Presenters and Their Backgrounds

Rolando Herts

Dr. Herts is a native of the Arkansas Delta region.  He was recently selected as an Executive Academy Fellow with the Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Leadership Institute after his first year directing The Delta Center and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Previously, he served as Associate Director with the Office of University-Community Partnerships at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. As a Leadership Newark Fellow, he was presented the Berkowitz Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to the Greater Newark community. He also is a former Teach For America Mississippi Delta corps member and a former Emerging Engagement Scholar with the Engagement Scholarship Consortium. Dr. Herts holds a Ph.D. in planning and public policy from Rutgers Graduate School-New Brunswick. He also holds a M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in English from Morehouse College. His interest areas include university-community engagement and partnership development, community-based tourism planning, place branding/marketing, and regional development.

Edgar E. Smith

Edgar E. Smith, Ph.D., was born in Hollandale, Mississippi. At age twelve, his family moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was graduated from Bowman High School in 1951. His post secondary education includes a B.S. degree (1955) from Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi; and M.S. (1957) and Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry (1959) from Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana.

      Dr. Smith has held the following professional positions during the development of his career: Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University; Research Fellow in Surgery (Biochemistry), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Research Associate in Surgery (Biochemistry), Harvard Medical School; Associate Professor of Surgery (Biochemistry), Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts; Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine; Associate Dean of Minority Student Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine; Associate Professor of Biochemistry , University ofMassachusetts School of Medicine, Worcester, Massachusetts; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University ofMassachusetts School of Medicine; Provost, University of Massachusetts School of Medicine; Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Massachusetts School of Medicine; Vice President for Academic Affairs. University of Massachusetts System (3 Campuses); Interim President, Tougaloo College (January 1, 1995 - August 31, 1995); Program Director, Statewide Area Health Education Centers Program, and Professor of Family Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center. Currently, he is retired and serves as Senior Advisor to Tougaloo College President Beverly W. Hogan.

      Dr. Smith was a Purdue University National Foundation Fellow in 1958, and a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Washington D.C., 1977-78.  He has served as a consultant to a number of national organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Science Foundation, the American Association of Colleges, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

      He is the recipient of a number of awards, includinghonorary degrees from the Morehouse School of Medicine, which he helped found, the University of Massachusetts, Tougaloo College, and Morehouse College.  Dr. Smith’s research was in the areas of cancer biochemistry and sickle cell anemia, the results of which have been published in several professional journals.  He enjoys playing tennis and listening to the blues. He is a member of the Mississippi Blues Commission and theBoard of Directors of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Currently, he serves as a co-instructor of a course on the blues at Tougaloo College.  He has been married to the former Inez Oree' Wiley for the past 55 years and they are the proud parents of four sons.

John Byron Strait

Dr. John B. Strait is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas who specializes in urban and social-cultural geography.  His main research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of racial and ethnic identity, labor market dynamics and the spatial realization of socioeconomic disadvantage.  He also has strong interests and teaching expertise in the geographies of music and religion and has broad interests in two geographic regions; the U.S. South and Latin America and the Caribbean.  He is presently researching the spatial dynamics of hip hop culture and rap music.   He is also currently engaged in an investigation of neighborhood-level factors that influence disparities in infant mortality among racial and ethnic groups.  Dr. Strait has directed or been involved with a number of teaching workshops or institutes that focus on developing educational curricula that incorporate the aforementioned topics and interests.

David Evans

David Evans has been performing country blues (vocal and guitar) since 1962, having learned directly from many southern blues musicians of an older generation. Much of this learning was gained in the course of field research on the country blues tradition, beginning in 1965. Evans is currently Professor of Music at the University of Memphis and has taught on a visiting basis at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Tommy Johnson (1971), Big Road Blues: Tradition and Creativity in the Folk Blues (1982) and The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Blues (2005), along with many other publications, and he has produced many field and studio recordings of blues, gospel and folk music.

Evans’ first musical partner was the late Alan Wilson, who went on to become a member of the blues-rock group Canned Heat. Since 1980, Evans has toured in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland as a guitar accompanist to Jessie Mae Hemphill, Hammie Nixon, Johnnie Shines, and Jack Owens, and has made solo tours in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, England, Poland, Latvia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela, including many major festivals. He has also performed at many clubs, concerts, and festivals in the United States over the years, both as an accompanist and soloist.

Evans is also a member of the Last Chance Jug Band, a five-piece group based in Memphis that since 1989 has recreated the sounds of that city’s jug band tradition. They have performed in a number of Mid-South and national concerts and festivals and have twice been featured artists on the nationally-syndicated radio program Beale Street Caravan.  The band consists of Evans (vocals, guitar, kazoo), Dick Raichelson (piano), Elmo Lee Thomas (harmonica), Clint Wagner (violin/banjo/mandolin), and Keith Padgett (jug, washboard, tambourine, percussion). Evans has also performed at concerts and festivals in the United States and abroad with harmonica partners Jobie Kilzer, Elmo Lee Thomas, Joe Filisko, and Little Victor (France).

