heritage

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area promotes region’s cultural heritage

Members of the 2016 MDNHA Board of Directors and staff

Members of the 2016 MDNHA Board of Directors and staff

The Board of Directors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently held its May meeting at Delta Council headquarters in Stoneville, Mississippi. The board, chaired by Dr. Myrtis Tabb, welcomed new board members and discussed various partnership opportunities that will continue to promote the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural heritage.

“I am pleased to work with the Board of Directors of MDNHA,” said Dr. Tabb. “We are excited to welcome our new members and continue moving into the implementation phase of a comprehensive management plan developed by a thorough process of meetings with groups and stakeholders throughout the region. Our goal is to empower as many voices as possible so that the story of the Delta is told by a chorus, rather than a few.”

The 15-member board includes representatives from Mississippi Valley State, Alcorn State and Delta State University, as well as the Delta Foundation, Smith Robertson Museum, Delta Council, Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and Mississippi Humanities Council. In addition, the governor and counties falling within five Delta districts appoint representatives to the board.

“Our board and our staff continue to work together, building the Mississippi Delta’s capacity to fulfill the MDNHA’s management plan through diverse partnerships,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which serves as the management entity for the MDNHA. “Regional initiatives like the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership, the Passport to Your National Parks Program, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi’s ‘Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta’ website, and the MDNHA Grants Program represent creative and inclusive ways that we are fulfilling the plan.”

In November 2015, Herts was invited to represent the MDNHA and The Delta Center in a panel discussion at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2015 PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference launched a year-long celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act’s 50th anniversary, attracting hundreds of historic preservation scholars, policymakers, experts and activists from around the nation. The panel discussion was part of the preservationVOICES Learning Lab presentation track organized by the National Trust in partnership with the National Park Service and the Kellogg Foundation. The session, “Recognizing Our Shared History,” focused on how the National Park Service works to tell inclusive stories of all Americans.

In keeping with the PastForward Conference presentation, the MDNHA manages the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. The partnership has engaged over 800 Mississippi Delta residents and visitors through programs that raise awareness about the educational and cultural value of capturing community stories. The programs are offered to Mississippi organizations and communities in collaboration with Alysia Burton Steele, University of Mississippi journalism professor and author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.” Oral history presentations about the book have been held in several MDNHA communities including Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Cleveland, Vicksburg and Itta Bena. Programs also have been held outside the MDNHA at Jackson State University, Alcorn State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

In March 2016, to commemorate Women’s History Month and the National Park Service Centennial, the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership presented at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. The program featured 92-year-old Annyce Campbell of Mound Bayou, who graces the cover of “Delta Jewels,” and Reena Evers, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams. Campbell also visited the White House.

The MDNHA manages the Passport to Your National Parks program which features passport stations in each of the region’s 18 counties. The Delta Center serves as the program headquarters, welcoming passport collectors traveling the region and directing them to passport locations throughout the MDNHA, including the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Sunflower County, tourism visitor centers in Coahoma, Tunica, Yazoo and Warren counties, and courthouses in Carroll, Holmes, Quitman, Sharkey, Tallahatchie and Tate counties.

Members of the National Park Travelers Club have toured the MDNHA collecting National Park Service passport stamps as a way to celebrate the 2016 National Park Service Centennial.

“We would not have known about all of the interesting places to visit in the Delta had it not been for this program,” said Leland Warzala, a club member from Illinois. “We knew that we had to visit all of the counties here, because we wanted to get all of the stamps. We had no idea that there are so many great things to see and do along the way, like the Crossroads sign [in Clarksdale], Dockery Farms and all of the Blues Trail markers.”

GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi opened its doors to the region, the nation, and the world this year. As part of the grand opening celebration, the museum partnered with the MDNHA to launch the “Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta” website.

The website features cultural heritage attractions throughout the Mississippi Delta that tell the region’s diverse stories. The site underscores the museum and MDNHA’s shared interest in promoting the entire 18-county Mississippi Delta region as an educational cultural heritage destination of which its residents should be proud.

