Skip to main content

2021 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area grants announced

The Tutwiler Community Education Center, home of the Tutwiler Quilters, is among 10 organizations awarded 2021 MDNHA grants.

CLEVELAND, Miss.— For a sixth year, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) has awarded nearly $200,000 in grants for 10 projects focused on cultural heritage development in communities across the Mississippi Delta.

The funded work focuses on MDNHA’s themes, including music, folk art, the built environment, and the Civil Rights Movement. 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 well over $1 million,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, chair of the MDNHA Board of Directors. “These grants are helping to promote and preserve Mississippi Delta cultural heritage at the community level.”

“This grant program helps us expand our mission by supporting organizations that are doing amazing work in our Delta communities,” said Meg Cooper, chair of the MDNHA Grants Committee.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s awardee orientation session was held virtually, as was done in 2020. Awardees shared plans for their funded projects, and MDNHA staff provided an overview on how to manage their projects and report progress.

MDNHA Grant Program awardee representatives attend this year’s virtual orientation workshop.

“We are proud to have made a digital pivot last year and this year in response to COVID,” 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. “The orientation sessions have been a critical aspect of building a network of organizations doing innovative cultural heritage projects across the Mississippi Delta.”

The total of $177,966.34 in grants will be matched by an additional $223,205.00 provided by the applicants and their communities for a total investment of $401,171.34 in all funded projects.

Grant recipients and their funded projects this year include:

Alex Foundation, Lake Village, Ark. – $15,374.34 to expose 8th and 9th grade students to historic and heritage-based structures in the Mississippi Delta Region that will teach architecture and design, thereby introducing them to 21st century technical and creative skills that are transferrable to careers in demand through the integration of STE+AM (science, technology, engineering, architecture and math).

Cleveland Music Foundation, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, Cleveland, Miss. – $24,495 to identify, engage and nurture the next generation of musicians in north Bolivar County through a series of workshops held in Mound Bayou equipping Delta youth with skills to pursue careers in music. In addition, the students will visit Dockery Farms in Sunflower County, Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and B.B. King Museum in Indianola.

Coahoma Collective, Clarksdale, Miss. – $20,000 to address the dearth of locally-led storytelling about the role of black owned businesses – specifically barber and beauty shops – in the Civil Rights Movement, and the lack of accessible archival materials and curricula that support this history. The Hair-Itage Project will address this through research, rigorous interviews, community engagement, and the production of a documentary play.

Mississippi Heritage Trust, Jackson, Miss. – $15,000 to identify, document and save the places that provided refuge for Civil Rights activists during Freedom Summer of 1964 and the Civil Rights movement in general.

Mississippi State University / Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, Starkville, Miss. – $24,500 to create a regional hub of opportunity consisting of the three Delta communities of Cleveland, Merigold, and Mound Bayou to facilitate partnerships, address community specific needs and gaps, and ultimately create a stronger local and regional economy.

Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Miss. – $15,174 to help fund MVSU’s 7th Annual BB King Day Symposium, which will focus on the role of women in the Blues.

Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Miss. – $14,400 to establish a deeper connection academically between MVSU and the Civil Rights Movement, specifically by developing training and resources related to Emmett Till.

Quitman County Government, Marks, Miss. – $23,000 to convert an existing public space in a 100-year-old historical building into a Visitors Welcome Center. The space will interpret the history of Quitman County, highlighting the struggles and successes of its people.

Shape Up Mississippi, Vicksburg, Miss. – $24,500 to continue phase one of the Catfish Row Museum’s opening, through the Museum Lab and Pop-up Exhibition Space.

Tutwiler Community Education Center, Tutwiler, Miss. – $24,500 to document and preserve the history of the historic, traditional African American style of quilt making by producing a documentary about the Tutwiler Quilters.

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