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2019 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Grants Announced

2019 MDNHA grantee organization representatives gather at Delta State University for the June 2019 grantee orientation workshop. MDNHA is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Photo credit: Robertson Scholars, The Delta Center.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) has awarded more than $200,000 in grants for 13 projects focused on cultural and heritage development in communities across the Mississippi Delta.

The funded work focuses on several of MDNHA’s central themes, ranging from the culture of the Delta blues and its influence on American music to the rich natural history and resources of the land and water of the Mississippi River and Delta. The grants support learning opportunities for students, museums, documentary films, and the historic preservation of Delta landmarks.

“This year’s funding brings the total amount of grants made by the Heritage Area since 2016 to over $770,000, and the grants have supported a wide range of community projects that promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, chair of the MDNHA Board of Directors. “We had almost 30 proposals this year, and the board is grateful for their participation and commitment.”

“We were fortunate this year in that the proposals addressed most components of MDNHA’s mission, goals, and central themes, allowing us to fund a more diverse range of projects,” said Meg Cooper, chair of the MDNHA Grants Committee. “We made some grants in communities or subject areas not previously served and for some really unique projects.”

“MDNHA is working to build and expand a network of community resources and organizations that work together to promote the cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, executive director of the MDNHA and director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, which serves as the management entity for MDNHA. “With this fourth year of funding through our partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service, this network is a critical part of our mission of preserving, perpetuating, and celebrating the heritage of the Mississippi Delta.”

Grant recipients and their funded projects this year include:

Carroll Society for the Preservation of Antiquities, Carrollton, MS – $21,200 to make repairs to and preserve the historic Merrill Building in downtown Carrollton as a community meeting place and repository of local historical artifacts.

Cleveland Music Foundation, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, Cleveland, MS – $17,781.80 for the Next Generation Project, which will engage local students in “Saturday Sessions” in which they will learn to play the guitar, provide the students with a guitar upon completion, and conduct a songwriting workshop.

Delta State University, Division of Social Sciences and History, Cleveland, MS – $8,515 to develop oral histories about the 1969 sit-in and demonstrations by black students at Delta State.

The Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, Cleveland, MS – $14,130 for repairs, restoration, and improvements to, and the development of exhibits for, the historic railroad caboose located at the museum.

Mississippi State University on behalf of Warren County Extension Service, Vicksburg, MS – $20,500 to expand the educational outreach components of the Heritage Demonstration Garden in cooperation with local master gardeners.

Sharkey Heritage and Cultural Project, Rolling Fork, MS – $5,034 to conduct at least 25 oral histories in Sharkey and Issaquena Counties and document local traditions, places and stories.

Delta Hands for Hope, Shaw, MS – $15,000 for the production of a play showcasing the work leading to the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hawkins v. Town of Shaw, including the challenges faced by the Hawkins family in filing and litigating the lawsuit.

Mississippi Arts Commission, Jackson, MS – $19,400 for the development and placement in Delta counties of 12 trail markers recognizing the works of Delta authors as part of the Mississippi Writers Trail.

Tutwiler Community Education Center, Inc. – $12,300 to support the Tutwiler Blues Project, which engages youth in learning to play blues music through work with professional musicians and educates youth on the history of the blues through field trips to local museums.

The Association for Cultural Equity, New York, NY – $16,245 to repatriate historic blues materials collected by Alan Lomax to local communities and families of those interviewed by Lomax, and raise public awareness of the importance of the Lomax materials to current cultural, society, and political issues in the Delta.

Shape Up Mississippi, Vicksburg, MS – $24,300 for the development of pop-up exhibitions and learning laboratory experiences that support the development of the Catfish Row Museum in Vicksburg.

Rosedale Freedom Project, Rosedale, MS – $8,284.54 to support local students in the making of short documentary films about historical events, trends, or characters in the local community for presentation in a National History Day competition

Delta Arts Alliance, Cleveland, MS – $24,500 for the purchase of equipment required to complete the sound and lighting requirements for the restoration of the Ellis Theater in downtown Cleveland.

The total of $207,190.34 in grants will be matched by an additional $284,980.37 provided by the applicants and their communities for a total cost of $492,170.71 for all funded projects.

The MDNHA Grants Program provides funding of up to $24,500 for local projects, which must be matched on at least a 1:1 basis by in-kind or cash resources. For more information on the Grants Program and funded projects, visit

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