“As GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, we explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music, and we’re also telling the story of the cradle of America’s music right here in Cleveland, the heart of the Mississippi Delta,” said Emily Havens, executive director of the museum. “Our area’s rich musical legacy is a source of pride for Delta residents. We want to encourage everyone to explore and learn about our entire region, from local school groups to travelers from around the globe.”

In April 2016, The Delta Center hosted a group of Swedish music tourists. In addition to experiencing the GRAMMY Museum, the group visited several attractions included on the Top 40 list including Dockery Farms and Mississippi Blues Trail markers throughout the MDNHA. The group also experienced an African American church service in Clarksdale, a tribute to the MDNHA’s cultural heritage theme celebrating the region as a “Wellspring of Creativity.”

For these and various other programmatic successes, The Delta Center was presented the 2016 Georgene Clark Diversity Champion Award at Delta State University’s Winning the Race Conference.

“Through the Heritage Area partnership, the Mississippi Delta region can come together to take pride in our diverse culture and history,” said Herts. “Our stories surrounding issues of race, social injustice, civil rights, identity and expressions of faith have shaped and reflect the American experience.”

At the May meeting, the MDNHA selected inaugural recipients of the organization’s grant program. Grant programs are created and managed by many National Heritage Areas across the U.S. to support local organizations’ cultural heritage education, interpretation, and promotion efforts.

“We have recently completed the first round of a formal grants program,” explained Tabb. “The management plan calls for us to create a program to fund seed projects that meet the heritage area’s goals. Many worthwhile proposals were submitted for this round from agencies and organizations throughout the Delta. Even though we were unable to fund them all, we were excited to see the work already taking place in the region. We look forward to continuing the grants program and partnering with others celebrating our diverse Delta heritage.”

The next deadline for grant proposals is July 5. Those awarded grants will be notified at the end of August. To find out more about the grants, or the MDNHA, visit www.msdeltaheritage.com.

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NEH “Most Southern” workshops create Delta ambassadors

In total, 72 K-12 teachers from across the nation took part in this summer's "Most Southern Place on Earth" workshops. Photos by Amy Kramer and Brady Gilliam.

In total, 72 K-12 teachers from across the nation took part in this summer's "Most Southern Place on Earth" workshops. Photos by Amy Kramer and Brady Gilliam.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop, presented twice this summer (June 21-27 and July 12-18) by The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, exposed 72 K-12 teachers from throughout the United States to the Mississippi Delta’s rich history and cultural heritage. Workshop participants represented 33 states, including Alaska, California, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana. Several teachers from Mississippi participated as well, including a teacher from Mound Bayou.

Over the past six years, the NEH workshops have brought over $1 million in federal grants to Delta State University. Through these grants, the workshops have generated educational and economic spread effects regionally and nationally.

The workshop model uses an experiential learning approach, giving participants direct contact with and access to historically and culturally significant people and places in the Mississippi Delta. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said this approach inspires deeper understanding of historical events among the participants. The approach also stimulates economic activity, as workshop participants stay in hotels, dine in restaurants and visit educational attractions in Cleveland, Bolivar County and the Delta region.

“This blending of educational and tourism-centered economic activity is beneficial to the Mississippi Delta’s federal designation as a National Heritage Area,” said Herts. “The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the region and the National Park Service to raise awareness of the value of the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural heritage.”

The NEH workshop has created a national network of over 500 educational and cultural ambassadors for the MDNHA. Participants take what they have learned from the workshop back to their schools and communities, sharing stories and lessons from the Delta with students, colleagues, family, and friends nationally and globally. Over the years, many past participants have made return visits to the region, bringing others with them, which has broadened the workshop’s educational and economic impact for the MDNHA.

Dr. Luther Brown, former director of The Delta Center, returned to serve as lead facilitator of this year’s workshops, with support from Lee Aylward, and Brady Gilliam and Amy Kramer, both Robertson Scholars from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Workshop participants heard presentations from blues, southern religion and great migration experts, including: Dr. David Evans, professor of ethnomusicology and regional Studies, University of Memphis; Mississippi Delta native, Dr. Edgar Smith, former vice president of Academic Affairs, University of Massachusetts System; Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, former director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi; and Dr. John Strait, professor of geography at Sam Houston State University.

