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Mississippi Moments Podcast

Since 1971, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage has been preserving the memories of Mississippians from all walks of life. Our collection of over 4,000 interviews and counting has proven an invaluable resource for teachers, writers, researchers, and museums. While our collection has a recognized strength in the history of the civil rights movement and veterans' histories, the Center has collected broadly. The topics covered within the collection encompass the breadth of the state’s history.   Mississippi Moments began in early 2005 as a weekly series of radio spots broadcast statewide on Mississippi Public Broadcasting with funding provided by the Mississippi Humanities Council. Each episode features stories gleaned from hours of research, edited for time and clarity and narrated by Mississippi broadcast veteran, Bill Ellison. These stories range in topic and tone, but war stories and the struggle for civil rights receive the most attention. MSMO is not a History series. History frequently comes along for the ride, but Story drives the narrative. In 2009, the Mississippi Moments Podcast was launched as a way to make past and future episodes available online and searchable by subject. The podcast format allows us to greatly expand on the broadcast version and bonus content is a given. So give us a listen. With over 600 episodes available and new ones added each month, you are certain to find some amazing, moving stories about the diverse and colorful people who call Mississippi home.
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Now displaying: Page 1
Mar 30, 2020

G. R. Harden grew up working on his family’s cotton farm near the Delta town of Cleveland. In this episode, he explains how that experience gave him a leg up when he attended Mississippi State. Taking over the family farm at a young age, Harden felt ill-prepared and unsure of himself. He recalls being taught to think of commercial farming as a game and to always plan ahead.

In the early 1950s, the Hardens transitioned their farm from growing cotton to the production of rice. He discusses why they made the switch and how farming has changed during his fifty years in the business.

After spending decades working on his Cleveland farm, Harden began collecting old tractors. He shares how that hobby led his club to host the Tunica Southern Nationals Antique Tractor Pull.

G. R. Harden passed away on February 20, 2014, at the age of 74.

Mar 23, 2020

Elder Elias Harris of Port Gibson grew up a sharecropper’s son on a plantation near Pattison. In this episode, he recalls that even though their family worked hard every day, they never missed church. From a young age, Harris knew he was going to be a preacher. He remembers how he and his sister would have pretend church services as children.

As a spiritual leader, Harris works with other Port Gibson residents to affect change within the community. He discusses how the group Christian Concerned Citizens tackles issues in an inclusive way. Being a longtime resident of Port Gibson, Harris has witnessed many changes over the years. He explains how white and black spiritual leaders formed a race relations senate to bring the community closer together.

PHOTO: Google Maps

Mar 16, 2020

Rosie Washington was sixteen years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Grenada in 1966. In this episode, she recalls how meeting the civil rights icon inspired her to explore activism and school integration. Washington and her siblings were among the first students to integrate the public schools in Grenada. She remembers the severe backlash they encountered from the white community.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Washington’s family hosted several visiting activists. She explains how that experience encouraged her to participate in protests across her hometown.

While picketing in downtown Grenada, Washington and the rest of her group were rounded up and incarcerated. She describes the trauma of being forced onto a flatbed truck and driven to Parchman without representation or due process.  

This episode was written by Abigail Wiest, a senior at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg.

Mississippi Moments is produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.

PHOTO: theatlantic.com

Mar 9, 2020

Willie Mac Blaine was born in Ethel, Mississippi, in 1936. In this episode, he shares his family’s long history in Attala County and how he came to live in the town of McCool. Established in 1883, McCool, Mississippi was a thriving railroad town. Blaine recalls the town in its heyday and how his grandfather helped build the train depot.

Like many small-town banks, the Bank of McCool was unable to survive the Great Depression of the 1930s. Blaine explains how skittish depositors and a sympathetic banker led to the bank’s demise. According to Blaine, the town of McCool began to decline when it was bypassed by HWY 12. He discusses life there today and why so many other communities get their mail from McCool.

