Written by Carolyn Brackett, Senior Field Officer
Dockery Farms outside of Cleveland, Miss.
The Mississippi Delta is a region that has a culture as rich, sweet and deep as the very soil of the Delta itself. Its stories -- of Civil War, civil rights, and the birth of the blues -- resonate with the American story yet tell of a special place, special times, and special people.
This fall, National Trust Tours and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (one of our National Treasures) invite you on a week-long tour of this unique region to visit places where events forever changed America’s character and culture. Set for September 28 through October 4, 2013, tour highlights include antebellum homes, a Civil War battlefield, and one of the South’s last original juke joints.
Tourgoers will experience the Delta’s culinary traditions, enjoy a blues performance, meet the people who call the Delta home, and listen to their stories. The tour also includes a visit to Memphis, often referred to as the place where the Delta begins.
If you can't wait for the fall, take a virtual spin now of the featured tour stops:
Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg: Established in 1899, the park tells the story of the decisive Battle of Vicksburg in 1863 through 1,325 monuments, a Union gunboat, reconstructed forts and trenches, and exhibits. Vicksburg National Cemetery is the nation’s largest burial site of Union soldiers.
Lower Mississippi River Museum in Vicksburg: Opened in 2012, its exhibits explore life on the Mississippi River. The museum features the M/V Mississippi, the flagship of the Mississippi River Commission from 1927-1961.
Cedar Grove Inn in Vicksburg: Tourgoers will stay in this beautiful antebellum estate known for its elegant rooms and beautiful landscaped gardens.
Mont Helena in Rolling Fork
Mont Helena in Rolling Fork: This early 20th century manor, a magnificent example of Colonial Revival architecture, was rescued from vandalism and neglect with a meticulous restoration.
B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola: Explore King’s life growing up in this small Delta town and the 60+ years of his career of this internationally renowned Blues musician.
The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood: Stay in this exceptional boutique hotel that sparked the revitalization of Greenwood’s downtown, home to Viking Range Corporation.
Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville: The gravesite is part of a memorial park established by local residents to honor the Civil Rights leader whose courage helped bring the vote to African-Americans in Mississippi in the 1960s.
Heather Booth playing guitar for Fannie Lou Hamer during the Freedom Summer Project in Mississippi, 1964.
Dockery Farms outside of Cleveland: According to B.B. King, this is the place where the Blues began. Famed bluesmen, including Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Howlin Wolf, worked on this cotton plantation in the early 20th century.
Po' Monkey's Lounge in Merigold: One of the last surviving jukes in the South was opened in 1963 by Willie “Po Monkey” Seaberry who continues to welcome guests to his home surrounded by cotton fields to enjoy music and take in the unique atmosphere.
Bryant’s Grocery in Money: The events which occurred here in 1955 are often credited with sparking the Civil Rights movement. It was here that Emmett Till, a 15-year-old African-American, whistled at the store’s white owner. Days later, Till was murdered. His murderers were acquitted although they later admitted to their guilt in an interview with Look magazine.
Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale: Trace the history of blues with exhibits on Muddy Waters and an amazing collection of guitars belonging to John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williams, Son Thomas, and B.B. King.
Tennessee Williams' Neighborhood in Clarksdale: Many of the characters in Williams’ plays were inspired by people he knew during his childhood in Clarksdale. Tour the historic neighborhood including the church where Williams’ grandfather served as rector.
Po' Monkey's Lounge in Merigold
Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale: Owned by actor and native Mississippian Morgan Freeman, the club offers great music and a Southern-style menu.
National Civil Rights Museum, Legacy Building in Memphis: Although the main museum is closed for renovation, visitors can see the balcony outside Room 306 where Dr. King was shot and killed.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis: Starting in a small record store in 1959, Stax grew to become one of the most successful music recording studios in the world.
Graceland in Memphis: Home of Elvis Presley, this National Historic Landmark offers a look at the life of the world-famous singer from the late 1950s until his death in 1977.
The tour’s leader is Luther Brown, manager of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Dr. Brown is the founding director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University in Cleveland. The mission of the Delta Center is to promote the region’s heritage through classes, workshops, and study-tours focused on the Blues, Civil Rights, the Mississippi River, and other aspects of Delta culture.
Dr. Brown is also a founding member of the Mississippi Blues Commission, past Chairman of the Mississippi Blues Foundation, and an active participant in the Mississippi Blues Heritage Trail and the Mississippi Freedom Trail. He conducts numerous tours and study tours of the Mississippi Delta each year and is a recognized authority of the region’s history and culture.
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