Evans has presented country blues guitar workshops and lectures at many venues in the United States and abroad, often in conjunction with concert and festival appearances. A list of lecture topics is available separately.

Evans has recorded Match Box Blues (Inside Sounds ISC-0514, 2002) and Needy Time (Inside Sounds ISC-0532, 2007) and has tracks on anthologies released in Germany, Venezuela, and the United States. The Last Chance Jug Band has released a CD, Shake That Thing! (Inside Sounds ISC-0501, 1997), featuring Evans on vocals, guitar, and kazoo. He has also played guitar on records of Jessie Mae Hemphill and Hammie Nixon released in the United States, France, and Australia.

Contact Information: David Evans, 3046 Jericho Rd., Millington, TN 38053, USA; or Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA; telephone: 901-872-6299 (home), 901-678-3317 (office); fax: 901-678-3096; e-mail:

Lee Aylward

Lee Aylward is a transplant from the hills of Mississippi to the Delta.  Education and learning were instilled in her early, and she tried almost all of the universities in Mississippi and the University of Alabama in order to further that education.  Reading has always been paramount to her. It is this love of reading that prompted her to get both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Library Science, and she went on to get certification in Reading.  Since graduating from college, she has been a mother, administrator of a U.S. Army education center, a public librarian, a school librarian, reading teacher, real estate agent, and finally an associate in the Delta Center for Culture and Learning where she coordinates community outreach and education.

Charles McLaurin

Charles R. McLaurin, was born in Jackson, Mississippi where he received his early education in the Jackson Public Schools and attended Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State Universities, studying Political Science and Black History.

In 1961, McLaurin attended a mass meeting at the Masonic Temple in Jackson to see and hear a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Inspired by Dr. King, the next day McLaurin joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee or SNCC, and took part in Boycotts, sit-ins, picket demonstrations and voters registration drives in Jackson, Mississippi.  Early in 1962, McLaurin, was recruited to participate in an intensive training program preparing for a massive voter registration campaign in the Mississippi Delta.  McLaurin and two other SNCC organizers [Landy McNair and Charlie Cobb] came to Ruleville, in Sunflower County to mobilize black leadership, hold meetings on voter registration and to get persons 21 years and older to the court house in Indianola in an attempt to become registered voters.  After the first organized bus trip to Indianola, McLaurin met Fannie Lou Hamer, who had a beautiful singing voice, and was very out spoken.  These were the attributes that caught the attention of the national Civil Rights leadership.

In 1963, McLaurin served as campaign manager for Fannie Lou Hamer in her bid for Congress from the second congressional district.  In 1964 McLaurin was a MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party] Delegate from the Delta to the National Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  McLaurin also directed the 1964 COFO [Congress of Federated Organizations] Freedom Summer Project in Sunflower County.  During the Freedom Summer Project, McLaurin and Mrs. Hamer became close friends and worked together until her death in 1977 on many social and political projects in Mississippi.

McLaurin was arrested and jailed more than thirty (30) times for his voter registration and for refusing to obey Jim Crow segregation laws in Mississippi.

After more than 20 years on the front of the Civil Rights movement.  McLaurin now makes his home in Indianola, currently employed as Assistant Public Works Director for the City of Indianola.  He is married and he and his wife Virginia have 3 sons and 2 grands.

Charles Reagan Wilson

Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson is a retired professor from the University of Mississippi.  He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of El Paso and his PhD from the University of Texas.  During his academic experience, he was the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of History, Professor of Southern Studies, and the Director of the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.  He is the author or editor of twelve books and many articles dealing with the religion of the South.  He has presented at conferences around the world on the same subject.


  • Bachelor of Arts, 1970, Masters of Arts, 1972, University of Texas      at El Paso
  • Ph.D., University      of Texas at Austin
  • Professional Experience:
  • Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of History and Professor of      Southern Studies, University       of Mississippi, 2007
  • Director, Center of the Study of Southern Culture and      Professor of History, University of Mississippi,      since 1998; Professor, History and Southern Studies, University of      Mississippi, 1981-98; Director, Southern Studies Academic Program,      1990-98.
  • Visiting Professor of History, Texas Tech University,      1980-81
  • Lecturer and Instructor, University of Texas      at El Paso, 1978-80
  • Visiting Professor, University of Wuerzburg, Germany,      1977-78


  • Flashes of a      Southern Spirit: Meanings of the Spirit in the South (Athens:      University       of Georgia Press,      May 2011)
  • Southern      Missions: The Religion of the American South in Global Perspective (Waco, Tex: BaylorUniversity Press, 2006)
  • Editor in chief, The      New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, vols. 1-24 (Chapel Hill, N.C.:      University of North Carolina Press, 2004-2013)
  • Judgment and      Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from      Faulkner to Elvis (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1995, 2nd      ed. 2007)
  • Baptized in      Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1980, 2nd      ed. 2009)
  • Coeditor with William Ferris, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill: University of      North Carolina Press, 1989)
  • Coeditor with Mark Silk, Religion and Public life in the South (Walnut Creek, Calif.:      AltaMira Press, 2005)
  • Editor, with Douglass Sullivan-Gonzales, The South and the Caribbean (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000)
  • Editor, with Randall Miller and Harry Stout, Religion and the American Civil War      (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • Editor, The New      Regionalism (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997)
  • Editor, Religion      in the South (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985)
  • Series Editor, Cultural      Perspectives on the American South, 1985-1991


