The participation of local community partners in the Mississippi Delta and throughout the South is crucial to the Mississippi Freedom Project’s goals of documenting local history. Since 2008, SPOHP has partnered with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization and other groups to advance oral history collection related to the civil rights movement, and is sponsored by a variety of academic institutions and community groups.
The Mississippi Freedom Project and research trip is sponsored by George A. Smathers Libraries, Mr. William De Grove, the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, UF African American Studies program, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UF Office of Research, The Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization & The Sam Block Civil Rights Organization. The George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida grant funded processing for the MFP collection from 2013-2014.
Publication of “I Never Will Forget” (PDF) was co-sponsored by UF Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research,Center for Undergraduate Research, Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere, Department of History, Milbauer Program in Southern History, African American Studies Program, Phi Alpha Theta chapter, and George A. Smathers Libraries. George A. Smathers Libraries sponsored a mini-grant for MFP from 2013 – 2014, which enabled SPOHP to transcribe 100+ interviews for the reunion book and online archive.
Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization in Sunflower County, MS
The Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization connects SPOHP to interviewees throughout the Delta. Interviews collected during each trip are deposited in both archives at the University of Florida and with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization in Mississippi for educational use. Connection with the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization is spearheaded by history professor Dr. Stacey White of Mississippi Valley State University.
McComb Legacies Project in McComb, MS
The McComb Legacies Project is also a major partner of the Mississippi Freedom Project, connecting high school students in McComb, Mississippi with civil rights history on the annual MFP trip in Fall 2012 and Fall 2013. The Legacies Project, an after-school research group at McComb High School dedicated to providing students with opportunities to learn, document, and share their local history, is supported by collaborative efforts from the McComb School District, community members of the Local History Advisory Committee, and Teaching for Change on a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
In February 2013, McComb Legacies Project students prepared a two-day interactive conference to celebrate the premiere of their documentary for National History Day, where SPOHP researchers and movement veterans from the Fall 2012 MFP trip attended as historians and educators. The students later won National History Day’s statewide award for their documentary, “The Voting Rights Struggle: Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Delta State University in Cleveland, MS
Delta State University is the site of the MFP research trip’s public history presentation to audiences in Mississippi. The event, organized annually between 2009-2013, brings a panel of historians, movement activists, and local community members together to discuss topics related to memory of the civil rights movement.
Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center in Glendora, MS
The Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC) was founded to honor the memory of Emmett Till, an African American 14-year-old who was murdered in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white cashier at a grocery store in Money, MS. Till’s murder and open casket funeral was highly publicized, and the media attention surrounding his death served as a critical catalyst to galvanize organizers in the emerging civil rights movement. Housed in a reclaimed cotton gin in Glendora, the ETHIC museum serves as a repository for artifacts, photos, oral histories and audio-visual archives reflecting the history of Till’s kidnapping, brutal murder and the infamous trial that followed.
Since 2010, SPOHP annually visits ETHIC on the MFP research trip to introduce students to the violent history of race relations and unjust Jim Crow laws, as well as community-directed cultural heritage preservation in the Mississippi Delta.
Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights Museum in Belzoni, MS
The Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights Museum honors Mississippi’s “She-Ro” of the civil rights movement, Fannie Lou Hamer. The museum presents local history related to slavery, the Civil War, sharecropping, Blues and Gospel music, and is also an example of community-directed cultural heritage preservation in the Delta. Many stories are related personally by the museum director, Helen Sims, in her interpretation as the Old Storyteller personality, among others. The site also includes the Reverend George W. Lee Museum and Pinetop Perkins Blues Museum.
MFP research teams have been visiting the museum for tours and local history education since 2012.
Sunflower County Freedom Project in Sunflower County, MS
The Sunflower County Freedom Project is an after-school mentoring and college prep program in Sunflower, Mississippi, founded by former Teach for America volunteers with the mission to create a corps of academically capable, socially conscious, and mentally disciplined young leaders in the Mississippi Delta.
During the annual MFP research trip, SPOHP researchers visit the Sunflower County Freedom Project to conduct oral history interviews with students about what their education has been like in public schools, at the Freedom Project, and how they see the struggles and victories of the civil rights movement reflected in their own lives.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Mississippi
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union in the Delta is also a partner and guide to local history. Oral histories with UFCW organizers, including Eddie Steel and Rose Turner, are included in MFP archives.
Research trip and SPOHP staff alumni Candice Ellis wrote her master’s thesis, “Pickets in the Land of Catfish,” on the African American Labor Rights Struggle in the Catfish Industry of the Mississippi Delta, 1965-1990, focusing heavily on interviews with UFCW workers.
Museum of African American History, Natchez, MS
Community members established the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture (NAPAC) in 1990 and later set up a museum in Natchez Mississippi on Main Street to be a collection of information and artifacts that tells the story of African Americans’ contribution to Natchez. Director Darrell White and Kathy Moody facilitated oral history interview sessions and local history tours for MFP researchers for the first time in 2014, and SPOHP plans to return for additional work in 2015.
Friends of Justice, Arlington, TX
Friends of Justice formed in response to the infamous Tulia drug sting of 1999 in which 47 people, 39 of them African Americans, were rounded up based on the false testimony of an undercover agent. Friends of Justice emerged as a coalition of defendant’s families and other concerned citizens who believed the defendants were being prosecuted on faulty evidence. Because of the work of Friends of Justice, the Texas Legislature passed the Tulia Corroboration Bill, which has led to the exoneration of dozens of innocent people by raising the evidentiary standards for undercover testimony. Learning experiences in Tulia, Friends of Justice launched narrative-based campaigns in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi designed to empower local communities and to hold public officials accountable for equal justice.
Directors Rev. Alan and Nancy Bean join the MFP trip on visits to the Delta, and have contributed several interviews to the collection discussing the work of Friends of Justice.
George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL
George A. Smathers Libraries sponsored the processing of the Mississippi Freedom Project collection with a $5,000 mini-grant from 2013- 2014. The completion of this project was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer during the summer of 2014, and coordinated in partnership with Jana Ronan, the library’s African American Studies librarian.
Transcribed interviews are a part of the University of Florida Digital Collections and can be found in the freedom page, where they are available to researchers, educators, and the general public. The project leveraged existing knowledge, resources, and partnerships to promote online access to the Mississippi Freedom Project collection, including the development of a resources guide, podcasts, and continuing transcription, as well as expanded Mississippi Freedom Project content on SPOHP’s website.
Civic Media Center in Gainesville, FL
The Civic Media Center is a regular co-sponsor of the MFP research trip’s annual project recap public program when students return to the University of Florida. The annual event, where students share audio and visual presentations of their interviews, provides a space for researchers to reflect on their experiences in the field and share emerging research with a public audience.
go back for more Mississippi Freedom Project resources.