PHOTO: McCool Post Office by J. Gallagher          

Mar 2, 2020

Dr. Stuart Rockoff grew up in Houston, Texas, as the grandson of Jewish immigrants.  In this episode, he recalls how a class in Texas History led to a job with the Institute of Southern Jewish life, here in Jackson.

Rockoff became the Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council in 2013. He explains how the Council’s commitment to inclusive storytelling impacted the Two Museums project. For everyone involved with the development of the Two Mississippi Museums, giving a complete and accurate account of our state’s history was a top priority. Rockoff remembers how each word was scrutinized for truthfulness and tone.

As a member of the Two Museums Review Committee, Rockoff’s goal was to insure that all Mississippians could take pride in the stories being told. He discusses why inclusiveness is so important.

Feb 24, 2020

Philip Freelon was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In this episode, he explains how his family background in Education and the Arts inspired him to become an architect. As a young African American architect, Freelon aspired to design libraries and schools. He recalls how a focus on education and community development led him to several museum projects.

Philip Freelon is proud to have been chosen as the chief architect of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. He laments that so few women and people of color choose to enter the field of design.

According to Freelon, the decision to have two Mississippi museums was an unusual choice. He discusses the positive aspects of having two connected and centrally located facilities.

In 2016, Philip G. Freelon was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He passed away on July 9, 2019.

 

Feb 17, 2020

Kosciusko native W.C. “Billy” Leonard got married and joined the Army in 1940.  In this episode, he recalls how his life changed after hearing news of the Japanese attack on a place called Pearl Harbor.

While serving as an artillery officer, Leonard met several people from his hometown. He remembers being pleasantly surprised by one such Kosciusko connection.

Leonard’s artillery platoon was transferred to a base in Burbank, California to await deployment. He recounts how he and his wife were able to tour Hollywood before he was shipped out.

After months of fighting in the Philippine Islands, Leonard was given a 30-day leave before the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland. He explains how dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed those plans.

After the war, Billy Leonard came home and eventually took over Leonard’s Department Store from his father. He ran the business until his retirement in 1985.  Leonard passed away in fall of 2005.      

Feb 10, 2020

Jerry Mitchell was working as a reporter for the Clarion Ledger when he attended a press premier for Mississippi Burning. In this episode, he explains how that event piqued his interest in civil rights-related cold cases. 

After the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was dissolved in 1977, its records were ordered sealed for 50 years.  Mitchell recalls how he was able to get a look at those files in 1989. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to gain access to the sealed records of the State Sovereignty Commission, and the judge ruled in their favor. Mitchell recounts how having access to those files helped investigators solve several civil rights cold cases.

In his work as an investigative reporter, Jerry Mitchell gained extensive knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement.  He describes his feelings about the Two Mississippi Museums and their impact.

Jerry Mitchell was awarded a Genius Grant by the MacArthur Foundation in 2009.

PHOTO: macfound.org

Jan 20, 2020

On January 6th, 2020, a statue of slain civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer was unveiled at Hattiesburg City Hall.

In this episode, taken from her 1974 COHCH interview, Ellie J. Dahmer remembers her husband as a Christian man who helped everyone regardless of race.  As a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Vernon Dahmer received death threats, daily. Ellie Dahmer recalls the extreme measures she and her husband took to protect their family.

On the night of January 10, 1966, Vernon Dahmer attended church and then returned home to prepare for another week of hard work.  Ellie Dahmer describes waking up to gunfire and trying to rescue her children as bullets riddled their burning home.

Vernon Dahmer died January 10, 1966 from injuries sustained when his home was firebombed by the KKK. Ellie Dahmer discusses her husband’s legacy and why she thinks he would do it all again.

(note: in the podcast and broadcast, the statue dedication date was incorrectly given as January 4th, not January 6th)

Jan 13, 2020

For Gulf Coast residents, January means Mardi Gras season and in the South, no Super Bowl party is complete without a King Cake. Beyond the traditional Carnival celebrations in Mobile, Biloxi, and New Orleans, many other southern cities have established their own annual parades and festivities in recent years.