“Mississippi Rebels: Elvis Presley, Fannie Lou Hamer, and the South’s

Culture of Religious Music,” Southern Quarterly (Winter 2013)

“’Just a Little Talk with Jesus’: Elvis Presley, Gospel Music, and Southern Spirituality,” Southern Cultures (Winter 2006)

“Self-taught Art, the Bible, and Southern Creativity,” in Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-taught Art, eds. Carol Crown and Charles Russell (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi 2007).

“Southern Religion(s),” in Blackwell’s Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American South, eds. Richard Gray and Owen Robinson (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004)

“The Larger Context: Visionary Art and Southern Cultural Creativity,” in Coming Home: Southern Visionary Art, ed. Carol Crown (Memphis: University of Memphis, 2004)

“Apocalypse South,” in Reverend McKendree Long: Picture Painter of the Apocalypse, eds. David Steel and Brad Thomas (Davidson, NC: DavidsonCollege and the North CarolinaMuseum of Art, 2002)

“Religion Making the South,” Atlanta History (Winter 2000)

“Creativity and Southern Culture,” in Visualizing the Blues: Images of the American South, ed. Wendy McDaris (Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2001)

“The South’s Lost Cause,” in The Grand Review: The Civil War Continues to Shape America(York, Pennsylvania: Bold Print, 2000)

“Defining Identities: Landscapes of Southern Memory,” in Remembering the Individual/Regional/National Past, ed. Waldemar Zacharasiewicz (Tubingen: Stauffenberg, 1999)

“Flashes of the Sprit: Creativity and Southern Religion,” Image (Fall, 1999)

“White Throne Judgment,” in Wonders to Behold: The Visionary Art of Myrtice West (Memphis: Mustang Publishing, 1999)

“The Myth of the Biracial South,” in The Present State of Mind, ed. Jan Gretlund (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999)

“My Journey toward Southern Religious Studies,” in Autobiographical Reflections on Southern Religious History, ed. John B. Boles (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001)

“Religion and Civil War in Comparative Perspective,” in Religion and the American Civil War, ed. Randall Miller, Harry Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)

“American Regionalism in a Postmodern World,” Amerikastudien (1997)

“The Burden of the Southern Future,” in The Changing American Countryside: Past, Present, and Future: Proceedings of a Conference Sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation November 20-December 1, 1995, ed. EmeryCastle and Barbara Baldwin (Rural Development Center at Oregon State University, 1996)

“The South, Religion, and the Scopes Trial,” Letters: The Semiannual Newsletter of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities (Spring 1996)

“Death of Southern Heroes: Historic Funerals of the South,” Southern Cultures (Fall 1994)

“The Invention of Southern Tradition,” in Rewriting the South: History and Fiction, ed, Lothar Honnighausen and Valeria Gennaro Lerda (Tubingen and Basel: Francke-Verlag, 1993)


Recent Conference Papers and Lectures:

“Parallel Worlds: Alice Munro Country and the American South,” Canada and the

American South Conference, University of Vienna, Austria, September 2010

“‘Culture’ and ‘Civilization’ in the American South,” Southern Forum on Agriculture, Rural, and Environmental History, University of Southern Carolina, April 2010

“God’s Laughter: Religion and Southern Humor,” Natchez Literary and Film Celebration, February 2010

