-conference Gospel Roots Family Day
  • The Morganfield Family Reunion, a tribute to Muddy Waters and his family’s legacy in Mississippi, Chicago, and beyond
  • A presentation on the German origins of the American Folk Blues Festival, which brought Mississippi’s blues to world stages during the 1960s, by former German ambassador to Azerbaijan Herbert Quelle, who is now the German consul in Chicago, and a noted performer and musicologist
  • A keynote address by religion and southern culture historian Charles Reagan Wilson
  • A master class and presentation from former New Orleans Jazz National Park director and Sting sideman Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes
  • A presentation by noted Blues scholar Elijah Wald on the uncensored roots of the blues and Jelly Roll Morton’s legacy
  • A “Spirit of the Blues” gospel showcase by the Coahoma Community College Gospel Choir, under the direction of Dr. Kelvin Towers, who will make some musical connections to the field work of Alan Lomax and the Cultural Equity Archive
  • “Blues in the Round” event, hosted by DMI Director Tricia Walker, sponsored by Visit Mississippi
  • A free Morganfield Family Reunion Concert at the Courthouse on Monday Night, featuring Joseph Morganfield, “honorary cousin” J.J. Thames, and other members of the extended Muddy Waters family, as they pay tribute to the iconic Mississippi Delta Blues Performer, Muddy Waters
  • And a conversation with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; as they make Louisiana Blues connections to the greater Mississippi Delta region

Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.

The fifth annual conference is the work of the Department of Music, Division of Languages and Literature, the Delta Music Institute, and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and is made possible by generous funding from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, the Chisholm Foundation of Laurel, Mississippi; Association for Cultural Equity, City of Cleveland; Visit Mississippi/Mississippi Development Authority; National Endowment for the Arts; and National Park Service Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiative.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Some of the universities represented by our presenters include The University of Virginia, The University of Pennsylvania, Rhodes College, Fairfield University in Connecticut, York College of the City University of New York, West Chester University, University of Lorraine (France), University of Lille (France), and University of Paderborn (Germany).

“We have established a sustainable blues and African American musicology conference, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American musical traditions,” Co-Chair Mitchell adds. “Yes, the Mississippi Delta has a legacy tied to the Delta blues, but the blues has become a world-wide music, and we want to examine all genres of the blues and its ever-present global influence. We know that Cleveland and Delta State prides itself on hospitality, so we are a perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at or visit

MDNHA hosts 2018 grantee orientation

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MDNHA grant project administrators past and present gather with Delta Center staff.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently hosted an orientation for administrators of 14 projects that have received funding through the MDNHA’s 2018 grant program. The organization has funded more than $500,000 over the last three years to projects throughout the Delta. Since these funds must be matched by cash and in-kind contributions, the three-year effort represents approximately $1 million dollars in federal, state, and local investments in Delta communities.

Administrators shared their plans for 2018 grants, as well as the success of past projects, which enabled groups to learn from each other’s experiences.

“This MDNHA grant will give the opportunity for our middle school Scholars to learn more about the deep history here in the Delta and connect with community members in a way that would otherwise not be possible. Greenville Renaissance Scholars has a strong alignment with MDNHA to celebrate the Delta through education and taking pride in our Delta community,” said Jon Delperdang, Executive Director of Greenville Renaissance Scholars. “We’re thankful for the MDNHA partnership and know that it will have a positive impact on our Scholars, the future leaders of Greenville.”

“The conference was a great opportunity to meet and build connections with other organizations working in the Delta. I got a lot of new ideas by hearing about projects completed by past and present grantees,” said Shannon McMulkin, project manager for LiNKS: Leave No Kids On Shore, in Clarksdale.

Representatives from various grantee organizations reported on the positive impacts that the MDNHA grant program has had on their projects.

“The MDNHA workshop provided a great friendly atmosphere, making it so easy to feel at home while gaining pertinent insight and directions toward fulfilling our mission with grant aid” said Dr. Alfonso Sanders, coordinator of the MDNHA-supported third annual B.B. King Day Symposium held in 2017 at Mississippi Valley State University. This year’s B. B. King Day Symposium also benefits from National Park Service support in concert with DSU’s International Conference for the Blues.

