MDNHA, Delta Center honor Black History Month with Delta Jewels partners

Delta Jewels with Alysia Burton Steele, Dr. Rolando Herts, and Jacqueline Dace, former project manager of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum at the 2015 Winning the Race conference. The Delta Jewels oral history partnership program will return to Delta State on Wednesday, February 17.

Delta Jewels with Alysia Burton Steele, Dr. Rolando Herts, and Jacqueline Dace, former project manager of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum at the 2015 Winning the Race conference. The Delta Jewels oral history partnership program will return to Delta State on Wednesday, February 17.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership has yielded a series of events promoting oral history education and awareness. These events have commemorated the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, which aims to engage diverse communities and develop lifelong connections with the public, especially youth.

The MDNHA continues its celebration of the NPS Centennial through the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. In February, the MDNHA is presenting the following oral history partnership programs in honor of Black History Month:

 Wednesday, February 17, hosted by the Diversity Committee at Delta State University

 Thursday, February 25, hosted by the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation in Vicksburg

 Friday, February 26, hosted by the Alcorn State University Wesley Foundation to be held in Norman

The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership was formed in 2015 and features “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 by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalism professor Alysia Burton Steele from the University of Mississippi. Since that time, Delta Jewels has been entered into the Library of Congress.

Steele also has been selected to receive the Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council on Friday, February 12 at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the MDNHA and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, nominated Steele for the award.

“I am so grateful that the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, The Delta Center, and the Mississippi Humanities Council see the importance of this work,” said Steele. “I partnered with the MDNHA to share oral histories throughout the state. This has helped spread the message that all of our elders – regardless of race, place, or gender – have voices and stories that need to be heard and collected by the next generation. By doing this, we all can be preservers of Mississippi culture.”

The partnership has engaged over 500 Delta residents and visitors through community gatherings in Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, and Mound Bayou, as well as Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena. Another program was held recently at Jackson State University in collaboration with the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO and the Margaret Walker Center.

“We are very pleased that there is ongoing demand for the Delta Jewels oral history programs,” said Herts. “Based on the positive feedback that we have received so far, it is clear that these programs have tremendous educational and cultural value that resonate with communities in and outside of the Delta region.”

Stacey Massey, Executive Director of the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, is excited about hosting a Delta Jewels program in Vicksburg.

“The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation is thrilled to play host to the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership,” said Massey. “We are honored to provide a space where these oral histories and portraits will be shared with those in the Vicksburg community.”

This will be the second time that a Delta Jewels program has been presented at Delta State and the first time at Alcorn State. Alcorn State is the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the United States and is included on the board of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

To learn more about hosting a Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership, contact Rolando Herts at, or call The Delta Center at 662-846-4311.

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

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

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Dr. Outlaw and Emmet Till

Dr. Henry Outlaw, with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, recently presented his research on the Emmett Till case to three ninth grade classes at Southaven Middle School in Southaven. Outlaw spoke on his research during the 50th anniversary of the Chicago youth’s death. The program was a part of the students' study of the Civil Rights Movement in their Mississippi History class. They also watched the PBS show "Eyes on the Prize."

In addition to aiding the students, Outlaw’s research also formed the basis of Delta State University’s traveling exhibit on the Emmett Till case.

The original Emmett Till exhibit was sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council and was developed from an oral history project Outlaw conducted that was also sponsored by the council.

With the popularity of the original exhibit, the traveling exhibit was developed by Delta State University Graphic Designer, Laura Walker and Delta State Archivist Emily Jones with editorial assistance from Outlaw. It has since travelled all over the United States and can be checked out on loan.

The Delta Center serves as the managing entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area . If you are interested in knowing more about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area visit or to find out more about the Delta Center, you can go to www.deltacenterforcultureandlearning.comor contact us at 662-846-4311.

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2015 NEH Workshop to be offered

Good News! The National Endowment for the Humanities, through its Landmarks in American History and Culture Program, will support two week-long workshops celebrating the heritage of the Mississippi Delta.  The Most Southern Place on Earth:  Music, Culture and History in the Mississippi Delta will explore the region’s impact on America’s music, foodways, civil rights, literary heritage, and political landscape.  Workshops will be offered to thirty seven participants each between June 21-17 and July 12-18, 2015.  They are open to K-12 teachers, including public, private, and home school, and librarians.  Five graduate credit hours may be earned.  This will be the sixth year of NEH support for this exciting workshop. Stipends of $1200 are available. Complete information and application materials are available from the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at   and additional information is provided by NEH at The Directors of the workshop are Dr. Luther Brown ( and Lee Aylward ( A special participant will be Dr. Rolando Herts (,) the new Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

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Delta Center provides a tour for a Jewish group

The Delta Center recently gave a tour to the TENT group.

The Delta Center recently gave a tour to the TENT group.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University recently provided an introduction to the Delta for the TENT group sponsored by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson.

The TENT program is a series of week-long seminars that immerse 21-30 year old Jews in full impact experiences of culture, cuisine and community. This group was led Rachel Myers of the Institute who described the week- long program as “beginning in New Orleans and spending a week travelling the Delta exploring the Jewish experience in one of this nation’s most distinctive, complicated, and fascinating regions, discovering the best that the South has to offer.

Music, art, food, and visits to Jewish communities large and small made this a week the participants will never forget. On their stop in Cleveland, they were introduced to the Delta by Dr. Rolando Herts and Lee Aylward of the Delta Center. They enjoyed a meal with the congregation of Temple Adath Israel and topped the evening off with a visit to Po Monkey’s, one of the last surviving rural juke joints or “jook” houses, as documented by Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston and blues folklorist Barry Lee Pearson.

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