The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) is the land where the Blues began, where rock 'n' roll was created and where Gospel remains a vibrant art. It is an agricultural region where cotton was once king, and where ‘precision-ag’ rules today. It is a place that saw the struggles of the Civil War and the cultural revolution of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the home of the Great Migration, and a land of rich culinary, religious, artistic and literary heritage.
The MDNHA is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. It is one of 55 National Heritage Areas in the United States designated by Congress that tell nationally important stories, celebrating our nation's diverse heritage through community-based partnerships and local collaboration.
A recently launched web-based Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Heritage Archive is now available, and illustrates the various ways the MDNHA has expanded its community efforts to collaborate with both local and national organizations to “interpret, preserve and commemorate Civil Rights heritage in the region.” This digital archive follows the MDNHA theme of “Moving Toward Freedom: Changing America’s Character in the Struggle for Rights,” by acknowledging that “the Delta was home to pivotal events both horrible and inspirational, including Emmett Till’s murder, Freedom Summer and the Poor People’s Campaign. Leaders and activists such as Amzie Moore, Fannie Lou Hamer, the delegates of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the Freedom Riders are among those who paved the way for changes that are still unfolding today.”
Other civil rights heritage development projects facilitated by the MDNHA includue:
- 2016: A collaboration between the town of Mayersville, MDNHA, Visit Mississippi and Mississippi’s Lower Delta honored former Mayersville mayor Unita Blackwell with a Freedom Trail marker. She was the first Black woman to be elected mayor in Mississippi and served in this position for 27 years. During this time she was also active in the Civil Rights Movement, Head Start and Democratic Party.
- MDNHA’s grant program supported The Shaw Civil Rights Project and Delta Hands for Hope in their production of the “Wade Through the Waters” stage play. The play was performed during the 2019 Homecoming Weekend in Shaw where residents and visitors commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hawkins v. Town of Shaw. The stage play focused on the challenges the Hawkins family faced in filing and litigating the lawsuit for equitable access to municipal services based on race.
- 2019: MDNHA’s grant program supported the 1969 Delta State University Sit-In Project in the development of their documentary film showing the March 10, 1969 sit-in featuring 52 Black Delta State students. The project won the Mississippi Historical Society’s 2020 Excellence in History Award.
As a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service, the Mississippi Delta Civil Rights Heritage Area is listed as “one of 55 National Heritage Areas in the United States designated by Congress that tell nationally important stories, celebrating our nation's diverse heritage through community-based partnerships and local collaboration.” The stories that have been preserved and shared in their archival spaces are incredibly important to the history of Black Americans locally and nationally.
This Heritage Area includes the following sites:
- Vicksburg National Military Park
- Bryant’s Grocery Store
- Town of Friars Point Historic District
- Historic Downtown Como
- Jim Henson Museum
- Dockery Farms
- Delta National Forest
- Delta Blues Museum
- Delta Center for Culture and Learning
- Highway 61 Blues Museum
- GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
- B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
In June 2021 the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area at Delta Center for Culture and Learning was chosen for inclusion in the African American Civil Rights Network for its enduring connection to the black freedom struggle.
The African American Civil Rights Network (AACRN) recognizes the civil rights movement in the United States and the sacrifices made by those who fought against discrimination and segregation. Created by the African American Civil Rights Act of 2017, and coordinated by the National Park Service, the Network tells the stories of the people, places, and events of the U.S. civil rights movement through a collection of public and private resources.