The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) was honored with a Resolution of Commendation from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) at a recent MDAH Board of Trustees reception in Cleveland.The commendation celebrates the MDNHA’s “dedication to preserving and sharing Mississippi history.” It highlights the MDNHA’s web-based Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Heritage Archive and a current partnership between the MDNHA and the MDAH to complete a Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Sites Resource Study involving a “comprehensive survey of more than 400 Civil Rights-related sites across the Delta.” The MDNHA Civil Rights Heritage Archive is available at www.msdeltaheritage.com/civil-rights. “The department recognized the innovative ways MDNHA is documenting the important history of the region,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “We were proud to partner with MDHNA on the Civil Rights survey, which provides comprehensive information on sites of national significance throughout the Delta.” The Civil Rights archive and study are the latest efforts in the MDNHA’s Congressionally recognized commitment to support cultural heritage development projects that connect with the MDNHA theme “Moving Towards Freedom: Changing America’s Character in the Struggle for Rights.” Because of this commitment, earlier this year, the MDNHA was added to the National Park Service’s (NPS) African American Civil Rights Network. The MDNHA recently hosted an online community engagement session that connected the Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Sites Resource Study with the NPS’ African American Civil Rights Grant Program and other heritage preservation funding opportunities for underrepresented communities. Over 40 people from Mississippi Delta communities and nationwide attended this first-ever session. “The Mississippi Delta is a story within itself. Those stories and experiences are worth preserving so that we can have written and oral records on people, places, and events that helped shaped our country,” said U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes the MDNHA’s 18 counties. “That is why I supported increasing funds to the National Park Service.” “This year, Congress appropriated $16,750,000 to the National Park Service to support the African American Civil Rights Grant Program. This is the largest Congressional appropriation the program has received in its history,” said Congressman Thompson. “Congress also supported the National Park Service’s Underrepresented Communities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, History of Equal Rights, and other grant programs. It is equally important to have local organizations like the MDNHA on the ground to help with the continual preservation of stories told and stories yet to be told about the Mississippi Delta.”
In previous years, the MDNHA has supported the installation of the Unita Blackwell Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker in Mayersville, MS, and the Dr. Arenia C. Mallory MDAH State Historical Marker in Lexington, MS; Mississippi Valley State University’s “Breaking Bread: Itta Bena, MS in the Civil Rights Movement” research project; the Hawkins vs. Town of Shaw 50th Anniversary Commemoration; Delta State’s “Voices from the Sit In” oral history and documentary film project and various other initiatives. “The most important role a university has is to teach and mentor our community – students, faculty, and friends within the region,” said Dr. Andrew Novobilski, Delta State Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The commendation recognizes the significant contribution the MDNHA makes to the educational opportunities Delta State can provide access to.” The Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Heritage Archive is a dynamic, living public resource. It serves as a repository for Mississippi Delta Civil Rights heritage stories and makes interpretive information about such stories accessible to community members and national stakeholders. “The MDNHA is honored to receive the commendation from MDAH, just as we were honored to be added to the NPS African American Civil Rights Network,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center and executive director of the MDNHA. “Our collective understanding of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement is ever evolving. Our goal is to represent this in the archive, updating it as we engage and learn with Mississippi Delta communities.” Results from the MDNHA MDAH Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Sites Resource Study will be added to the Civil Rights Heritage Archive in the near future. Architectural historian and project consultant Judith Johnson presented preliminary study results at a recent MDAH History is Lunch program and during the online community engagement session with the National Park Service. “The study identifies buildings and locations of historical Civil Rights significance in all 18 counties of the Heritage Area,” said Johnson. “The study will be a long-term resource to Mississippi Delta residents and stakeholders towards preserving the region’s nationally significant cultural heritage.” Delta State’s “Voices From The Sit-In” project won the 2020 Excellence in History Award from the Mississippi Historical Society, an MDAH affiliate. The Hawkins vs. Town of Shaw 50th Anniversary Commemoration received the 2020 Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council, a MDNHA and MDAH partner. Several MDNHA partners also received MDAH commendations, including the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, the Amzie Moore House, The Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, and the Delta Arts Alliance. Individuals also were commended for their contributions to historic preservation work in the area, including Chet and Carmen Oğuz, Ben Powell, and Hilda Povall. “We’re proud of the work done not only by the Delta Center, but by our community friends also recognized for their significant contributions to the understanding of history in our region,” said Novobilski.
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 www.msdeltaheritage.com. 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 K-12 educators. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com