In addition, workshop participants were engaged with living historical figures, including civil rights activis Charles McLaurin, who met Fannie Lou Hamer while working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Cathy Wong, who spoke about the presence of Chinese in the Delta and their cultural influence; and key people involved with the Emmett Till story, including Till’s cousins Simeon Wright and Wheeler Parker, both of whom were with Till before his murder.

Participants also visited many historical and educational points of interest throughout the region, including: Dockery Farm, known as the birthplace of the blues, located between Cleveland and Ruleville; Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou; Emmett Till Intrepid Center in Glendora; blues legend Robert Johnson’s gravesite at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church and Fort Pemberton in Greenwood; and the 1927 Flood Museum, Century of History Museum at Hebrew Union Congregation, and Chinese and African American cemeteries in Greenville. The group also traveled to Memphis, the Delta’s largest city, to visit The Cotton Museum, National Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

The mission of The Delta Center 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 NEH’s “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. 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 athttp://www.msdeltaheritage.com.

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Delta Jewels oral history session hosted

WILL interns and Dr. Morford from the University of Illinois Laboratory High School pose in front of Coahoma County Higher Education Center with Alysia Burton Steele (left) and Dr. Rolando Herts (right) of The Delta Center.

WILL interns and Dr. Morford from the University of Illinois Laboratory High School pose in front of Coahoma County Higher Education Center with Alysia Burton Steele (left) and Dr. Rolando Herts (right) of The Delta Center.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Coahoma County Higher Education Center recently hosted an oral history session in Clarksdale. The session featured University of Mississippi photojournalism professor Alysia Burton Steele, author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom,” a collection of oral histories and photographs of African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta.

Dr. Janet Morford, history teacher and director of the WILL oral history internship program (http://will.illinois.edu/community/project/university-high-documentaries) in the Department of Social Studies at University of Illinois Laboratory High School, brought 11 of her high school interns to the Delta to conduct oral histories. Morford is a June 2014 alumnus of The Delta Center’s National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop. She learned about Steele’s oral history work from Dr. Luther Brown, retired director of The Delta Center.

“The NEH Most Southern workshop creates highly committed and influential educational and cultural ambassadors for the Delta region,” said Brown. “Over the years, workshop alumni have made return visits to the Delta on their own, bringing students, co-workers, family and friends, introducing them to the culture and history of the region.”

“We are pleased that Dr. Brown remains connected to The Delta Center through the NEH Most Southern workshop,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, current director of The Delta Center. “He regularly sends Delta news e-blasts to our NEH alumni network, which now has over 500 members. The most recent e-blast led to the creation of this oral history session with Alysia Burton Steele, Dr. Morford and her students at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, where they learned about doing oral history work in the Delta. They also learned about The Delta Center, the NEH workshop, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, and most importantly, each other.”

For the latest Most Southern e-blast, Herts encouraged Brown to include information about Steele’s “Gathering of the Delta Jewels” event taking place in Mound Bayou. When Morford read about it, she realized that her oral history team would be visiting the Delta during the event. She seized the opportunity to connect her students with Steele.

The Delta Center convened the group based on its relationships with Morford, Steele and the CCHEC through NEH, the MDNHA and Delta State. This yielded a rich conversation about the importance of connections in oral history work.

Morford and her team members were thrilled with the experience.

“Today’s session demonstrates that the circle of influence keeps widening for the NEH Most Southern Place on Earth workshop,” said Morford. “That’s the true spirit of the workshop and of doing oral history work. The more that we talk to each other, the more we learn from each other, and the more we realize that we still have much more to learn.”

Herts facilitated an overview of these connections, highlighting the roles and contributions of all session participants. Jen Waller, director of the CCHEC, gave a brief historical overview of the CCHEC complex and its relationship with Delta State.

 

Jen Waller, director of the CCHEC.

Jen Waller, director of the CCHEC.