  • “The American South in Global Perspective,” University of Mainz, Germany, Tri-national Summer      School Conference, July 2009
  • The Morality-driven South: Populists,      Prohibitionists, Religion, and V.O. Key’s Southern Politics,” V.O. Key      Symposium, Fayetteville,       Arkansas, April 2009
  • “Reimagining Southern Studies: Time and Space, Bodies      and Spirits,” Keynote Address, French American Studies Association, Montpellier, France, June 2008
  • “Seeing and Hearing Religion in the Ozarks,” Ozarks Study Center, Missouri State University, April 2008
  • “Upon the Altar of the Nation,” Panelist, American      Society of Church History, January 2008
  • “The Religion of the American South in Global      Perspective,” Edmundson Historical Lectures, BaylorUniversity,      March 2006
  • “Religious Pluralism in the South,” AmericanChurch      History Society, Philadelphia,      January 2005
  • “The Premillenial South,” Apocalypse Now, Symposium, Museum of      Biblical Art, New York City, May 2005
  • “The South and Regional Studies,” Regional Studies      Symposium, Kansas City,      April 2005
  • “David Edwin Harrell and Southern Religious Studies,”      AmericanChurch History, January 2005
  • “The Southern Way of Life: The History of a Concept,”      VanderbiltUniversity, April 2004
  • “Southern Cultural Creativity,” Phi Kappa Phi Lecture      in Southern Studies, East       TennesseeState       University, October      2003
  • “Creativity in the South: A Living Legacy,” Natchez Literary and      Film Celebration, February 2002
  • “The South Goes Pop: Popular Culture and the American      South,” The Raymond B. Witt Lecture Series, University      of Tennessee at Chattanooga, January 2002
  • “The South’s Lost Cause and Religious Freedom,”      Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, VirginiaWesleyan       University, March      2001
  • “Racial Boundaries of Life and Death: Funerary      Traditions in William Faulkner,” American Studies Association Annual      Meeting, Detroit, Michigan, October 2000
  • “Space, Ritual, and the Southern Cultural Identity,”      International Conference on Space, University      of Bonn, Bonn, Germany,      August 2000
  • “The Southern Search for Transcendence,” Natchez Literary      Celebration, June 2000
  • “Religion and Southern Culture,” Arkansas      Historical Society Meeting, Springdale,       Arkansas, April 2000
  • “Culture and Experience in Becoming Southern,”      Keynote Address, Workshop on Regionalism, University      of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, March 2000
  • “Death and the Validation of Southern Evangelicalism,”      AmericanChurch History Society, January 2000
  • “Flashes of the Spirit: Religion and Southern      Creativity,” Image Conference, Millsaps       College, November      1999
  • “Revolutions and Revelations: Southern Religion and      the Millennium,” William Poacher Dubose Symposium, University of the      South, October 1999
  • “Southern Culture,” Cameron      College Lectureship, CameronCollege,      Oklahoma,      September 1999
  • “Telling Southern Stories,” Museum of Contemporary      Photography, Chicago,      February 1999
  • “What Does It Mean to Be Southern,” Art       Museum of WesternVirginia, Roanake, Virginia,      January 1999

Dale Killinger

In 2004, Dale Killinger was a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Oxford, MS.  He was assigned as the lead investigator into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.  He spent two years investigating the case; he uncovered much information on the case and found lost evidence about the case. His findings were forwarded to the Mississippi District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth District for review.  It was concluded that there was not enough evidence and most witnesses were deceased, so no indictments were handed down.

Mr. Killinger today is the Federal Bureau of Investigation Unit Chief of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, Proactive Data Exploration Unit in Washington, D.C.

Lent Rice

Lent Rice is a retired special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  When the Emmett Till case was opened in 2004, Mr. Rice was called in to be of assistance to Mr. Killinger.  Mr. Rice is a native of Sumner, MS, and he knew many of the players in the case.  It was felt that he would be of valuable assistance to the case.

Today, Mr. Rice is the Director of Personnel and Internal Affairs for the DeSoto County, MS, Sheriff’s Office.

Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong, a life-long Deltan, was born & raised in Hollandale & Arcola, MS. She graduated from Deer Creek School and MSU with a degree in Landscape Architecture. After college, she returned to the Delta, married and had 3 children & now has 3 grandchildren.  Cathy and her husband, Raymond, operated the oldest Chinese Restaurant in Mississippi and finally closed the doors in 2007, ending an era of “family style Cantonese cuisine”. Cathy is very involved with the community, having been a member of different civic clubs, been on the board of many charitable organizations and her main focus now is the Greenville Chinese Cemetery Association, which has been in existence since 1928. Under her leadership, since 2000, land has been donated to the cemetery association and a perpetual fund is being generated for the constant upkeep of the 4 properties that belong to the association. Besides the cemetery, she is the Director of the Greenville Inn & Suites, a boutique hotel that once was the historic Levee Board building in downtown Greenville.

Reggie Barnes

Reggie Barnes, originally from Greenville, MS, was one of the first African-Americans to integrate the Greenville, MS, schools.  After high school he was one of the first African-Americans to attend Delta State University.  He went on to serve his alma mater as Dean of Students until he took the position of principal at Cleveland High School, Cleveland, MS.  From this position he was elected superintendent of the Tallahatchie County, MS, schools.  While in Tallahatchie County, he was involved with the making of the critically acclaimed documentaryLaLee’s Kin. After his stint there, he became the Superintendent of Schools in Bolivar County, MS.  Upon his retirement, he started his own consulting group the Excellent Group LLC which he operates today. Mr. Barnes is a speaker in much demand and he speaks to groups today all over the United States about his experiences in education and the Mississippi Delta.

Links of Interest

Enrolling for DSU Graduate Credit

Receiving Graduate Credit Hours for your participation in The Most Southern Place on Earth, Music, Culture and History of the Mississippi Delta

The cost to receive 6 credit hours is $30.00. There is an addition fee of $33.35 which must be paid to Student Business Services for campus Improvement.   Here is what you need to do to take advantage of this:

Enroll in the DSU Graduate Program as a non-degree student.  Do this by filling in the form available here (the second page just needs a check mark at the “Non-Degree box.” If you are in the June workshop, check “Summer I” and for the July workshop, check “Summer II.”) Graduate Enrollment Form.

