In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, we are highlighting one of the most pivotal music-related National Register sites in the state, Dockery Farms. Listed as a National Register District for its contributions to social and agricultural history, Dockery Farms is located in the Mississippi Delta outside of Ruleville in Sunflower County. It was here that Charley Patton lived, worked, and met his musical mentor Henry Sloan, who is attributed by Robert Palmer in his 1981 Deep Blues with teaching Patton what we now know as traditional country blues arrangements.

Dockery

Many other blues legends lived on or frequented Dockery including “Willie Brown, Son House, Robert Johnson, Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples, and Howlin’ Wolf.”(Lester, 2006, Sec.8, p.10) You can read the National Register nomination https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/nom/dist/194.pdf written in 2006 by William Lester, executive director of the Dockery Farms Foundation.

While places of birth, death, and internment are generally considered ineligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, many of the state’s significant music sites are recognized as contributing elements to the overall historical significance of districts added to the National Register.

Learn more about Mississippi’s National Register of Historic Places and , including music related sites by  visiting MDAH’s Historic Resources Inventory Database http://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/search.aspx.

Chloe Edwards, MDAH Electronic Records archivist, brings us this post in an ongoing series celebrating Electronic Records Day and Archives Month. The series features items from the MDAH disk collection.

Laurence C. Jones. Call Number: PI/ED/J65.7 (MDAH)

Laurence C. Jones. Call Number: PI/ED/J65.7 (MDAH)

When Cotton Blossoms: The Inspiring Life and Legacy of Dr. Laurence C. Jones

Call no.: Disk 0010

Format: DVD

Run time: 30 minutes

This documentary about the life and achievements of Dr. Laurence C. Jones, founder of the Piney Woods Country Life School in Rankin County, was a cherished project for director Scott A. Magie. Although Magie had actively sought to tell Dr. Jones’s story since 2006, the film was not made until 2009. Piney Woods commissioned When Cotton Blossoms to commemorate its one hundredth anniversary in 2009. With a script written by Magie and inspired by Beth Day’s book The Little Professor of Piney Woods, the film was shot in one short week in May on location at the Piney Woods School and the Jackson area. Many of the actors are Piney Woods students and faculty, and the soundtrack features the school’s Cotton Blossom Singers. When Cotton Blossoms won awards at several independent film festivals, including “Best in Show” at the 2012 Imago Film Festival in Chicago, Illinois, and “Best Documentary” at the 2010 Tupelo Film Festival in Tupelo, Mississippi, and 2010 Lake Michigan Film Competition in East Lansing, Michigan.

Piney Woods Country Life School fan. Accession number: 1996.3.4 (Museum Division Collection)

Piney Woods Country Life School fan. Accession number: 1996.3.4 (Museum Division Collection)

MORE INFORMATION:

To find out more about this disk, search our online catalogue for disk 0010. To browse the disk collection, navigate to the advanced search page, check the “Electronic Records” box, and type “disk” into the keyword search bar.

All catalogued disks are available to view or listen to in the Media Room; patrons should request disks from media staff using the four digit call number.

VIEWING NOTES:

As of October 2014, a trailer for this film is available to view online at http://youtube.com.

References:

When Cotton Blossoms. http://pineywoodsmovie.blogspot.com/

“When Cotton Blossoms: The Inspiring Life and Legacy of Dr. Laurence C. Jones.” Accessed October 3, 2014, http://pineywoodsmovie.com/index.html

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Artifacts: First African American Masons in State

On September 4, 2013, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us this post in her ongoing series about neat artifacts in the Museum Division collection.

Masonic banner, Stringer Lodge, Vicksburg. Accession number: 1987.11.1 (Museum Division collection)

Masonic banner, Stringer Lodge, Vicksburg. Accession number: 1987.11.1 (Museum Division collection)

This Masonic banner and apron are from the Stringer Lodge in Vicksburg. Organized in 1867 by Thomas W. Stringer, the lodge was the first African American Masonic lodge in Mississippi. Thomas Stringer was born in Maryland in 1815 and moved to Mississippi in 1865 to serve as a minister in the African Methodist Church. Seeing Masonry as a way to engage the newly freed men in select groups that would provide them with a greater sense of self-worth and fellowship, Stringer formed the first lodge in Vicksburg and soon other towns in Mississippi formed lodges, as well.

Masonic apron, Stringer Lodge, Vicksburg. Accession number: 1987.13.16 (Museum Division collection)

Masonic apron, Stringer Lodge, Vicksburg. Accession number: 1987.13.16 (Museum Division collection)

Source: Alferdteen Harrison, A History of the Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge: Our Heritage Is Our Challenge (1977).

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Medgar Evers: Travels and Connections

On July 9, 2013, in Archives, by Dorian Randall
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The life of Medgar Evers is synonymous with the civil rights struggle and his strong leadership in the movement. This series, written by Dorian Randall, will explore his life, work, and legacy using related collections at MDAH. This is the final post of the series.

Travel was an important part of Medgar Evers’ duties as NAACP field secretary.