“We are so pleased that Dr. Herts and The Delta Center used the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale as their meeting space for intellectual exchange,” said Waller. “As a satellite campus of DSU and Coahoma Community College, the CCHEC is the perfect setting for discussions focused on history, culture and life-long learning.”

The Delta Center’s Lee Aylward discussed how the group’s visit helps to fulfill and sustain the educational impact of the NEH workshop.

“Dr. Morford’s return visit with her class is an outstanding example of what the Delta Center had hoped would be an outcome of these very prestigious NEH workshops,” said Aylward. “We want our alumni to bring students and encourage friends and coworkers to visit the Delta and learn our history and its importance to the rest of the world.”

Herts shared The Delta Center’s mission and its work with the MDNHA to promote the history and culture of the Delta, in part through oral history research. This led to the introduction of Steele as the featured presenter.

Steele was thrilled that Morford contacted her about meeting with the WILL interns and was pleased that The Delta Center and CCHEC were willing to host the session. She made a special trip from Oxford to Clarksdale to participate in the session, ready to share the joys and challenges of the oral history craft.

 

Alysia Burton Steele (far right), author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.”

Alysia Burton Steele (far right), author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.”

“I was very impressed with the WILL interns and the depth and breadth of their knowledge about oral history research,” said Steele. “While they know a great deal already, they also were so very humble, which is so refreshing and encouraging. They were eager to learn by listening to me talk about how I gathered the stories from the Delta Jewels church mothers. Listening intently and respectfully, as well as knowing when to respond, are key skills in oral history research. This group obviously is highly skilled and well trained, so I must give kudos to their teachers, Dr. Morford and Mr. Sutton. They are doing great work.”

Bill Sutton, a history teacher at the University Laboratory School, who is traveling with Morford and the student interns, has made educational visits to the Delta in the past. He inspired Morford to apply for the NEH Most Southern workshop and is pleased to see the results of her participation.

“In addition to this session with Alysia being a high point of our trip, Janet’s experience with the NEH workshop has opened up more options for us to study and understand the Delta,” said Sutton. “I have been coming to the Delta for several years now. With Janet, our internship program leader and a NEH workshop alum, the visits will keep getting better and better. Janet bringing this knowledge and experience back to our school has been remarkable. Alysia also is remarkable, and The Delta Center and Delta State are tremendous educational and cultural resources. I have every expectation that we all will continue to work together in the future.”

“The fact that the WILL Interns have had such a meaningful exchange with Alysia Burton Steele shows that high school students can develop very high level skills – by doing oral history and by talking with experts like Alysia who have also engaged in this demanding but rewarding work,” added Morford. “Being able to come to the Mississippi Delta with the support of our school, and to engage with the resources of Delta State through this session, has been extremely valuable for our students. This truly has been a transformative educational and cultural experience for all of us.”

Student WILL Intern Iulianna Taritsa also appreciated the unique opportunity.

“My time in the Delta has been an amazing and enriching experience,” said Taritsa. “I could see and feel the rich history, and I am so glad that there are people like Alysia Burton Steele and organizations like The Delta Center for Culture and Learning that are helping others understand the significance of this area. I know our WILL team from Uni High has learned a lot from the people we met in the Delta and hopefully we will be able to tell our stories and theirs once we get back to Champaign-Urbana.”

The Delta Center has offered the NEH Most Southern workshop for the past six years. This summer, 74 K-12 educators from across the U.S. once again are being immersed in two six-day experiential learning workshops in the Mississippi Delta. Participants take what they have learned back to their schools, teaching students and colleagues about the rich history and cultural heritage of the Delta region. The Delta Center has engaged Brown to return to the region and facilitate the workshops.

The NEH Most Southern workshops are held at Delta State University and throughout the region. The dates for the 2015 workshops are June 21-27 and July 12-18. For more information, visithttp://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com/southern-place-workshop/.

The mission of the Delta Center 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 and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

The Coahoma County Higher Ed Center is a partnership between Delta State University and Coahoma Community College. Its mission is to expand educational opportunity for the people in Coahoma County and surrounding counties by offering classes and events that will encourage personal development and promote a higher quality of life for all people in the Mississippi Delta.

