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MDNHA at Delta State hosts Civil Rights Sites of the Mississippi Delta community engagement event in Cleveland

Those attending the MDNHA’s Civil Rights Sites of the Mississippi Delta community engagement event look on as consultant Judith Johnson speaks about her work on the survey.

CLEVELAND, Miss.— The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) at Delta State University recently held a Civil Rights Sites of the Mississippi Delta community engagement event at the Delta Arts Alliance’s Ellis Theater, located in downtown Cleveland.

The event, hosted Tuesday, Feb. 22, was the most recent step taken by the MDNHA in an ongoing project to document, preserve and interpret the civil rights history of the Mississippi Delta. The MDNHA’s mandate to invest in the regions civil rights heritage is enshrined in its management plan.

As part of that mission, and in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), the heritage area undertook a survey of sites associated with the civil rights movement in the region during the summer of 2021. In Oct., initial results were shared at MDAH’s History is Lunch, and in Nov., MDNHA coordinated with the National Park Service to provide an online information session on potential federal grant opportunities associated with the preservation of civil rights sites.

Tuesday marked the first in-person engagement with the results of the survey held in the Mississippi Delta. As the Ellis Theatre filled and guests took their seats, the Coahoma Community College Choir opened the occasion with a lively rendition of “Let the Church Roll On.”

Coahoma Community College Choir performs, under the direction of Dr. Kelvin Towers.

Hilda Povall, chair of the MDNHA’s Historic Preservation Committee, gave the opening remarks before Emanuel Edmond of Edmond Risk & Compliance Services took the stage. Reading prepared remarks from Dr. Rolando Herts, Edmond spoke of the heritage area’s long-standing dedication to civil rights historical interpretation.

In a recorded video, Dr. Herts highlighted the regionally interconnected history of the Mississippi Delta’s Civil Rights Movement through the lens of the historically Black town of Mound Bayou. While locally, these stories may be well known, Herts noted that there is an opportunity to make the interlacing, regional stories more visible.

“With signs of growing interest in civil rights heritage tourism, Mississippi has an excellent opportunity to expand the [civil rights] Freedom Trail, especially in the Mississippi Delta,” said Herts.

Judith Johnson and Associates completed the survey of civil rights sites during the summer of 2021 in coordination with MDNHA and MDAH. Johnson spoke to attendees about her work and interpreted the projects final report for the audience. The full report will be incorporated into the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s Civil Rights archive in the near future.

Guests attending the MDNHA’s Civil Rights Sites of the Mississippi Delta community engagement event were provided with an excerpt from the upcoming civil rights survey report.

Meredith Massey with the MDAH highlighted some of the support systems they offer and encourages people interested in preservation projects to contact them. Information on MDAH preservation resources and contact information can be found at

The Coahoma Community College Choir closed out the event with a closing postlude which received a standing ovation.

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

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