MDNHA featured in tourism, education, and preservation publications

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area has been featured in key publications for successfully implementing projects that have contributed to cultural heritage tourism and historic preservation education, as well as engaged residents in celebrating and preserving Mississippi Delta stories.

The MDNHA was featured in the Winter 2017 issue of Elevation, The Journal of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, for supporting the Mississippi Delta Mad Mod Affair, a tour of modernist structures throughout the region that attracted over 50 architecture enthusiasts from throughout the state. The tour ended with a special reception at the mayor of Clarksdale, MS’ home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé E. Fay Jones where guests met Academy Award-winning actor and Mississippi Delta native Morgan Freeman. The Journal also contains an article about the MDNHA’s Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership, a series of interpretive community events sharing stories of African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta. The Partnership has engaged over 1,000 residents, visitors, and supporters commemorating the National Park Service Centennial (see the final report). In addition, the MDNHA’s Top 40 Places to Visit in the Mississippi Delta website – developed in partnership with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi – and the Passport to Your National Parks program both were featured in Delta Magazine’s annual tourism guide, January/February 2017.

ANHA, NPS, and NPCA tour Smithsonian NMAAHC

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas kicked off its 2017 Annual Meeting with a special group tour of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The tour was organized by Dr. Rolando Herts (Mississippi Delta NHA), Brandi Roberts (Great Basin NHA), and Sara Capen (Niagara Falls NHA), in collaboration with Smithsonian NMAAHC Ambassador Mossi Tull and the museum’s education division. Approximately 60 individuals participated in the tour, including Alliance members and supporters representing nearly 20 NHAs, along with representatives from the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association. Staffers from the Office of Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) also participated. The Alliance is among the first groups to receive a guided tour of the Smithsonian NMAAHC through the museum’s recently established docent program.

The Smithsonian NMAAHC is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

MDNHA to provide grant workshops with statewide funders

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area will hold a series of workshops across the Delta to present information about grants available in 2017 to support local projects and activities that further MDNHA’s mission of fostering preservation, perpetuation and celebration of the Delta’s heritage through a climate of collaboration and sustainable economic development.

This is the second year the MDNHA has offered these workshops in conjunction with its grant program. Last year, 14 grants were funded by the MDNHA totalling over $185,000. Up to $200,000 will be available from MDNHA for grants in 2017.  Nonprofits, educational institutions, schools, units of local government and others are eligible for the grants and encouraged to attend one of the three workshops.  

In addition to the funding available from the MDNHA grants program, several state agencies will participate in the workshops to discuss their respective grant opportunities. This partnership is part of the mission of the MDNHA, which is not only to create a grants resource itself, but also to help the citizens of the Mississippi Delta connect to as many grants opportunities as possible. Representatives from the MS Arts Commission, MS Humanities Council and MS Department of Archives and History will also be present at each workshop to discuss funding opportunities that may complement the work funded by MDNHA.

The workshops are scheduled for:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 – 1PM to 4PM

The Haraway Center, Northwest MS Community College
4975 Highway 51 North, Senatobia, MS
(campus map available at

Thursday, February 2, 2017 – 1PM to 4PM

The Capps Center, Room 101 (Seminar Room)
920 US Highway 82 West, Indianola, MS

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 – 1PM to 4PM

MSU Extension Service (Warren County)
1100 C Grove Street, Vicksburg, MS

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a cultural heritage partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service.  Led by Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, 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. 

The MDNHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the congressional legislation. More information about the MDNHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at  Information about the grants program is also available at this website.

For more information, contact The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at 662-846-4311, or email or

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit



In Memoriam: Jerry Hafter, MDNHA Board Attorney

Jocille Hafter accepts a plaque from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in honor of her husband Jerry Hafter's contributions to the MDNHA. She is pictured here with Dr. Rolando Herts, Dr. Myrtis Tabb, and Spencer Nash.

Jocille Hafter accepts a plaque from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in honor of her husband Jerry Hafter's contributions to the MDNHA. She is pictured here with Dr. Rolando Herts, Dr. Myrtis Tabb, and Spencer Nash.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area pays special tribute to Jerome C. “Jerry” Hafter. Jerry served faithfully as MDNHA board attorney from 2012 until he passed away in September 2016. His knowledge and expertise proved instrumental in the formation and growth of the organization. We appreciate his years of service, and will miss his guidance and his passion for the Mississippi Delta region.

Below is the obituary posted in the Clarion Ledger newspaper:


Jerome C. "Jerry" Hafter


Mr. Jerome Hafter, age 71, of Greenville, MS passed on September 23, 2016 at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, TN. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, September 27 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm at The Delta Room in Greenville, MS and also on Wednesday, September 28 from 1:00—3:00 pm at Lakewood Funeral Home in Jackson, MS.