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Delta Center provides Emory University of Atlanta a learning tour

Dr. Rolando Herts provided students from Emory University of Atlanta an overview of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage area.

Dr. Rolando Herts provided students from Emory University of Atlanta an overview of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage area.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University hosted Emory University of Atlanta for an experiential learning tour of the Mississippi Delta region.

Lee Aylward, program associate for education and community outreach for The Delta Center, provided an introduction of Delta history to the group, and Director Dr. Rolando Herts provided an overview of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

The group traveled throughout the week around the Delta experiencing cultural heritage sites. The mission of The Delta Center 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 and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project.

For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning.

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Delta Center tours with Mississippi State students

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently provided an experiential learning tour to Mississippi State University's Alternative Spring Break group.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently provided an experiential learning tour to Mississippi State University's Alternative Spring Break group.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently provided an experiential learning tour of the Mississippi Delta region to Mississippi State University’s Alternative Spring Break group, which is sponsored by the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement at MSU.

The group was led by student volunteers and were housed for the week at the North Greenwood Baptist Church. They were treated to an introduction to Delta history by the Delta Center’s Lee Aylward.

Delta Center director Dr. Rolando Herts provided an overview of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The group travelled throughout the week around the Delta experiencing cultural heritage sites, agricultural sites and educational groups.

The group spent their evenings watching movies about the Delta and reflecting on lessons learned throughout the day.

The mission of The Delta Center 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 and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning.

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MDNHA updates provided in Greenwood

Dr. Rolando Herts (left to right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, recently met with Cheryl Taylor, executive director, Museum of the Mississippi Delta; Tonja Ray Smith, executive director, Greenwood Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Luther Wade, president, Greenwood Rotary Club.

Dr. Rolando Herts (left to right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, recently met with Cheryl Taylor, executive director, Museum of the Mississippi Delta; Tonja Ray Smith, executive director, Greenwood Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Luther Wade, president, Greenwood Rotary Club.

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA), visited Greenwood recently to share updates on the implementation of the MDNHA Management Plan. The visit included a tour of the Museum of the Mississippi Delta to discuss their renovation plans and a presentation to the Greenwood Rotary Club.

Cheryl Taylor, executive director of the Museum of the Mississippi Delta, gave Herts a tour of the museum, which is scheduled to reopen in May. Taylor will use the MDNHA Management Plan to help guide the creation of new exhibits that will interpret the history of the Mississippi Delta. 

“We are excited to learn about the museum’s plans to incorporate our five cultural heritage themes,” said Herts. “The Management Plan was written as a resource for the people of the Mississippi Delta, particularly for cultural programming that stimulates tourism in the region and promotes local education and pride of place. By doing this, the Museum of the Mississippi Delta not only will be fulfilling its mission, but it also will be demonstrating how our institutions and citizens can actively engage with the Heritage Area.”

The MDNHA’s five cultural heritage themes are: (1) The Mississippi Delta and the Land It Embraces; (2) The Culture of the Blues and the Birth of an American Sound; (3) Moving Toward Freedom: Changing America’s Character in the Struggle for Rights; (4) Growing More than Cotton: The Delta as a Wellspring of Creativity; and (5) The Delta Divide: Creating the Delta’s Diverse Communities. 

“The Museum of the Mississippi Delta sees the importance of telling the Delta’s story comprehensively and inclusively,” said Taylor, “We can achieve this by interpreting Heritage Area themes in our new exhibits. The Museum is well known for its extensive Native American collection, as well as military and agricultural artifacts and Mississippi artwork. We look forward to using our collections to create innovative exhibits centered on the MDNHA themes.” 

After touring the museum, Herts spoke at the Greenwood Rotary Club. The presentation included an overview of the Delta Center’s role as MDNHA’s management entity, as well as the MDNHA’s goals and themes. Herts also discussed recent expansion of the MDNHA Passport Program throughout the 18-county region. The Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau serves as the passport stamp location for Leflore County. 

