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The Delta Center hosts Brown University group for Civil Rights tour

Bonner Fellows at Delta State University with Dr. Brinda Willis (center) and Provost Andrew Novobilski (right).

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning recently hosted the Brown University Bonner Community Fellowship Scholars for an experiential learning tour of Mississippi Delta Civil Rights heritage sites. The group visited the Mississippi Delta as part of Tougaloo College’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Conference in Jackson.

“The Bonner Scholars from Brown University really enjoyed the tour of the Delta. During the conference, they mentioned in their panel discussion how meaningful the tour was to them,” said Dr. Wendy White of Tougaloo’s Undergraduate Training and Education Center.

“Introducing Brown’s Bonner Scholars to Mississippi Delta Civil Rights heritage with Tougaloo underscores how regional and statewide connections enhance Civil Rights heritage education and tourism,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center and executive director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

The Bonner Community Fellowship is a program of Brown University’s Swearer Center, one of the first university-community engagement centers in the nation. The Bonner Community Fellowship is part of a national network of Bonner programs that aim to combine students’ community engagement with their academic and career goals. They intentionally engage with community partners in the areas of education, healthcare, environment, economic justice, and the arts. Their ultimate goal is to build more just communities where people have the resources they need and access to opportunities.

“This particular group of college students is in their sophomore year,” said Asia Stevens of the Swearer Center. “We came to Mississippi to dive deeper into the history of the Civil Rights Movement through engaging with the Tougaloo community, meeting with local activists, and touring the Mississippi Delta. This year, our hope is that we all (students and staff) can come away with a deeper understanding of community, activism, democracy, and politics in MS and the US, through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The tour began at The Delta Center in front of the Cast of Blues exhibit with greetings from Dr. Andy Novobilski, Delta State’s Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“Delta State, in our commitment to our community, was pleased to welcome Brown’s Bonner Community Fellows,” said Dr. Novobilski. “Their willingness to reflect on the history of the Delta and let it inform their growth as scholars is impressive.”

The tour was led by Civil Rights Movement and Blues heritage expert Dr. Brinda Willis. Delta Center staff members traveled with the students throughout the day.

Sites visited included the Amzie Moore House and Museum in Cleveland, the Delta Health Center Museum in Mound Bayou, the Dr. Aaron Henry Mississippi Freedom Trail marker in Clarksdale, the Tutwiler Quilters, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville.

Mary Ann Willis Mackey, Quilting Director at the Tutwiler Community Education Center, discusses the work of her quilters.

The group also had lunch at the Young Family Farm, a partner of Clarksdale-based nonprofit Higher Purpose Co. While there, they learned about how Black entrepreneurship and land ownership are part of the legacy of the Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Movement.

“It was exciting to see the Brown students so engaged with the Civil Rights history of the Mississippi Delta,” said Asha Done, Program Associate for Projects at The Delta Center. “Its great to think about how the things they learn here in the Delta will shape their futures as scholars and leaders.”

Delta Health Center’s Robin Boyles talks about the Dr. L.C. Dorsey Museum.

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 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (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