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MDNHA, Delta Center honor Black History Month with Delta Jewels partners

Delta Jewels with Alysia Burton Steele, Dr. Rolando Herts, and Jacqueline Dace, former project manager of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum at the 2015 Winning the Race conference. The Delta Jewels oral history partnership program will return to Delta State on Wednesday, February 17.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership has yielded a series of events promoting oral history education and awareness. These events have commemorated the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, which aims to engage diverse communities and develop lifelong connections with the public, especially youth.

The MDNHA continues its celebration of the NPS Centennial through the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. In February, the MDNHA is presenting the following oral history partnership programs in honor of Black History Month:

 Wednesday, February 17, hosted by the Diversity Committee at Delta State University

 Thursday, February 25, hosted by the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation in Vicksburg

 Friday, February 26, hosted by the Alcorn State University Wesley Foundation to be held in Norman

The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership was formed in 2015 and features “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom,” a collection of oral histories and photographs of African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalism professor Alysia Burton Steele from the University of Mississippi. Since that time, Delta Jewels has been entered into the Library of Congress.

Steele also has been selected to receive the Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council on Friday, February 12 at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the MDNHA and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, nominated Steele for the award.

“I am so grateful that the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, The Delta Center, and the Mississippi Humanities Council see the importance of this work,” said Steele. “I partnered with the MDNHA to share oral histories throughout the state. This has helped spread the message that all of our elders – regardless of race, place, or gender – have voices and stories that need to be heard and collected by the next generation. By doing this, we all can be preservers of Mississippi culture.”

The partnership has engaged over 500 Delta residents and visitors through community gatherings in Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, and Mound Bayou, as well as Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena. Another program was held recently at Jackson State University in collaboration with the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO and the Margaret Walker Center.

“We are very pleased that there is ongoing demand for the Delta Jewels oral history programs,” said Herts. “Based on the positive feedback that we have received so far, it is clear that these programs have tremendous educational and cultural value that resonate with communities in and outside of the Delta region.”

Stacey Massey, Executive Director of the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, is excited about hosting a Delta Jewels program in Vicksburg.

“The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation is thrilled to play host to the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership,” said Massey. “We are honored to provide a space where these oral histories and portraits will be shared with those in the Vicksburg community.”

This will be the second time that a Delta Jewels program has been presented at Delta State and the first time at Alcorn State. Alcorn State is the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the United States and is included on the board of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

To learn more about hosting a Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership, contact Rolando Herts at, or call The Delta Center at 662-846-4311.

The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The area 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 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. For more information, visit