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Delta State University (Cleveland, MS 38733-0001)
Luther Brown (Project Director: March 2014 to April 2017)

Landmarks of American History and Culture
Education Programs

[Grant products]

$175,156 (approved)
$175,156 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2014 – 12/31/2015

The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History, and Culture of the Mississippi Delta

Two one-week workshops for seventy-two school teachers on the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta, with music as a focus.

This workshop focuses on the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta, described by historian James Cobb as "the most Southern place on earth." Project director Luther Brown leads the first day's seminar on Delta history and the Mississippi River, to include the documentaries LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton and Fatal Flood, alongside a visit to the site of the levee break in the Great Flood of 1927. During day two, historian Charles Reagan Wilson (University of Mississippi) explores the area's ethnic and religious diversity, including its early Chinese, Russian Jewish, Lebanese, and Italian communities. With music scholar David Evans (University of Memphis) serving as lead scholar, the third day unfolds around the theme, "The Blues: American Roots Music and the Culture That Produced It." Participants visit Dockery Farms, the plantation known as the birthplace of the Blues, and consider how life in the Delta influenced the music of early Blues musicians like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. On day four, Delta State faculty member Henry Outlaw presents the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi, with the Emmett Till story as a case study in "oppression, revolution, and reconciliation." Providing a first-hand account of this era and Civil Rights movement work, former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee member Charles McLaurin also speaks with the group. Participants travel on day five to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the site of Martin Luther King's assassination; they also visit other historical landmarks, cultural institutions, and music-related sites. On day six, geographer John Strait (Sam Houston State University) lectures on the migration of Delta residents to the cities of the North. Readings include, among other works: James Cobb, The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity; John M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; and Chris Crowe, Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case.