News

FedEx Sponsors MLK Day Celebration at State History, Civil Rights Museums

FedEx Corporation is supporting free admission to the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 18. The museums will also open free of charge Sunday, January 17.

“We are grateful to FedEx Corporation for their continued support of our annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. "Their generosity allows us to invite the public to safely celebrate Dr. King's life at the museums and through virtual programming."

The museums will open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Safety precautions at museums include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, January 18, the annual MLK Night of Culture program will livestream on the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Facebook page. Writer and poet C. Leigh McInnis will headline the event, which includes live painting, music, and spoken word performances by local artists. This year’s theme is “I Am a Man,” a declaration of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strikers. King joined activists Rev. James Lawson, T.O. Jones, and others in support of the sanitation strike.

A new special exhibition, I AM A MAN: Civil Rights Photographs in the American South, 1960–1970, will open at the museums Saturday, January 30, 2021. It will feature a wide range of photographs capturing key events of the Civil Rights Movement across the South, including James Meredith’s integration of the University of Mississippi, the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Martin Luther King’s funeral, and the Poor People’s Campaign.

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, the New Stage Theatre production The Debate for Democracy, a conversation between Martin Luther King Jr. organizer Ella Baker, and activist Fannie Lou Hamer, will livestream on the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Facebook page.

Dr. King’s involvement in Mississippi includes attending the funeral of NAACP state field secretary Medgar Evers in 1963, visiting Greenwood in support of Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964, and testifying in support of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) during the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

For more information, call 601-576-6800 or visit twomississippimuseums.com.

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State Leaders Raise New Flag at State Capitol

On Monday, January 11, Governor Tate Reeves signed the bill ratifying the newly adopted state flag at the Two Mississippi Museums. Afterwards, Governor Reeves joined Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn to lead a flag-raising ceremony on the grounds of the Mississippi State Capitol. 

Legislators retired the 1894 flag last summer and created the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag to select a new banner to represent the state. The commission solicited ideas from the public, held open meetings at the Two Mississippi Museums, and conducted polls before selecting a design to place on the ballot for voters. Mississippians voted overwhelmingly to approve the flag on November 3, 2020. 

The bill creating the commission also instructed lawmakers to enact the proposed flag into law if voters approved the design. The first action of the state legislature during the 2021 session was passage of House Bill No. 1, which enacts the new design into law. 

To mark the occasion, Lieutenant Governor Hosemann said, “From our world-famous authors to the unmatched beauty of our natural resources, Mississippi has always been a place with limitless potential. In ratifying the peoples vote and in raising this new banner, we are signaling to the rest of the world we are ready to realize this potential, we are open for business, and we are living up to our welcoming reputation of hospitality. Today, we take a great step toward making Mississippi an even better place for our children and grandchildren, and for this I could not be any more proud.” 

Philip Gunn, Speaker of the House, shared this: “As I talked to people who voted for changing the flag, one question motivated them: ‘Will I be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eyes and be proud of my vote?’ Mississippians answered them loud and clear, once and for all. With an astounding majority we as a state were united in showing the world that we choose to stand on the right side of history. This new flag boldly declares our trust in God, as a state. As we enter into a new year, a new session, may God bless our efforts, and may God bless the state of Mississippi as we set sail under this new flag.” 

Learn more about the process of creating the new state flag here. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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Nancy Bristow Wins Historical Society Award for Best Book on Mississippi History

Nancy BristowA book about the tragic 1970 shooting deaths of James Earl Green and Phillip Gibbs at Jackson State University has won the Mississippi Historical Society’s award for the best Mississippi history book of 2020. Nancy Bristow will be awarded the Book of the Year Award for her book Steeped in the Blood of Racism: Black Power, Law and Order, and the 1970 Shootings at Jackson State College published by the Oxford University Press.

“Long treated as an appendage to the tragedy at Kent State, the May 1970 JSU student protests and subsequent killings of Green and Gibbs have deserved a thorough, book-length study that places these events within their proper local and national context,” said Chuck Westmoreland, Delta State University history professor and chair of the book prize committee. “Placing the Jackson State University shootings in a proper national and local context, Bristow is able to highlight the role of local politics and law enforcement in the perpetration of the murders.”

Westmoreland continued, “Furthermore, as Mississippi and the nation continue to wrestle with the damaging legacies of racism and violence, it is fitting that Steeped in the Blood of Racism has won this honor.”

Bristow is chair of the History Department at the University of Puget Sound. She teaches twentieth-century American history, with an emphasis on race, gender, and social change.

“This project has meant a great deal to me, because it is a story that is not mine, but which I believe so deeply others need to know,” said Bristow. “I consider this an honor earned by those who kept this story alive for decades and decades.”

The Book of the Year Award goes to the best book on a subject related to Mississippi history or biography published during the previous year. The prize carries a $700 cash award.