The funded work celebrates the diversity of the Delta’s rich cultural heritage, including reroofing the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Estill, establishment of museum exhibits interpreting encounters between Native Americans and sixteenth-century Europeans at the Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, development of modern marketing materials for the Tutwiler Quilters, survey and preservation of wildlife and plant material in Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, a state historic marker celebrating the 300-yr-old history of the Fort St. Pierre site in Redwood, and guidance for historic preservation through leveraging tax credits in Vicksburg.

C.A.R.E director Carol Roark shows students artistic qualities in a cypress brake during the MDNHA-funded summer art progra

A group of projects for the 2018 grant year emerged in support for children’s educational programs celebrating themes of the Delta: Charleston’s C.A.R.E. has already held a summer art program, and music camps will occur next summer at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland. In Clarksdale, Griot Arts will create a recording and broadcast studio for students, and LiNKS: Leave No Kids On Shore will teach river skills.

Three films will also be produced with support from the MDNHA: The production team of “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America: Find Your Voice” will also train young people to take oral histories and result in a K-12 curriculum; Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum will chronicle its 40-year history; and the Greenville Renaissance Scholars will teach documentary skills to students, interview the community, and produce a documentary entitled “Delta Blues and Civil Rights: The Story of Greenville”.

“Each of these organizations is to be lauded for the value they are providing,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA board of directors. “It is always instructive to watch communities work together to address their concerns. The MDNHA hopes to facilitate this cooperation through the activities and benefits that each of these programs provides.”

MDNHA board members and staff pose with Tutwiler Community Education Center director Shelley Ricker and quilting director Mary Mackey.

“We look forward every year to meeting all of the people responsible for the important work being done throughout the Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which serves as the managing entity for MDNHA. “After three years of accumulated projects, we are really seeing organizations benefit from collaborative discussions of their goals. We are honored to gain the respect of so many worthy agencies, and look forward to building further partnerships in the future.”

The full list of 2018 MDNHA grant recipients and funded projects includes:

Charleston Arts and Revitalization Effort (C.A.R.E.), Charleston, MS – $4,300 for a summer arts camp that will engage local youth in studying their community and the land around it through art, photography and written work, resulting in a book and exhibit produced by the students.

Tutwiler Community Education Center, Tutwiler, MS – $13,825 to preserve the history and increase the capacity of the Tutwiler Quilters by designing a new website with online purchase capability and increasing the use of technology for marketing and promotion of the Quilters.

Lower Mississippi River Foundation, Clarksdale, MS – $10,000 to provide educational programs and recreational opportunities to connect the Delta’s youth to the Mississippi River, including paddling trips and river conservation activities.

Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, MS – $5,000 to create a video chronicling the 40-year history of the Museum, for use in welcoming visitors to the Museum, promoting its 40th anniversary in the summer of 2019 and marketing the Museum nationally and internationally.

Griot Arts, Inc., Clarksdale, MS – $23,575 to create and equip a music studio for local students to record, preserve and broadcast their musical creations and share their work with people around the world through podcasts.

From the Heart Productions, Kilmichael, MS – $22,680 to produce a documentary film on Fannie Lou Hamer, with an associated K-12 civil rights curriculum based on Ms. Hamer’s life and work, and to train Ruleville area students as production teams to record oral histories.

Museum of the Mississippi Delta, Greenwood, MS – $24,500 to develop an exhibit that uses the Museum’s archaeological and other artifacts to tell the story of the Delta’s formation, its first Native American inhabitants and the early explorations by Europeans.

Cleveland Music Foundation, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, Cleveland, MS – $22,550 for two summer music camps for students that promote the musical heritage of the Delta and encourage them to create original works that tell the Delta’s story.

Delta State University, Department of Biological Sciences, Cleveland, MS – $24,500 to collect and preserve flora and fauna representative of the Delta’s bottomland hardwood forests for display in DSU’s Natural History Museum and for use in educational workshops and activities.