Jerome "Jerry" Hafter was a lifetime resident of Greenville, MS. He was the son of Jerome S. Hafter and Mary Margaret Fugler. His late father served as President of the Mississippi State Bar Association in 1953-1954. Jerry attended public schools in Greenville, MS and graduated as Valedictorian of his class in 1963. He received his B. A. Degree, summa cum laude, from Rice University in 1967 with a dual major in history and political science. At Rice, he was elected Student Association President and was selected for Phi Beta Kappa and received the Hugh Scott Cameron Award as the Outstanding Rice Graduate of the Class of 1967.

Jerry attended Oxford University in England, from 1967-1968, as a Marshall Scholar where he received his B. A. /M. A. with First Class Honours in the School of Modern History. His thesis on the Legislative History of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 won the Sara Norton Prize as the best thesis on a topic in American History or political science. Mr. Hafter received his J. D. Degree from Yale Law School in 1972. While at Yale, he was the Associate Editor of the Yale Law Journal, a Director of Yale Moot Court and student commander of the Yale University Army ROTC.

After serving as Student Commander of the Yale Army ROTC, Jerry was commissioned as an officer in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served sixteen years on active duty and in the Army Reserve. In 1982, he mobilized with the 467th Engineer Battalion for active duty exercises on the East/West German border. As a result of the hard work of the soldiers under his command, Company D of the 467th, won the 1982 Itschner Award as the Most Outstanding Engineer Company in the Army Reserve. Jerry was an Honor Graduate of Engineer Officer Basic School and the U. S. Army Command and General Staff School. He was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.

In 1972-1973, Jerry Hafter served as law clerk to the Honorable Charles C. Clark of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In 1974, he joined the law firm of Lake Tindall LLP, which was founded by his late father. Jerry practice at Lake Tindall from 1974 to 2001. Lake Tindall was a mid-size, multi-office firm, where he specialized in contracts, corporate law and litigations, business organizations and agribusiness law.

Mr. Hafter joined Phelps Dunbar in 2001 as a senior partner in its Business Practice Group in Jackson, MS. He practiced in the areas of corporate law and litigation, contracts, real property, economic development, agribusiness, state and local taxation, intellectual property, bankruptcy and constitutional law. He was a frequent lecturer at CLE programs on topics in commercial and corporate law and bankruptcy.

Jerry was one of the limited number of Mississippi lawyers with an extensive international practice. Much of this experience is a result of his work as outside general counsel to Delta and Pine Land Company, one of Mississippi's oldest and largest publically traded companies. D&PL has been known as a preeminent breeder and seller of cotton and soybean seed. As part of his work with D&PL, Jerry did the legal work to establish D&PL operations in Australia, China, India, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Greece, Spain, Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Hafter applied this experience to introduce a number of other Mississippi companies and Mississippi attorneys to international trade and licensing.

Jerry Hafter frequently served on a number of legal and government reform groups, including the American Law Institute and Common Cause Mississippi. Jerry also served his community as a member of the Greenville Public School District Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2013, including five terms as President and one term as Director of the Mississippi School Board Association. He was also President of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, President of the Downtown Improvement Association and a representative on the Executive Committee of I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition.

Mr. Hafter has served in a number of bar related leadership positions, including the President of the Washington County Bar Association, Chairman of the Section on Business Law, Director of the Young Lawyers Division, President of the Fellows of the YLD, Chairman of the Rules Committee of the Mississippi Bankruptcy Conference of the Mississippi Bar Association. He is a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation and the American Bar Foundation. In 2015, he received the Mississippi Bar's Lifetime Achievement Award, a highlight in his career.

Jerry Hafter has dedicated his life to the legal profession. The practice of law has never been limited to his office or the courtroom. He is an outstanding example to lawyers in all stages of their careers. Beyond his profession, Jerry has proven that he was an outstanding citizen and community leader. His career in public service shows that making Mississippi a better place to live for all its citizens was a priority in his life.

Mr. Hafter is survived by his wife, Jocille Hafter and his son, Bryan Hafter.



Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership to host final program at Smith Robertson Museum

photos by Bobby Steele, JR, Will Jacks, Dr. Rolando Herts and Alysia Steele

The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership is hosting its final program at the Smith Robertson Museum in Jackson on Thursday, December 15, at 6pm. The event is free and open to the public through support from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center.

