NEH "Most Southern Place" Workshop June Session: Day 2

The second day of the workshop centered around the immigrant stories woven throughout the Delta, as well as the religious and cultural roots of the blues and early rock music. Participants boarded the "traveling classroom" in the morning and travelled to Greenville, Mississippi, while learning about the Delta Jews. In Greenville,  participants stopped at the Chinese cemetery and a Black cemetery to witness these communities’ histories within the town. They then went to the historic Hebrew Union Temple to hear even more about the history of Jews in the region and their relationship with southern society as well as with the northern Jews who came through the Delta as Freedom Riders. Adjacent to the temple, participants meandered through a museum of the 1927 flood, after which they returned to Cleveland for lunch.

Guest scholar Charles Reagan Wilson spoke to the workshop after lunch, teaching about the historically diverse religious factions found within the Delta. He also discussed how the strong tradition of oral expression found in the South influenced the church, musicians, and even southern politicians. The day finished with country blues musician Bill Abel, who discussed the history of blues music and performed in a variety of styles, playing a variety songs, including selections by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, for the crowd.

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