Bristow will accept the award and deliver a lecture during the 2021 Mississippi Historical Society Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually on Friday, March 5. Register online for the free conference. Copies of Bristow’s book can be purchased from the Mississippi Museum Store.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching, and preserving Mississippi History. Membership is open to anyone; benefits include receiving the Journal of Mississippi History, the Mississippi History Newsletter, and discounts at the Mississippi Museum Store. For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6856.

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Former Governor William F. Winter, Champion of History, Dies

William F. Winter led the MDAH Board of Trustees for nearly fifty years, making an unmistakable impact on the department and the state.

Winter’s greatest legacy at MDAH was the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums in 2017. Winter helped convince state leaders of the need to build the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and he was instrumental in securing public and private funds for the project. MDAH director Katie Blount said, “These museums stand at the intersection of William Winter’s greatest passions—history, education, and racial justice. Generations of young people will come here to experience the stories that have shaped our state and nation.”

As Winter said during the opening ceremony, “These museums will challenge all of us to have a better understanding of where we have come from, and then inspire us to work harder to find our common ideals and goals. We will find that we have much more in common than what might appear to divide us.”

William Winter joined the MDAH board in 1957, was elected president in 1969, and served in that role until 2007. During that time, he oversaw the opening of the Eudora Welty House, the restoration of the Old Capitol, and the construction of a state-of-the-art archives building that the state legislature named for him. 

Reuben V. Anderson, president of the MDAH Board of Trustees, recalled, “With his encouragement, MDAH strengthened its focus on African American history in Mississippi, acquiring significant collections of papers, mounting award-winning exhibits, and offering grants for the preservation of sites associated with African American history. Most notably, his close friendship with Myrlie Evers led to her decision to donate the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Collection to MDAH in 2002.”

According to the official obituary, memorial contributions can be made to the Foundation for Mississippi History. Gov. Winter was the leading force behind the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. His goal was for every Mississippi student to visit these museums at least once. Over the last years of his life, Winter helped raise funds to endow field trips to both museums for schools with limited resources. With his help the Foundation for Mississippi History has raised half of the $4 million endowment to make this possible. Contributions in Winter’s memory can be made to the William Winter Education Fund, FMH, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205.

A memorial service will be held once the dangers from COVID-19 abate and it is safe to gather for a service. Condolences to the Winter family may be mailed to P.O. Box 427, Jackson, MS 39205.

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Museum at Winterville Mounds to Close for Future Renovation

The Visitor Center and Museum at Winterville Mounds will remain closed for future renovation and interpretation of its exhibits. The historic grounds will remain open to the public and will continue to be monitored by MDAH personnel. A new on-site brochure is in development to provide visitors with information and direction around the site.

MDAH will develop a new comprehensive interpretation plan for Winterville Mounds with support from the Native American Tribes. Future developments for the site will feature upgraded museum exhibits, public programming, an orientation film for visitors, and outdoor signage and trails.

With the help of the Greenville Garden Club and Winterville Mounds Association, recent improvements to the site have included historic preservation of the grounds, landscaping work on the mounds, refurbished pavilion areas with new picnic tables and grills for families, a new pedestrian overpass, and new outdoor signage. Mound A remains barricaded as MDAH continues to work with the Tribes, local engineers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair sloughing due to heavy rains.

Winterville Mounds is a prehistoric ceremonial center built by a Native American civilization that thrived from about A.D. 1000 to 1450. Its most prominent feature is the 55-foot-tall Temple Mound, the tallest mound between Natchez and Cahokia, Ill.

A National Historic Landmark, Winterville Mounds is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Located at 2415 1 North, Greenville, the 42-acre park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Free of charge. For more information, email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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MDAH Among Top Genealogy Websites in U.S.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s (MDAH) website was named one of the best genealogical websites in the country by Family Tree Magazine, a national family history publication.

“We are grateful for being included on this list,” said Ally Mellon, MDAH library services director. “We strive to connect people with genealogical resources pertaining to Mississippi both online and in person and are delighted others have found the page useful.”

MDAH has compiled a list of online resources for researchers interested in tracing their family history. Reference librarians provide quick answers to basic questions using available reference works and finding aids. Email your research questions to refdesk@mdah.ms.gov.

Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, appointments are recommended for research in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building. Available appointment times are Monday–Friday at 9–11:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., and 2–4 p.m.  Call 601-576-6837 to schedule your time. Patrons without an appointment will be accommodated as space allows.

Appointment times for Saturdays will be 8:15–10:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History was founded in 1902. It is the second-oldest state department of archives and history in the country. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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Holiday Hours at MDAH Sites

Holiday HoursMuseum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

The Possum Ridge model train exhibit will be on display at the Two Mississippi Museums through December. Regular museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. The museums are open free of charge on Sundays from noon–4 p.m. Safety precautions at museums include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. The museums will close ThursdayFriday, December 2425, for Christmas and Friday, January 1, for New Year's Day.