"We are honored to host the final Delta Jewels program," said Pamela Junior, director of the Smith Robertson Museum and MDNHA board member. "This partnership has meant so much to the Mississippi Delta region, the state, and our nation. In addition to great speakers and special guests, we plan to feature live performances. This will be an exciting cultural celebration for our entire community to enjoy during the holiday season."

Since March 2015, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning have engaged communities through the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership in commemoration of the 2016 National Park Service Centennial. The program features Alysia Burton Steele's book Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother's Wisdom, a collection of oral histories and portraits of African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta. The program has engaged over 1,000 residents and visitors in the Mississippi Delta, the state of Mississippi, and Washington, DC.

"The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is about educating and engaging people, connecting organizations, and building community pride by telling the Delta's story," said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. "The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership Program has accomplished this by fostering collaboration among numerous people and organizations. We have effectively raised awareness about the importance of preserving community voices and stories through oral history gathering, storytelling, and photography."

"It has been such a pleasure and an honor to partner with the Mississippi Delta Heritage Area and The Delta Center on this educational project," said Steele. "On behalf of all of the Delta Jewels, thanks to these partners and all sponsoring organizations that have made these events so educational, so impactful, and so meaningful for so many people. Words cannot express our appreciation."

Through The Delta Center, Steele first presented Delta Jewels sessions at Delta State University’s Winning the Race diversity and race relations conference in 2015. A month later, the MDNHA and The Delta Center partnered with various regional organizations to host a series of Delta Jewels Community Gatherings in Clarksdale, Charleston, Indianola, Yazoo City, Ruleville, and Mound Bayou. The Mound Bayou program was held in conjunction with the town’s 128th Founders Day celebration and witnessed a gathering of 30 Delta Jewels church mothers. Over 300 guests attended the Mound Bayou program.

Hundreds gathered at Mound Bayou’s Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

Hundreds gathered at Mound Bayou’s Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

"The importance of this work truly came to life for me when I attended the Mound Bayou Program to meet the real Delta Jewels," said Dr. Myrtis Tabb, Chair of the MDNHA.  "This remarkable group of strong women inspired me and others with their wisdom and humor.  What an honor to be in their presence and hear their stories.  I am happy the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area could play a part in promoting and celebrating their legacy.

Continued demand for the events led to the official creation of the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership in October 2015. Through the new partnership, events were held at Mississippi Valley State University, Jackson State University, Delta State University, Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation in Vicksburg, Alcorn State University, University of Southern Mississippi, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, and Holmes Community College in Grenada.

Alysia Burton Steele and Dr. Herts speak with Mrs. Campbell and guests before the Delta Jewels program begins at Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)

Alysia Burton Steele and Dr. Herts speak with Mrs. Campbell and guests before the Delta Jewels program begins at Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)

The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership culminated in March 2016 with an historic presentation at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, DC., to commemorate Women’s History Month and the National Park Service Centennial. This special program featured Mrs. Annyce P. Campbell of Mound Bayou, who appears on the front cover of Delta Jewels, and Reena Evers, daughter of Civil Rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, who also is a Delta Jewel.

For more information about the December 15 Delta Jewels program, contact the Pamela Junior or Charisse Bester at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center at (601) 960-1457.

MDNHA, International Delta Blues Project, GRAMMY team up for stellar film and music event

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently collaborated with The Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the International Delta Blues Project at Delta State University to present an “edu-taining” night of film and live music at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland. This incredible "sold out" event was free and open to the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area region through generous support from the International Delta Blues Project.

On Wednesday, October 12, film shorts created by students from Delta Hands for Hope of Shaw, MS, and the Rosedale Freedom Project of Rosedale, MS, were shown as part of a public screening of the award-winning documentary, “Take Me To the River.” The students attended after-school workshops learning film and oral history skills through a grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The students interviewed and photographed Mississippi Delta residents to learn how music has influenced the community and has shaped local culture. 

The standing-room-only crowd of 150 guests from throughout the region also watched a 45-minute version of the full-length documentary “Take Me to the River,” produced by Martin Shore and created at historic Royal Studios in Memphis. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording an historic new album.  “Take Me To The River” features Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy, The North Mississippi Allstars and many more.

After viewing “Take Me to the River” and the student documentaries, the crowd enjoyed live performances from The Hi Rhythm section (featuring Charles and Leroy Hodges), Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, William Bell, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, and GRAMMY winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, owner of Royal Studios.

Unita Blackwell marker added to Mississippi Freedom Trail.

Congressman Bennie Thompson (left to right), Mayersville mayor Linda Short, Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and Dr. Leslie McLemore, chair of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force, stand in front of the newly unveiled Unita Blackwell marker.