“The Greenwood CVB is pleased to collaborate with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Passport Program,” said Tonja Ray Smith, CVB executive director, “By hosting the passport for Leflore County, we will welcome travelers to our community, direct them to area attractions like the Museum of the Mississippi Delta, and encourage them to visit other destinations throughout the Mississippi Delta that will educate tourists about the national significance of the Delta’s culture.” 

Herts also highlighted upcoming partnership events that promote MDNHA cultural heritage themes. These events include the opening reception of the Winning the Race diversity conference at Delta State University scheduled for March 30, which will provide Delta residents and visitors an opportunity to meet Robert Stanton, the first African American director of the National Park Service. The MDNHA will also be hosting Delta Jewels Community Gatherings featuring journalism professor, Alysia Burton Steele, and her new book of photography and oral histories on African American church mothers from the Delta. The gatherings will take place in municipalities across the region, including Clarksdale, Charleston, Ruleville, Indianola and Yazoo City.

The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. 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 www.msdeltaheritage.com.

The mission of the Delta Center 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. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

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Delta Center welcomes new director

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is pleased to announce the arrival of its new director, Dr. Rolando Herts. Herts officially began serving in his new role Aug. 18 after the retirement of Dr. Luther Brown, who established the Delta Center in the year 2000.

“I am excited about working with colleagues at Delta State and partners throughout the Mississippi Delta region,” said Herts. “The Delta Center will be managing the implementation of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, as well as overseeing the International Delta Blues Project. These and other exciting initiatives and programs will utilize the region’s rich cultural heritage as a tool for promoting education, tourism, community engagement and economic development.”

Brown said he looks forward to seeing Herts take on the leading role.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is benefiting the entire Mississippi Delta. It has a strong management plan, and Rolando Herts will lead the effort to turn the plan into reality,” said Brown.

Herts has years of experience working in and conducting research on the Delta region. After completing undergraduate and graduate programs at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the University of Chicago, he returned to the Delta to teach second grade in Indianola with Teach For America. He also directed TRIO Student Support Services at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

While at Pine Bluff, he exposed students to educational cultural heritage and civil rights attractions in Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham and in Arkansas communities. He earned a doctorate in planning and public policy from Rutgers University, where he examined the MDNHA as a case study of university-community tourism engagement.

“I spent formative years in Eudora, Arkansas, and graduated from Little Rock Central High School, a National Historic Site of the National Park Service — where nine black students led school integration efforts in 1957,” said Herts. “Growing up, all around me were reminders of the importance of cultural heritage, education and community.

“Attending Morehouse reinforced this with educational, social justice and heritage leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays and Dr. Wendell Whalum as exemplars. While working on my doctorate at Rutgers, I met Dr. Luther Brown through Ron Nurnberg, executive director of Teach For America Mississippi Delta. Dr. Brown has been an excellent mentor who has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote cultural heritage in and for the Delta region. I am humbled by this opportunity to help carry on this important legacy.”

Given its management role with the MDNHA and the International Delta Blues Project, the Delta Center will be expanding its capacity to serve as a regional connector and resource for understanding and celebrating the Mississippi Delta’s cultural heritage. Through funding from the Hearin Foundation, the center will soon be hiring a director of blues studies. Undergraduate internship and graduate assistantship positions also will be created, providing Delta State students with experience that will prepare them to engage with the Delta’s emerging cultural economy.

“The Delta region was fortunate to have a visionary like Dr. Luther Brown come into the Delta and open all our eyes to our rich heritage,” said Lee Aylward, DCCl program associate for education and community outreach. “With the arrival of Dr. Herts, the Delta Center will be spreading its wings, not only building on this legacy, but also expanding programming and engagement throughout the Delta.

“As a native of the Delta, Dr. Herts brings to the table an understanding and desire to help promote the region and its importance to the world. With the new program in blues studies coming to the Delta Center, and the approval of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s management plan, these are exciting times at the Delta Center. Dr. Herts’ education, background and energy make him the ideal person to lead us to the next level.”

To learn more about the The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, visithttp://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com/. More information on the International Delta Blues Project is available at http://www.deltastate.edu/president/international-blues-conference/.