Delta State University, Department of Arts and Sciences, Cleveland, MS – $12,500 to support scholars and performers participating in workshops, clinics and other presentations at the Fifth Annual International Conference on the Blues.

Mississippi Heritage Trust, Jackson, MS – $6,250 to conduct a Preservation Toolkit Workshop in Vicksburg, MS that will train up to 20 people in real estate development, tax credits and other strategies and tools used in the development and preservation of historic properties.

Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, Vicksburg, MS – $4,174.50 to interpret the history and cultural significance of the Fort St. Pierre site in the Redwood community as it prepares to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding.

Mississippi Heritage Trust, Jackson, MS – $24,500 to support preservation of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church building in Estill, Washington County, MS, by installing a metal roof, securely storing church pews and furnishings, and engaging the congregation and other residents in developing a long-term plan for use of the building.

Greenville Renaissance Scholars, Greenville, MS – $5,742.27 to produce a documentation on Delta Blues and Civil Rights: The Story of Greenville that will be researched, recorded and showcased by middle school students through after-school activities.

The MDNHA includes 18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo. The MDNHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the congressional legislation. More information about the MDNHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at

The mission of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit

The Delta Center’s NEH “Most Southern” workshop funded for tenth year

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NEH Most Southern Place on Earth scholars gather at Po’ Monkey’s Lounge, internationally renowned rural juke joint in Merigold, MS

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced $43.1 million in awards for 218 humanities projects across the country. The grants include the first awards made under NEH’s new Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant program, which will support infrastructure projects at 29 U.S. cultural institutions in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Most Southern scholars at the Flood of 1927 levee break site outside of Scott, MS

This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for fiscal year 2018, will support vital research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $47 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and local humanities councils during fiscal year 2018.

“From nationally broadcast documentaries to summer workshops for high school teachers, the projects receiving funding today strengthen and sustain the cultural life of our nation and its citizens,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is among 15 institutions that received Landmarks of American History and Culture grants. These grants support one-week workshops for a national audience of K-12 educators that enhance and strengthen humanities teaching at the K-12 level.

This is the tenth year that The Delta Center’s “Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History, and Culture of the Mississippi Delta” workshop has been funded by NEH.

“We are honored that NEH has funded Most Southern again, making summer 2019 the program’s tenth anniversary,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center and co-director of the workshop. “Our region is making considerable strides in cultural heritage development through Delta State and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. We look forward to immersing our participants in this dynamic place by engaging them with scholars, performers, and residents who are telling Delta stories through Blues, civil rights, food, and expressions of faith.”

Most Southern scholars with Mississippi Delta Chinese Cathy Wong at Chinese Cemetery in Greenville, MS

Over the past decade, the NEH Most Southern workshops have developed a dedicated network of over 600 alumni scholars who serve as educational and cultural ambassadors for Delta State University and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA). The workshops use an experiential learning approach, engaging participants directly with historically and culturally significant people and places in the MDNHA.

Workshop participants take what they have learned back to their schools and communities, sharing stories and lessons from the MDNHA with students, colleagues, family and friends, nationally and globally. Many past participants have made return visits to the region, bringing students, colleagues, family and friends with them.

“This year, we had participants from Hawaii, Illinois, and New York, as well as several scholars from right here in Mississippi,” said Lee Aylward, program associate for education and community outreach at The Delta Center and workshop co-director. “Our alumni are actively engaged with and have enduring respect for The Delta Center, Delta State and the Delta region because of this workshop. Several of them have presented at our International Conference on the Blues and have completed the International Blues Scholars Program, our online Blues Studies certificate.”

Earlier this year, the National Humanities Alliance recognized Most Southern as a high impact NEH program in several key measurement areas, including Enriching K-12 Education; Providing Lifelong Learning Opportunities for Diverse Audiences; Facilitating Community Dialogue; Fostering Local Tourism Economies; and Promoting Civic Education.

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the NEH Most Southern Place on Earth workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit

The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The MDNHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the Congressional legislation. More information about the MDNHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at