News Releases

Lanterns on the Levee Original Manuscript Donated to MDAH

June 13, 2024

The estate of William Alexander Percy has donated the original handwritten manuscript of Percy's 1941 autobiography and bestseller, Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son, to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).  

Born May 14, 1885, in Greenville, Percy was a Harvard Law School graduate, poet, and owner of Trail Lake Planting Co. In Lanterns on the Levee, Percy reflects on pivotal events such as the devastating Mississippi River flood of 1927, as well as the profound societal transformations that occurred in the South during the Progressive Era, World War I, and the Great Depression. Percy died on January 21, 1942, in Greenville at age 56.  

“MDAH is grateful to the Percy family for this generous donation to the archives,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “Lanterns on the Levee is a fascinating and important book, and we are thrilled to be able to offer researchers access to the author’s original handwritten manuscript. This addition complements the Percy Family Papers at MDAH, which also includes the correspondence and papers of William Alexander Percy and his father Sen. LeRoy Percy, providing unique insight into Delta culture and society of the day.” 

The donation consists of nine notebooks of the manuscript of Lanterns on the Levee, in addition to sheet music with Percy's poetry set to musical compositions, and four letters from Percy to Gerstle Mack, biographer of Paul Cezanne, in which he responds to Mack’s criticisms of his manuscript.  

While the collection is being processed, researchers who want to view the manuscript may request access by contacting the archival curator at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building; however, the Percy Family Papers are currently available for research in the archival reading room.  

The MDAH collection also contains manuscripts by other prominent Mississippi authors, including the manuscripts of Eudora Welty novels and short story collections, such as Delta Wedding and A Curtain of Green, and the typescripts of plays by Beth Henley, including The Miss Firecracker Contest, Crimes of the Heart, and The Wake. 

MDAH was founded in 1902 to collect, preserve, and provide access to the archival resources of the state. It is the second-oldest state department of archives and history in the United States.  

For more information, call 601-576-6876 or email 



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