The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has awarded the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) its Award of Excellence for the Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics special exhibit at the Two Mississippi Museums. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. The exhibit runs through Saturday, June 26, 2021.
Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics is an immersive exhibition exploring the state’s tumultuous relationship with alcohol from the colonial period to today. It features fascinating artifacts, enticing stories, and surprising images that take visitors on a journey that begins with ancient alcohols and the science of spirits through the social problems that led to the upheaval of the temperance movement and its impact on voting rights, lynchings, child labor laws, and domestic violence.
Visitors will walk through a saloon façade to learn about unregulated alcohol in the Mississippi Territory. Artifacts from religious organizations help tell the story of alcohol in sacred rites. Medicines and original nineteenth-century prescriptions document how whiskey was used to treat everything from the common cold to heart disease and diabetes.
After the widespread use of alcohol during early statehood, Mississippians began to fight against alcohol and the social problems it helped fuel. The stories of Carrie Belle Kearney and Bishop C. B. Galloway explore the complex motivations behind temperance.
In 1908, Mississippi passed statewide prohibition—twelve years before National Prohibition became law. The Wettest Dry State gallery depicts the next fifty-eight years in a state where alcohol was supposedly banned and features stories of moonshiners, blues players, bootleggers, law makers, gamblers, and enforcement officers. Highlights include a moonshine still confiscated by the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department and video of alcohol raids and barrel breaking.
The gallery spotlights illegal alcohol at the white-collar resorts of the Gulf Coast and the strip of nightclubs known as the Gold Coast or ’Cross the River in Rankin County, ending with the infamous Jackson Country Club Raid of 1966 and the political changes that led to Prohibition’s repeal.
Mississippi Distilled closes with local option elections that keep Prohibition alive in many Mississippi counties. Stories of the alcohol industry—including some of the state’s oldest breweries, distilleries, and distribution companies—round out the exhibition. Visitors are invited to share their own memories of a dry Mississippi.
The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena. For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, or go to www.aaslh.org.
The exhibit runs through Saturday, June 26, 2021, in the FedEx and Medgar and Myrlie Evers Exhibition Halls at the Two Mississippi Museums and is made possible with the support of Southern Beverage Company, Inc.
Ticket prices for Mississippi Distilled are $15 for adults and $8 for children and include admission to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Discounts are available for children under three, students, seniors, active duty and military veterans, and groups of ten or more. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to the museums is free on Sundays.