The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) is the land where the Blues began, where Rock and 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 49 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 mission of the MDNHA is to foster preservation, perpetuation and celebration of the Mississippi Delta’s heritage through collaboration and sustainable economic development. Toward fulfilling this mission, the MDNHA focuses on developing five interrelated cultural heritage themes:
(1) The Mississippi River and the Land It Embraces;
(2) The Culture of the Blues and the Birth of an American Sound;
(3) Moving Toward Freedom: Changing America’s Character in the Struggle for Rights;
(4) Growing More Than Cotton: The Delta as a Wellspring of Creativity; and
(5) The Delta Divide: Creating the Delta’s Diverse Communities.
The MDNHA was designated by Congress in 2009. The MDNHA is managed by The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University and is governed by a 15-member board representing agencies and organizations defined in its Congressional legislation. The MDNHA includes 18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo.
National Heritage Areas
What are National Heritage Areas?
The National Park Service defines a National Heritage Area as “a place designated by the United States Congress where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally significant landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.
A National Heritage Area is a place that uses shared history as a platform for action to collaborate on preservation, promotion and sustainable development based on the region’s heritage assets. Recognizing the unique treasures of a particular region, the designation supports and encourages various projects which look to honor, conserve and promote this agenda.
The benefit of National Heritage Areas reach into various sectors of the community, including tangible economic, professional, cultural and educational outcomes. Some benefits are as follows:
- job creation
- tax revenue increases
- preservation and conservation of heritage resources
- documentation and sharing of history
- cultural education
- connection to wider network of resources, technical and financial
- investment in community resources
- increased community pride
How are National Heritage Areas designated and managed?
National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress through authorizing legislation. Once designated, they are locally managed by a coordinating entity. These coordinating entities engage a community-centric, collaborative approach to develop a management plan that reflects the interests and desires of residents to preserve, celebrate and share their cultural, historic and natural resources. On a wider scale, the National Park Service is the federal partner to National Heritage Areas. The role of the National Park Service is to provide financial and technical assistance, and to approve the management plan.
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Partnership, governed by a Board of Directors composed of 15 members, is the local coordinating entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, has managed the program through the planning phase and will continue to implement the management plan overseen by the board.
What does a National Heritage Area do and not do?
Each National Heritage Area coordinating entity constructs a management plan that reflects the area’s goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. All National Heritage Area coordinating entities endeavor to:
- create a grassroots, community-driven network to support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism and educational projects that meet the needs of the people who live in the National Heritage Area
- support sustainable economic development through heritage conservation
- foster a pride of place and an enduring resource stewardship ethic
National Heritage Area coordinating entities are not regulatory agencies, and therefore do not:
- regulate land use or zoning for public or private property
- require public access to private property
- regulate water rights
- diminish state authority to manage fish and wildlife
- diminish obligations of the US government to any federally recognized Indian tribe