Congressman Bennie Thompson (left to right), Mayersville mayor Linda Short, Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and Dr. Leslie McLemore, chair of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force, stand in front of the newly unveiled Unita Blackwell marker.

The Issaquena County town of Mayersville recently honored one of it’s bravest citizens, former mayor Unita Blackwell, with a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker dedicated to her.

The marker was unveiled during a ceremony that attracted a gathering of local residents, as well as regional, statewide, and national leaders at the Mayersville Multi Purpose Building. Blackwell was the first female African-American elected mayor in Mississippi.

In addition to serving as mayor for 27 years, Blackwell was active in the Civil Rights Movement, Head Start and the Democratic Party for nearly five decades. In 1993, she was awarded a Genius Grant as a MacArthur Fellow. Since 1973, she has been a part of 16 diplomatic missions to China.

JoAnne Prichard Morris shares thoughts about Unita Blackwell.

“The notion is that somebody from very, very humble beginnings cannot only rise to be the mayor of her community, but to take delegations all over the world as a goodwill ambassador, to work for childcare, work for better education, is a statement that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re going,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson, U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District.

Blackwell was born in Lula, Mississippi in 1933. Her parents Virda Mae and Willie Brown were sharecroppers. She married Jeremiah Blackwell in 1958, and in 1960, they moved into a shotgun house in Mayersville inherited from Jeremiah’s grandmother. It was here that Blackwell became involved in politics, civil rights and a life of building a stronger community for all.

“She just kept on going and learning and experiencing new things,” said JoAnne Prichard Morris, who assisted Blackwell in writing her autobiography “Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom.” “She was quite simply the most courageous, most creative, most inspiring, smartest, funniest person I’ve ever known.”

An attendee looks at a brochure illustrating the locations of more than 30 Freedom Trail markers.

The Mississippi Freedom Trail was created in 2011 to commemorate the people and places in the state that played a pivotal role in the American Civil Rights Movement. The first Freedom Trail markers were unveiled in conjunction with the Mississippi Freedom 50th Foundation’s 2011 reunion activities for the 1961 Freedom Riders. The Blackwell marker is the 22nd placed in the state, and was supported in part by partnership development funds from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area in conjunction with support from Visit Mississippi, the Town of Mayersville and Mississippi’s Lower Delta Partnership.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is about telling significant stories here in our region, and the story of Unita Blackwell truly is a significant story,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, the management entity for the MDNHA. “The fact that the MDNHA could support this marker being installed here for ages to come so that the people of Mayersville – particularly the youth – can learn about her story and her legacy, truly is a great asset to the community and to our region.”

Click the image above to view all the photos from the ceremony

Click the image above to view all the photos from the ceremony

learn more by watching the videos above

Valley to Present 2nd Annual B.B. King Day

Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) will play host to some of the South’s largest names in Blues during its B.B. King Day celebration on September 1.

The event is open to the public, and will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the W.A. Butts Social Science Building on the Itta Bena campus. 

The event will wrap up with evening performances at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Miss. beginning at 7 p.m.

MVSU has the only recording studio in the nation bearing the name of the late musician B.B. King.

B.B. King Day will feature stimulating forum discussions, performances and showcases. 

“During the discussions, panelist will expound upon the influence of Blues on the history of Jazz,” said Dr. Alphonso Sanders, chair of the Department of Fine Arts and director of the B.B. King Recording Studio.  “If you mention jazz to most people, they automatically think of Kenny G.”

There will also be a discussion about the struggle of ownership for African American music. “The panelist are African American voices who will speak on African American Music History,” added Sanders. 

“These are prominent musicians who spent their lives doing this.” Charlton Johnson, former member of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s band, will play Lucille.

Otis Clay’s gospel hit, “When the Gates Swing Open,” will be performed by Tia Carroll, Rochelle Coba, Teeny Tucker and Vickie Baker.

There will also be a special tribute to Melvin Jackson and a showcase by Denise Lasalle.

Other guests will include George Shaw, Morris Hubbard, John Birdsong, Bo Berry, London Branch, Burgess Gardner, Sherrill Holley, Joe Jennings, Dr. James Johnson, Dick Griffin, Jimmi Mayes, Willie Silas, Ray Neal, Jesse Robinson and Reggie Richards.

The entire event will be broadcast live by the Kevin and Sue McCarthy’s Travel Planners Radio Show.

B.B. King Day is hosted by MVSU’s B.B. King Recording Studio in partnership with the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.

For more information about B.B. King Day at MVSU, contact Dr. Alphonso Sanders at