Submit the Graduate School application together with these things:

  • A check for $63.35 made out to Delta State University

  • One of the following proofs of undergraduate education:

    • a copy of your transcript

    • a copy of your four-year diploma

    • a copy of your teaching certificate

Once you’ve done these things, send all the materials to DSU at the address given on page 2 of the application, and notify Lee Aylward at that you have completed your application.  Lee will make sure you are on the register for RRS 592: Special Topics in Rural and Regional Studies:Cultural Heritage of the Mississippi Delta.  You will be able to receive an official transcript for your own use at any time following the workshop.  There is no charge to you for the credit hours.  You must be accepted to the NEH Landmarks workshop to enroll in this class and receive credit.  Do not apply for the credit hours until you have been accepted into the workshop.

Should you want undergraduate credits rather than graduate credits, contact Lee Aylward.

Program Evaluations

Evaluations help us to build a better program.  There are two you are expected to complete.

1.  The first evaluation is for The Most Southern Place on Earth:  Music, Culture, and History of the Mississippi Delta and will be completed at the conclusion of the workshop.  This evaluation will ask you to rate virtually every experience you had, allowing us to see which experiences worked and which did not.

2.  The second evaluation is for the NEH and completed on-line at the conclusion of  the workshop at:

Follow the prompts to fill out an evaluation. The projects are listed in alphabetical order by the title of the project.  You will need to scroll down to find the link for your particular project.  Note that it is not possible to go to the NEH website and find the evaluation form: you need the exact web address.  The Most Southern Place on Earth project directors will be able to access your evaluations (minus your names).  If any of you would prefer simply to e-mail comments to the program, that’s fine.  Please e-mail the comments to <>  The NEH would like to receive all of the evaluations by mid-September if possible but there is no deadline per se.

Meeting Places

Our Meeting Spaces

We will meet in room 102 Jobe Hall.  Please bring comfortable walking shoes.  We will also be out in the field, so if you are allergic to mosquitoes, bugs, etc., you might want to bring some repellant.  Please be prepared.

We will treat the bus as our classroom too.  The bus is a coach bus, with CD and DVD capability.  We will either be talking, discussing, or watching films and listening to music appropriate to our discussion whenever we move across the Delta by bus.  Please treat our bus rides as you would classroom time.  Please do not fall asleep, talk on your cell phone or listen to your iPod!

Attire is casual; please dress comfortably for the workshop.  The average temperature in June/July is 88/92 degrees with an average rainfall of 4 inches.  Of course the temperature can go higher, and the humidity is always high.  Jobe Hall is air conditioned, so you might consider bringing a sweater, light jacket, or wear layers.  Please wear your name badge with the name side displayed during class sessions.

Although our days tend to be long, we do not expect strenuous exercise.  Most walks will be brief and there are NO hills in the Delta.  

Handicap Accessibility


The DSU campus is relatively accessible to all people.  Buildings have elevators, but do not have automatically opening doors.  We will use a coach bus as our traveling classroom, and will get on and off the bus at least once, maybe several times, on most days.  This requires climbing a short set of stairs and navigating the narrow bus aisle.  We never walk very far on any given day, but some museums do require standing for fairly long intervals as well as walking from exhibit to exhibit.  Buildings and the bus are air conditioned (as long as it works!).  We will have water and a bathroom on the bus.

Dietary Restrictions

One of the things that makes the Delta what it is is its cuisine.  What much of the US calls “Soul Food” is simply “food” in the Delta. As Sarah Ban Breathnac has said,“Soul food is our personal passport to the past.  It is much more about heritage than it is about hominy.” Tasting the flavors of the Delta is one of the ways you will learn about its heritage and we hope that you will enjoy the food as much as we do.  All that being said, most Deltans don’t understand vegetarianism, let alone veganism.  Vegetables often have meat cooked with them, and it is often pork.  Many foods (like chicken, fish, ravioli, pickles, grits) are deep fried.  They all taste great.  The DSU cafeteria does include vegetarian (not vegan) options for all meals, but eating only on campus means you will miss out on one of the most interesting aspects of the Delta- our food. 


On Campus Dormitories are now available.

Delta State University can provide dormitory housing at the cost of $15 per night double occupancy or $20 per night single. These rooms are Spartan. They are small and old, and typically involve shared bathrooms. On the other hand, they are where our own students stay, and they are inexpensive and very conveniently located. About half of our NEH scholars choose to stay in the dorms each year. Dorms do not provide pillows or linens. You must bring your own, or buy an inexpensive set at Wal-Mart when you arrive.

Dorms do have air conditioning.

