Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mississippi Delta: Clarksdale, Ruleville, and Money

It was a pretty heavy day. I visited a few of the most important CRM sites in the rural, poverty-stricken area of Mississippi known as the Delta. I've read a lot about the continued poverty in this area of the country (75% or more by some estimates), but I truly felt it throughout the day. Quite honestly, it reminded me of the week I spent 10 years ago in Hazard, the heart of Appalachia. Like that experience, I was overcome with guilt this afternoon. I realized that I take things like adequate housing, a good education, and available healthcare for granted.

I'd be lying if I said that today was enjoyable. It wasn't. The Emmett Till tragedy in and of itself is a depressing of the most tragic events of the CRM, but seeing the living conditions in Tallahatchie and Leflore counties exaserbated my depression. Statistically, they are the two poorest counties in the poorest state in the USA. I would never judge a person's happiness or unhappiness based upon their material possessions, so I'll refrain from making any assumptions about the citizens in these counties. However, it was sad to see the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC) at the end of a dirt road, closed, and in serious disrepair. As I learned shortly thereafter from a local businessman, the money had run out and admission fees alone couldn't keep this important museum open.
Because the ETHIC was closed, I decided to make the 15 mile trip to Ruleville, home and final resting place of Fannie Lou Hamer. Like the majority of the trip from Memphis through the Delta region, the trip from Glendora to Ruleville was filled with mile after mile of cotton fields. It was that way 200 years ago, and it remains that way today. Visiting the Fannie Lou Hamer memorial and final resting place, however, was a much more positive experience. The recently completed memorial is beautiful, and fitting for a CRM hero.

I'll leave the Delta tomorrow and head to Jackson, the state capitol. It should be a great day. The Old State Capitol Building includes the first CRM museum, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of the artifacts from the CRM in Mississippi. I'm also doing a driving tour of African-American history in the city and visiting two local Historically Black Colleges, Tugaloo College and Jackson State University. It will be an action-packed day. Thanks for following.


  1. Mike - I love reading your blog! I can not wait to show it to my class. What a awesome trip! Please take as many pictures as you can...take care bro!

  2. Mike- How does it seem in Mississippi, is racism still very you see alot of confederate flags and stuff. Is it like the movies in rural Mississippi...dirt roads and shacks? I wish I went with you, the whole experience seems so interesting! Do the southern people know that you are a Yankee?

  3. Matt,
    Thanks so much for your first!! I'm taking TONS of pictures. Promise you that. Its really hard to gauge rural Mississippi. There are still lots of dirt roads and inadequate housing...really depressing actually to see people living in these types of conditions in 2009. I have seen lots of confederate flags, but, quite honestly, not more than i've seen in NC or PA. I felt like an intruder yesterday. People know that you are an outsider and I felt a little uncomfortable driving through some of the small towns.

  4. This trip is amazing. Super important for all citizens to know about. Knowledge is power! Thanks for the opportunity.

  5. Man.........what get pictures! I think I can recognize that little girl playing in the dirt! I really enjoyed reading your narrative about MLK and the history of about baseball. What a amazing family experienc, this is really something that the kids will remember forever and I am sure you and Sam will too! Love the blog!