 

This matchbook from Philadelphia, PA and money clip from Minnesota were found in the desk drawer in Evers' NAACP office and could habe been picked up on his travels. Accession number: 2004.21.10 and 2004.21.3a. (Medgar Evers collection)

This matchbook from Philadelphia, PA and money clip from Minnesota were found in the desk drawer in Evers’ NAACP office and could have been picked up on his travels. Accession number: 2004.21.10 and 2004.21.3a. (Museum Division Collection)

Evers traveled around the state to increase membership at local branches and across the country to give speeches at meetings and conferences. In June 1956, Evers attended the NAACP’s forty-seventh annual meeting in San Francisco, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an address championing direct action.1 In May1959, Evers spoke at the Los Angeles NAACP branch, and in September of that same year he traveled to Panama City, Florida to address the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.2 He made various political connections on these trips, forming a close relationship with U.S. Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr.

February 17, 1956 letter to Charles C. Diggs regarding voter registration. Call number: Z/2231.000/S, box 2, folder 4 (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)

February 17, 1956 letter to Charles C. Diggs regarding voter registration. Call number: Z/2231.000/S, box 2, folder 4 (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)

Diggs was a Michigan congressman and leader in African American voter registration. In 1956, Diggs and Evers wrote a series of letter to one another regarding intimidation and other illegal tactics that prevented voter registration for black Mississippians. Evers even introduced Diggs at a celebration for the third anniversary of the Brown ruling held at the Masonic Temple in Jackson.3

Evers and author James Baldwin.

Evers and author James Baldwin. Call number: Z.2231.4.009 (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)

Evers also connected with those in arts and entertainment. He met award-winning author James Baldwin of Harlem when Baldwin traveled to Jackson in 1962 in support of James Meredith, who had just enrolled at the University of Mississippi. “He had the calm of someone who knows they’re going to die before their time—like Martin Luther King,” Baldwin said of Evers.4 Baldwin accompanied Evers on a trip investigating a murder in rural Mississippi and the two men developed a close friendship. By then Baldwin was already an outspoken civil rights activist. His play Blues for Mister Charlie, which he began writing before Evers’ death in 1963, was based on the murder of Emmett Till. Baldwin said that when Evers died he “resolved that nothing under heaven would prevent me from getting this play done.”5 Baldwin dedicated Blues to Evers’ family and memory.


1 Michael V. Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 132.
2 Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, eds., The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), 140, 158.
3 Evers-Williams, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, 72.
4 W.J. Weatherby, James Baldwin: Artist on Fire (New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1989), 3.
5 Weatherby, James Baldwin, 237.

Medgar Evers: The NAACP and the Media

On June 26, 2013, in Archives, by Dorian Randall
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The life of Medgar Evers is synonymous with the civil rights struggle and his strong leadership in the movement. This series, written by Dorian Randall, will explore his life, work, and legacy using related collections at MDAH.

Mississippi media organizations played an essential role in maintaining the false perception of positive race relations in the state during the 1960s. Local officials presented an image of racial harmony and segregation as a voluntary act.1 Post-war era newspapers in the North and the South catered to white readership and rarely mentioned African Americans except in “Negro Editions.”2 The averaged newsroom was composed of a nearly all-white staff, but as nationwide desegregation efforts gained publicity in the 1950s and 1960s, Mississippi’s “closed society” was slowly crumbling. Medgar Evers helped reveal the truth about race relations in his home state.3

March 6, 1963 press release with handwritten edits form Evers and Aaron Henry to a Mississippi sheriff. Call number: Z/2231.000, box 2, folder 4 (Evers Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers, MDAH)

March 6, 1963 press release with handwritten edits from Evers and Aaron Henry to a Mississippi sheriff. Call number: Z/2231.000, box 3, folder 2 (Evers Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers, MDAH)

When Evers accepted the field secretary position with the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP in 1955, he was not only responsible for increasing membership in that group and investigating crimes against blacks, he also became a statewide spokesperson. Evers wrote many press releases and gave quotes to national news media. In a 1958 Ebony magazine interview, Evers expressed his love for Mississippi but also spoke of the trials that faced blacks in the state. “Now, when a Negro is mistreated, we try to tell the world about it,” he said.4 Evers and the NAACP publicized the facts ignored by mainstream media, shining a spotlight on the dire race situation in Mississippi. More and more, Evers’ work put him in the public eye. His notoriety would grow five years later.

The popularity of television proved crucial to Evers and the NAACP’s efforts to publicize racism in the state. He was already supporting, organizing, and participating in direct action demonstrations, but reaching more Mississippians meant putting a face to his name. In May 1963, he filmed an editorial for broadcast at the WLBT studios in Jackson. This was a controversial move for not only Evers but the station as well. In Changing Channels: The Civil Rights Case that Transformed Television, Kay Mills writes that WLBT was a symbol of dominant white rule because blacks were historically barred from on-and off-camera positions.5 That changed when Evers’ speech aired.

What then does the Negro want? He wants to get rid of racial segregation in Mississippi life because he knows it has not been good form him nor for the state. He knows that segregation is unconstitutional and illegal. While states may make laws and enforce certain local regulations none of these should be used to deprive any citizens of his rights under the Constitution.6

Evers had always pushed boundaries, and his television appearance was a landmark in Mississippi history. He petitioned station owners many times over the years, and his persistence ensured that the black perspective was broadcast to the masses.

To learn more about Evers’ presence in today’s media and culture, visit: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/06/02/medgar-evers-arts/2378249

 


1James W. Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1964), 4.
2David R. Davies, ed., The Press and Race: Mississippi Journalists and the Movement )Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), 5-8.
3Michael V. Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 88.
4Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, eds., The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), 116.
5Kay Mills, Changing Channels: The Civil Rights Case that Transformed Televison (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 14.
6Evers-Williams, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, 282.