For further information, and for dorm reservations, contact Lee Aylward at 662-846-4310 or 

Hotels in Cleveland

1. Holiday Inn Express, 808 N Davis Ave, Cleveland, MS 38733



Free Wireless Internet, Business Center, Fitness Center, Swimming Pool (outdoor), Microwave and Refrigerator, Free HBO, Free continental breakfast


2. Comfort Inn, 807 N. Davis Ave, Cleveland, MS 38733



Free Wireless Internet, Swimming Pool (outdoor), Microwave (Upon Request), Free continental breakfast


3. Hampton Inn, 912 N. Davis Ave., Cleveland, MS 38732



Free Wireless Internet, Business Center w/ computer (Open 24 hrs.), Fitness Center (6pm-midnight), Swimming Pool (outdoor), Microwave (Upon Request), Free continental breakfast


4. Econo Lodge, 921 N. Davis Ave. Cleveland, MS 38732



Free Wireless Internet, Swimming Pool (outdoor), Microwave and refrigerators in room, Iron and Board (Upon Request), Free continental breakfast


5. Delta Inn, 900 S Davis Ave



Microwave and refrigerator in room


6. Super 6 Motel, 900 S Davis Ave, Cleveland, MS 38733

662 846-5404

Where to Eat


Cleveland is a small town.  All Cleveland restaurants are within a mile or so of one another, except those in neighboring towns like Merigold, which is about five miles away.  Because Cleveland is a small town, it is unusual for large groups to drop in any single restaurant. Please call ahead if you are going with a large party.


On-Campus dining

Burger Studio, Java City Coffee Shop, Freshen’s Smoothies, Chick-Fil-a, and Montage Deli are all located in the Student Union in the heart of campus.  We also have an Aramark operated cafeteria (all-you-can-eat buffet, breakfast $5, Lunch $6, and Dinner $7 (all plus tax).



The Senator’s Place – South 61 almost to Boyle on the right side of the highway, country cooking, all you can eat.  Lunch every day and Friday nights.

Country Platter – South 61 big bright blue building on the left- country cooking, plate lunches.  Lunch every day.

Catfish Cabin - South 61 in Boyle, on the right side of the highway. Country cooking Lunch and nights.


Specialty Restaurants:

Lost Pizza - specialty pizzas- north Highway 61 past Baxter on the left

Papa Roc’s - west on Highway 8 about a mile from campus.  Lunch every day, Dinner Thurs and Fri.  Primarily Italian.

Crave - a Delta bistro- Highway 61 South, just past Kossman’s Auto dealership – salads, soups, sandwiches

A La Carte – South Court St. right before the railroad track downtown – sandwiches, salads, pasta.  Lunch only.

The Warehouse - North Sharpe St. cross Highway 8 at the stoplight by the State Bank and taupe colored office building- sandwiches, pasta, and salads.  Full bar.

Backdraft - Cotton Row, downtown Cleveland next door to the Wishing Well- steaks, fish, American cuisine, dinner only.  Full bar.

The Airport Grocery - North 61 just past the motels on the right- plate lunch, salads, sandwiches.  Full bar.

Desert Inn - North 61.  Dinner menu only.

Crawdad’s- Merigold, MS.  7 miles north on Hwy 61.  Dinner menu only.  Full bar.

Crustacean’s Crawfish - 724 South on Highway 61. Crawfish, Shrimp, dinner (662) 843-9343

Pickled Okra - Main Street.  Dinner only.

Pig Pen- South Hwy 61. On the left- Barbeque.

Fat Baby’s Catfish - Highway 61 north, across from Lost Dog Pizza, catfish, chicken, etc., Seven days a week, Lunch and dinner

Hey Joe’s - student friendly café and bar- at the north end of the railroad tracks on Highway 8 in town

Cristina’s - sandwiches- inside Heidi’s Shop on Sharpe St. (Main St.) east side

Mississippi Grounds Coffee Shop - Barista coffee, breakfast, sandwiches and soup, Court St., across from the Courthouse.  Not open Sunday.

Starving Musician Bakery - 323 Cotton Row. Open Wed- Sat.

Guadalajara - North 61 take a right just past the Walmart

La Cabana - North 61 on the right before you get to the Walmart

México Grill- Next to Kroger on Hwy 61

No Way Jose' - Mexican menu located off Highway 8 West in the Western Plaza Shopping Center

The usual fast food:

McDonald’s - South 61 on the right

Wendy’s - North 61 on the left

Taco Bell - North 61 on the right

Backyard Burgers - North 61 on the left

Burger King - intersection of Highways 61 and 8

Sonic - Highway 8 West

Subway - South 61 on the left

Lenny’s - North 61 on the left

Pizza Hut - North 61 on the right

Kentucky Fried Chicken - South 61 on the left

Popeye’s - North 61 on the left

Huddle House - North 61 next to Walmart

Captain D’s - North 61 just past Walmart

Little China – South Hwy. 61 next to Vowell’s Super Market


Stipend and Financial Issues

NEH Summer Scholars will each receive a stipend of $1200 if they participate in every day of the workshop. The amount will be reduced appropriately for any missed days (this is required by NEH). The stipend will be sent to Scholars after the end of the workshop.

The stipend is intended to help defray expenses for travel, housing, meals, books, and incidentals. It may or may not cover all of your costs.

The funds will probably not cover all expenses of participation. Costs can be reduced substantially if participants carpool from major airports in Memphis or Jackson. Enterprise rentals has an office in Cleveland, making drop off easy. Stores like Kroger’s and Wal-Mart, and many restaurants are within walking distance of most major hotels in Cleveland, but you might want to check with the hotel when making reservations.

