[Mississippi History Newsletter Online.]

A MDAH Publication  |  Volume 46 No. 9  |  September 2004

Using Oral Histories: September 17-19

Mississippi Cultural Crossroads (MCC) will co-sponsor a statewide conference, "Telling the People's Story: From Tape and Transcript to Public Programs," in Port Gibson Friday, September 17, through Sunday, September 19.

The three-day event will feature speakers, exhibits, demonstrations, theater performances, and hands-on workshops designed to show how oral histories can provide the basis for public programs in the humanities at the community level.

Among the key national figures who will participate in the conference are Paul Hendrickson, author of Sons of Mississippi, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book about seven Mississippi sheriffs and their descendants, and their changing attitudes toward race since the 1960s; Alan Trachtenberg, professor emeritus, Yale University, whose pioneering book Reading Photographs: Images as History, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans, has become a classic in the field; Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museums, creator of "Quilt Treasures," a collection of quilters' oral histories; Alison Carey, playwright and co-founder of Cornerstone Theater Company and producer of a bi-racial production of Romeo and Juliet in Port Gibson 1988-89; and Roland Freeman, photographer and author of A Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers, and their Stories.

The conference will feature sessions on using oral history to create theater, exhibits, educational Web sites, documentaries, and publications.

The conference is directed to persons and groups—including teachers—who have collected or are thinking of collecting oral histories and want to explore how the stories can be used in public programs for the communities that generate them.

This conference is financially assisted by the Mississippi Humanities Council through the statewide oral history funds appropriated to MDAH by the Mississippi Legislature.

For further information contact Patricia Crosby at MCC, 601/ 437-8905, or Barbara Carpenter at the Humanities Council, 601/ 432-6752 or visit their Web site.

Airport Restaurant Celebrates Mississippi Musicians

On Stage, a new restaurant at the Jackson International Airport, invites the public to an open house September 8 at 3 p.m. to view the exhibits of some of the musicians in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and enjoy southern-style fare. Exhibits range from blues to gospel, country to pop, jazz to R&B. The Mississippi Music Hall of Fame gathered artifacts and photographs and installed the exhibits. Among the original items displayed are a guitar, "Golden" records, stage outfits, and album covers. The Hall of Fame-sponsored annual seminar and talent contest for students will be held September 11. For more information, contact Jim Brewer by phone (601/894-5601) or email.

2004 Inductees: Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame

Six legendary Mississippi musicians are slated to enter the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, according to Hall of Fame director Jim Brewer. The inductees are, for blues, Sonny Boy Williamson; for country music, the Mississippi Sheiks; for R&B, Jerry Butler; for jazz, Teddy Edwards; for black gospel, C. L. Franklin; and for rock, Jackie Brenston. These musicians were elected to the Hall of Fame by a large advisory committee made up of important music scholars and performers.

Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) of Glendora was the star of KFFA's "King Biscuit Hour" radio show. In Chicago he developed electrified harmonica styles that have influenced all harp players since.

The Mississippi Sheiks were among the most popular artists of the 1930s. Their repertoire drew black and white rural music: blues, pop music, hokum, white country, and traditional songs. Their song "Sitting on Top of the World" has become an enduring standard.

Jerry Butler, Sunflower native, produced many national hits in the crooner tradition on both R&B and pop charts, among them "For Your Precious Love" and "He Will Break Your Heart."

C. L. Franklin, born near Indianola, gained fame for his preaching and recorded more than seventy albums of his preaching and singing that sold widely over two decades and influenced the music of many musicians, including his daughter, Aretha. He was known as the "jitterbug preacher."

Teddy Edwards, Jackson native, traveled with the Doc Parmly band, and then moved to California, where he became famous for his style of playing the saxophone, emphasizing new styles and favoring improvisation over the more set "swing" jazz. Edwards was a key figure in the formation of "bebop" on the West Coast.

Clarksdale's Jackie Brenston recorded "Rocket '88" (written by Mississippians James Cotton and Ike Turner and backed by Turner's Delta Cats) in Sam Phillips's Memphis studio. Phillips sold it to Chess Records in 1951, and it is now considered to be a serious contender for the first rock and roll record.

MDAH Events

The Copper Magnolia Festival and Flea Market and Children's Fishing Rodeo will be held Saturday, September 18, at Historic Jefferson College, Washington. The annual crafts fair features handmade crafts, gear for Civil War reenactments, music, food, and entertainment for children. Admission is free. For more information call 601/442-2901.

Bark in the Park, the annual fund-raiser for the Natchez Humane Society, will be held Saturday, September 25, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, Natchez. Admission (donation) is required for dog show. For more information call 601/ 446-6502.


Music Giant Honored

Lester "Prez" Young, legendary tenor saxophonist, will be honored at the ninth annual Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Festival, Greenville, and at a concert at the Rhythms Cajun Restaurant, Green-ville. Jazz artists Ron Myers and London Branch are featured. For more information, please email MyersFound@aol.com.

Seeks Histories

Barbara King, Jackson transplant from Schenectady, New York, requests that MDAH let the public know of her interest in recording oral histories. She will donate all histories to the USM oral history program. Those interested in having their life histories recorded can contact King, 631G Hampton Circle, Jackson, MS 39211, 601/ 572-8124 or via email.

Welty House Repairs

The repair of the Eudora Welty House foundation is in progress, according to Elbert R. Hilliard, MDAH director. Some years ago Welty had contracted with Bob Ewing of Jackson to oversee partial repairs to the foundation. Ewing, who has come out of retirement to serve as the structural engineer for this project, reports that, at the bottom of their earlier contract, Welty had written a small note: "Please do not do violence to my house."

Since a conventional house-leveling job might harm bushes and plants close to the house, repairs are being done from inside the crawl space under the house—arthroscopic surgery, as project director Robert P. Adams, architect, described the work. Eudora Welty and her mother planted most of the shrubs, which are considered part of the historic fabric of the site.

A special 6-foot-high drill rig is being used to drill fifty holes, 25-30-feet deep, through the weathered, yellow Yazoo clay down to the stable, blue unweathered Yazoo clay. The yellow clay is removed and the holes filled with concrete. Then the house will be jacked up and the brick wall repaired. The tiled front porch has been encapsulated to prevent its being damaged during the job, which will be completed this fall.This project is being funded by the Eudora Welty Foundation.


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Published by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History • Elbert R. Hilliard, director • Chrissy Wilson, editor
Please send correspondence to: MHN, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205 or email to pubinfo@mdah.state.ms.us