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Delta Center hosts Sam Houston State

Sam Houston State University students recently visited the Delta Center for Culture and Learning to learn about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

Sam Houston State University students recently visited the Delta Center for Culture and Learning to learn about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

The Delta State University Delta Center for Culture and Learning recently introduced a geography class from Sam Houston State University to the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

The class, led by Dr. John Strait, spent a week in the Delta exploring the blues, civil rights issues and the Great Migration. Lee Aylward of the Delta Center gave the class an overview of the Delta’s cultural heritage.

Strait has been coming to the Delta several times each year for over a decade. He is a regular lecturer in the Delta Center’s annual National Endowment for the Humanities workshops. Additionally, he brings his own classes once or twice each year.

The Delta Center is the manager of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, a partnership with the National Park Service. Learn more about the Delta Center’s rich history at http://www.blueshighway.org. Visit http://www.neh.gov/ to read about the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Delta Center director receives service award

L to R: Heather Miller and Lee Aylward of the Delta Center, Dr. Henry Outlaw, formerly of the Delta Center, and Dr. Charles McAdams, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Delta State.

L to R: Heather Miller and Lee Aylward of the Delta Center, Dr. Henry Outlaw, formerly of the Delta Center, and Dr. Charles McAdams, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Delta State.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust recently awarded Dr. Luther Brown, Director of the Delta State Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area the “Heritage Award for Distinguished Service.”

“I’m deeply honored to receive this award in recognition of the establishment of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Many people and numerous entities have worked hard to make this Heritage Area possible, and some have worked for over a decade to see this happen,” said Brown.

This recognition is in honor of all of these individuals and groups who have partnered to promote the Delta’s heritage, and I thank them for their continued enthusiasm and hard work.”

The Delta Center is the manager of the Heritage Area. The award was presented in Tupelo during the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s annual meeting. Dr. Brown could not attend in person, so Lee Aylward of the Delta Center accepted the award on his behalf.

“It is very fitting that Dr. Brown has been recognized by the Mississippi Heritage Trust at its bi-annual meeting with an award for Distinguished Service. From its inception fourteen years ago, the Delta Center through his leadership has introduced hundreds in this country and abroad  to the importance of the Mississippi Delta to our country and to the rest of the world, and it is through his efforts that the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is being established,” said Aylward.

His work will remain as a standard for others to continue this important work.”

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Delta Center welcomes Robertson Scholars

From left to right, the scholars (with their University and home Country or State) are: Tierney Maray (Duke, Australia), Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi (Duke, New Zealand), Oluwasanmi (Sanmi) Oyenuga (Duke, Nigeria), Sebastian Baquerizo (Duke, Ecuador), Jacob Oliffe (UNC, Australia), Griffin Unger (UNC, US - Pennsylvania), Virginia Hamilton (UNC, US - Georgia), Jaclyn Lee (UNC, US - California), Charlotte McKay (UNC, New Zealand)

From left to right, the scholars (with their University and home Country or State) are: Tierney Maray (Duke, Australia), Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi (Duke, New Zealand), Oluwasanmi (Sanmi) Oyenuga (Duke, Nigeria), Sebastian Baquerizo (Duke, Ecuador), Jacob Oliffe (UNC, Australia), Griffin Unger (UNC, US - Pennsylvania), Virginia Hamilton (UNC, US - Georgia), Jaclyn Lee (UNC, US - California), Charlotte McKay (UNC, New Zealand)

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning has welcomed another set of interns from Duke and the University of North Carolina.

These Robertson Scholars all receive full tuition for all four years of their education and are required to enroll in classes at both universities. During the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, they participate in service projects in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York City or the Mississippi Delta.

Subsequent summers are spent anywhere in the world. Scholars typically stay in the Delta for about two months. The Delta Center acts as the home base for those scholars serving in the Delta and presents weekend trips to heritage sites in and around the Delta.

The first trip of the summer was to Memphis, where the scholars were introduced to Graceland, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the National Civil  Rights Museum and Beale Street.  The Delta Center’s Lee Aylward led the tour.

For more information on the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, please call 662-846-4311.

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