On-campus housing is also an option, but our dormitories are somewhat Spartan (but cheap). Click here for further information about dorm rooms. On-campus dining is also an option. We use Aramark as the food service, and meals are cheap, abundant, and tasty. We also have an on-campus coffee shop, a Chick-Fil-a, and a burger/pizza place, all located in the Student Union

Costs can be reduced even more with roommates.

Now for the bad news: your stipend is taxable income. Of course your expenses may be business expenses since they are incurred in support of your better teaching, but that’s something you need to discuss with your tax preparer. Save your receipts and keep a journal or log!

Daily Workshop Assignments

Each day of our workshop will have central theme, and for each theme, we have chosen a short text, a single song, and a food item.  We think of these three things as being “icons” for the day.  Icons in this sense are devices that summarize complex patterns and relationships and stick in our minds.  We can use them to help us remember complicated issues more easily, and we hope that they remind us of our experiences in the Delta whenever we run across them elsewhere.  Hopefully, the meanings of the icons we’ve chosen will become clear during the workshop, but our desire is that once they do become clear, you will think of certain issues and events every time you hear a particular song or taste a certain food.

Day 1:  The River, Creator and Destroyer of the Delta

Richard Wright’s Down by the Riverside

William Faulkner’s Old Man

Song:  “When the Levee Breaks” by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy

Food:  Fried Catfish


Day 2.  Immigrant Stories

A ruling by the US Supreme Court in the case of Gong Lum vs. Rice, 1927:

Song:  “Sail Away” by Randy Newman, sung by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

Food:  Delta Chinese


Day 3.  The Blues:  American Roots Music and the Culture that Produced it.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Song:  “Crossroads Blues” by Robert Johnson

Food:  Hot Tamales


Day 4.  The Story of Emmett Till

The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi by William Bradford Huie:

Other information at

Also check out

Song:  “The Death of Emmett Till” by Bob Dylan

Food:  Koolickles


Day 5.  The Civil Rights Movement

The Voter Registration form Fannie Lou Hamer had to fill out

Song:  “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MG’s

Food:  Soul Food


Day 6.  The Delta in Diaspora

Letters back and forth from the South to the North:

Song:  “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson

Food:  Fried Chicken and Pound Cake

Contact Information

Prior to the workshop, please direct questions to Lee Aylward at or 662-846-4310.

During the workshop, you will be able to reach us through our office 662-846-4311 or through our cell phones (those numbers will be given out at the beginning of the workshop.) We will also ask those of you who want to to give the staff your own cell numbers. This may be important should you be separated from the group in a museum or at a remote site.

We appreciate hearing from past participants and can be reached at:

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning
Delta State University
DSU Box 3152
Cleveland, MS 38733

Or Email:

Rolando Herts  |

Lee Aylward  |

Shelia Winters  |

How to Get Here

Please begin to explore travel options as soon as your acceptance is confirmed. Cleveland, MS, does not have its own airport, but is served by a small regional airport in Greenville, MS, with limited flights arriving daily. It is further served by large airports in Jackson, MS, and Memphis, TN. Each is equidistant from Cleveland, around 100 miles. There are rental-car agencies located at all airports. However, Cleveland only has Enterprise Car Rentals, and they charge a very high rate to turn in from Memphis or Jackson.

Remember to allow sufficient travel time to and from the airport. It takes at least two hours to drive from either Memphis or Jackson to Cleveland, MS, and about 45 minutes from Greenville.

The airports include:

Memphis International Airport (MEM), Memphis, Tennessee
Jackson-Evers International Airport, (JAC), Jackson, Mississippi
Greenville Municipal Airport (GLH), Greenville, Mississippi

We recommend that you make plans to leave on the SUNDAY following the workshop. We will finish on Saturday by 4pm. Do Not miss the final event, which will wrap up the whole workshop in a way that you will find most interesting. Those who have stayed over night for a little R&R, debriefing with other Scholars, and enjoying live music and a beer have always said they really enjoyed the extra night. By the time you make your arrangements, places like the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale should have their planned acts on their web site calendar so you will know what acts to expect.

Bus and Train Stations:

Delta Bus Lines LLC, 662-846-5112 (Cleveland office) or 901 523 2155 (Memphis office) Delta Bus Lines have buses coming in from the south at 7:45 a.m. and 11:35 a.m. and from the north at 3:40 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. These buses connect with Greyhound Bus Lines.

Amtrak stops in Grenada, MS, and Greenwood, MS. Grenada is 45 miles due east of Cleveland, and Greenwood is 45 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Cleveland is located 100 miles south of Memphis and can be reached by car from Highway 61 directly or Interstate 55 to State Highway 8 west.

Should you fly into Greenville, you will take State Highway 1 south (turn left as exiting airport) to the intersection of State Highway 82, take a left (east) and travel to Highway 61 North (about 5 miles), and follow the signs to Cleveland.

Pre-Workshop Reading & Assignments

Each participant should complete the following prior to the workshop.