Eudora Welty House & Garden

Eudora Welty House & Garden tours take place 9 & 11 a.m. and 1 & 3 p.m., Tuesday–Friday, and 1 & 3 p.m. on Saturday. Purchase tickets by phone at 601-353-7762 or by email info@eudoraweltyhouse.com. The museum will close ThursdayFridayDecember 2425, for Christmas and Friday, January 1, for New Year's Day.

William F. Winter Archives and History Building

The state archives will close November 26–28, December 24–December 26, and December 31–January 1. Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the reading rooms at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building will be open Monday–Saturday, 8:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m. Appointments are recommended. and available times are 8:15–10:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. Call 601-576-6837 to schedule your time. Patrons without an appointment will be accommodated as space allows.

For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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State History, Civil Rights Museums Partner with Mississippi Food Network

The Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum announce a Holiday Food Drive to benefit the Mississippi Food Network (MFN). Visitors who donate non-perishable food items from November 24 through December 23 will receive free admission to the Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and the special exhibit Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics, or a 20% discount at the Mississippi Museum Store. See below for details.

“The museums are committed to helping the community, and we know that food insecurity has historically been a challenge across the state,” said Pamela D.C. Junior, director of the Two Mississippi Museums. “We are proud to work with MFN to bring awareness to this issue.”

“The Coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented increase in the demand for food, statewide,” said Dr. Charles Beady Jr, CEO at the Mississippi Food Network. “In that regard, this tremendous gesture by the Two Mississippi Museums is welcomed, needed, and appreciated. We have seen an increase in the number of Mississippi families, senior citizens, and children who are facing food insecurity, and we expect this number to continue to rise as more families are faced with uncertainty during this time.” 

Suggested donation is five items per person for free admission or a 20% discount on merchandise at the Mississippi Museum Store. Non-perishable items include:

  • Canned meat, such as ham, tuna, chicken, Spam, Vienna Sausage, beef stew, and chicken and dumplings
  • Canned fruit, regular and lite
  • Canned vegetables
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Canned soups
  • Boxed stuffing mix
  • Boxed mashed or scalloped potatoes
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese
  • Ramen noodles.

Mississippi Food Network has been feeding Mississippians since 1984. MFN distributes more than 1.5 million pounds of food and feeds more than 150,000 every month—or a total of 1.8 million people per year. 

Safety precautions at the museums include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. Masks are available on-site. All public spaces have been sanitized, and thorough cleaning will continue every day. Hand sanitizing stations are provided and staff are on-site to ensure that social distancing guidelines are maintained. A limited number of visitors are allowed inside the museums at one time.

The maximum number of people per group is twenty. Regular museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. The museums are open free of charge on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

The museums and the Mississippi Museum Store are located at 222 North Street in Jackson. For more information email info@mdah.ms.gov.

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State History, Civil Rights Museums to Honor Essential Workers with Free Admission

In appreciation of all frontline and essential workers who have saved lives and given their services during the COVID-19 pandemic, admission to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will be free on Tuesday, November 17, 9 a.m.4 p.m. These individuals include health care workers, teachers, law-enforcement officers, fire fighters, and others. Guests will not be required to provide identification to receive free admission.

Safety precautions at museums include requiring all visitors to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. Masks are available on-site. All public spaces have been sanitized, and thorough cleaning will continue every day. Hand sanitizing stations are provided and staff are on-site to ensure that social distancing guidelines are maintained. A limited number of visitors are allowed inside the museums at one time. 

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online at tickets.mdah.ms.gov. The maximum number of people per group is twenty. Regular museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.4 p.m. The museums are open free of charge on Sundays from noon4 p.m. The museums are located at 222 North Street in Jackson. For more information, email info@mdah.ms.gov. 

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MDAH Accepting Applications for Welty Research Fellowship

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) is now accepting applications for the 2021 Eudora Welty Research Fellowship. Offered in partnership with the Eudora Welty Foundation, this annual fellowship awards a $5,000 stipend to one graduate student to conduct research using the Eudora Welty Collection at MDAH for two weeks during the summer. The deadline is March 26, 2021.

“This is the eleventh consecutive year the Eudora Welty Foundation has funded the award," said David Pilcher, director of MDAH Archives and Record Services. "Their generosity makes it possible for yet another highly-qualified fellow to travel to the state archives and use these one-of-a-kind materials."

Download the application and other materials HERE. The stipend may be used for travel, housing, and other expenses during the fellow’s two-week minimum stay in Jackson.

The Eudora Welty Collection is the world’s finest collection of materials related to Welty and one of the most varied literary collections in the United States. The collection includes manuscripts, letters, photographs, drawings, and essays that span Welty’s entire life.

Beginning in 1957, and over the course of more than forty years, Welty donated materials to the department, primarily literary manuscripts and photographs. At her death the remainder of her papers were bequeathed to MDAH and included unpublished manuscripts and 14,000 items of correspondence with family, friends, scholars, young writers, and noted writers.

The collection may be accessed at the William F. Winter Archives & History Building, 200 North Street, Jackson. The application is available at mdah.ms.gov. For more information about the collection or the fellowship, email April Blevins at ablevins@mdah.ms.gov.

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