Then read:

At least ONE of the following TWO books:

Barry, John M.  1988.  Rising Tide:  The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.  New York:  Touchstone.

Daniel, Pete.  1997.  Deep’n As It Come:  The 1927 Mississippi River Flood.  Oxford University Press.

At least ONE of the following FOUR books:

Cobb, James.  1992.  The Most Southern Place on Earth:  the Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Ferris, William.  2009.  Give My Poor Heart Ease.  the University of North Carolina Press.  NOTE- this book comes with a CD of original field recordings and a DVD of documentary films, at least one of which we will watch during the workshop.  It’s a valuable teaching resource.

Willis, John C.  2000.  Forgotten Time:  The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta after the Civil War.  Virginia:  The University of Virginia Press.

Saikku, Mikko.  2005.  This Delta, This Land.  University of Georgia Press.

ONE of these FOUR  books:

Crowe, Chris.  2003.  Getting Away With Murder:  The True Story of the Emmett Till Case.  Dial Books.

Curry, Constance.  1995.  Silver Rights.  New York:  Harcourt Brace & Company.

Asch, Chris Myers.  2008.  The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer.  New Press.

Lemann, Nicholas.  1991.  The Promised Land:  An Account of Sharecropping Families in Their Journey from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago.  Pan McMillan.

AND we also RECOMMEND these for anyone who is especially interested in the Mississippi Delta:

Dattel, Gene  •  2009  •  Cotton and Race in the Making of America:  the Human Costs of Economic Power  •  Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.

Faulkner, John  •  1942  •  Dollar Cotton  •  A Hill Street Classics Book.

Ferris, William  •  1978  •  Blues from the Delta  •  New York:  Da Capo Press

Taulbert, Clifton  •  1995  •  When We Were Colored  •  New York:  Penguin Group.

Beito and Beito  •  2009  •  Black Maverick  •  University of Illinois Press

Tyson, Timothy B  •  2017  •  The Blood of Emmett Till  •  Simon and Schuster

Wilkerson, Isabel  •  2011  •  The Warmth of Other Suns  •  Vintage Press.

And if you are really interested in the Delta, why not read ALL of the above books?  They are all excellent and make pretty exciting reading.

Our hope is that the choice you are allowed among the books will result in greater discussion.  At least some of the forty participants will choose each book, meaning that each of you will bring a different background to our meetings.  Please be ready to talk about the books you read.

In the past, NEH has requested that all Summer Scholars either write new, or revise existing lesson plans that they can use in their classrooms and share with others.  This is still a great idea and we hope that at least some of you will do so.

This year, NEH has given you some options.  We still ask that you leave something that you created during the workshop when you depart at the end.  That can be a lesson plan, or it can be some other work, including poetry, journal entries, or creative writing.  You might want to bring some of your existing lesson plans (or poetry or writing) that involve topics relevant to our workshop. Such topics might include “sense of place,” civil rights issues, the Emmett Till case, Blues or other music (both as music and as poetry), the Mississippi River, literature dealing with the Delta, the geography of the Great Migration, or any other topic you think appropriate.  If you bring that kind of outline, you will have something specific to modify with your new experiences during the workshop (many past Scholars have taken many photos during their week in the Delta and used them extensively in the classroom, along with their journal entries describing their experiences and emotions).

Whatever you choose to do, we really believe that writing your thoughts down will help you reflect on your experiences, organize them in creative ways, and help you remember and use them after you leave the Delta.  We also want to post your thoughts on our web site, as we have with all the  lesson plans developed in the past.  Check them out!  There are some really creative approaches and we are proud of all our past NEH Summer Scholars.

Summer Scholar Agreement

Please print this document, sign it, and include it with your application materials.


As an NEH Summer Scholar in The Most Southern Place on Earth:  Music, Culture and History in the Mississippi Delta’s National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks in American History and Culture Workshop for 2019, I agree to the following:

1)      I will complete readings assigned prior to the workshop.

2)      I will attend all scheduled programs.  Should any circumstances arise that prohibit my attendance, I will notify a staff member immediately.

3)      I will stay with the group on any walking tours, field trips, and outside activities.

4)      I will not inconvenience the group by being late and understand that should I do so, I may be left behind.

5)      I will be fully engaged in activities and discussions and will not be distracted by my cell phone, iPod, text messages or other devices unrelated to the workshop while we are in session.

6)      I will ensure that the workshop is a safe place for open discussion and treat everyone respectfully.  I will not blog or make publicly available information about workshop activities, participants or staff without their express approval.

7)  I have read the NEH “Principles of Civility” and I agree to abide by them.

8) I will abide by changes to the program or instructions made by the program staff.

9) I will develop lesson plans or other projects and finish them by the end of the workshop.

NEH regulations require that all lectures, field trips, and outside activities are open ONLY to participants in the program.  No visitors, family members, or other individuals are allowed to participate in any day or evening program activities.  Any participant violating this rule may be immediately dismissed from the program.

10) I will comply with the above “participants only” policy.


I hereby acknowledge that I have read and consent to the above terms.