Ocean Springs native, Christa Hode grew up attending the Biloxi Mardi Gras parades with her family. In this episode, she remembers the day her father asked if she would like to be the Queen of Carnival for 1971. As Queen Ixolib for the Biloxi Mardi Gras, Hode wore an elaborate gown and long flowing train.  She describes having the gown made in New Orleans and the heavy fabrics they used back then.

Hode has many fond memories of being the Biloxi Queen. She remembers how cold it was during the night parade and how much fun she had waving to the crowds. Having spent her life participating in Mardi Gras festivities, Hode has witnessed the comradery and sense of community it provides Gulf Coast residents. She also appreciates the economic benefits and tourism Carnival brings to the area.

 

Jan 6, 2020

During WWII, a key component of the Allied strategy to defeat the Axis powers in Europe was a sustained aerial bombing campaign against key German military and civilian targets. Despite the vaunted reputation the B-17 bomber achieved, they were outnumbered by the lesser known B-24 Liberator.

Greenville native, Colonial C.R. Cadenhead trained to be an B-24 bomber pilot. In this episode, he shared some memories of his time flying missions over Germany.  Cadenhead explains how he and his crew dined on fancy French cuisine while on their way to Europe and how they helped a shell-shocked bombardier complete his tour of duty.  He also describes how, on one mission, his crew made it back to base after losing two of their four engines with some help from the Tuskegee Airmen.

PODCAST EXTRA: After completing his tour of duty in Europe, Cadenhead expected to be sent home.  Instead he was shipped to California to prepared for the invasion of Japan.  He remembers how the sudden end of the war in 1945 allowed him to return to college that fall and play football for Mississippi State.

This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.

PHOTO: US Air Force

Dec 30, 2019

Betty McGehee grew up on Scotland Plantation in Vidalia, Louisiana, in the 1930s and 40s. Later, she married a Natchez native and crossed the river for good. In this episode, McGehee shares some memories from her childhood. She recounts raising chickens and selling the eggs to earn extra spending money. She also discusses how they would collect rainwater to drink in an above-ground storage tank and why her father later dug a well on their farm.

The Natchez-Vidalia bridge across the Mississippi river was completed in October of 1940. McGehee recalls crossing the river by ferry and how the bridge made traveling so much easier. When the bridge was first completed, drivers on the Mississippi side had to pay a 50-cent toll. McGehee explains how her Natchez boyfriend would wait for her on his side of the bridge to save money.

Dec 9, 2019

Jackie Hancock Schulze grew up in Natchez during the 1930s and 40s, in the house built by her great-grandfather, Natchez Mayor William G. Benbrook. In this episode, taken from her 2004 interview, she shares some precious childhood memories of family and friends and her hometown.

Schulze recounts going to the movies downtown, learning to swim in the Elks Club swimming pool and having “Coca-Cola parties” with her friends. She describes these gatherings as the product of a simpler, more innocent age.

When Schulze was a child, her grandmother would take her to New Orleans each summer to shop. She remembers staying on Canal Street and the amazing things to see and do in the Big Easy.

Years after Schulze left Natchez, she moved back to the family homestead, which by then was unoccupied.  After celebrating so many holidays in the dining room, surrounded by her loving family, she found it hard to eat there alone.

Jackie Schulze passed away on September 13, 2005.

Dec 2, 2019

Billie Rossie Tonos’s family immigrated from Lebanon and opened a store in Clarksdale. In this episode, she recounts how her parents then moved to Shaw and opened their own business with help from the Lebanese community.

During the Great Depression, many small business owners struggled to keep their doors opened. Tonos recalls her parent’s resourcefulness during that difficult time.

As the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Tonos’s mother was proud to be an American citizen. She describes her mother’s fierce patriotism when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Being part of the Delta Lebanese community gave Billie Tonos a sense of belonging and fellowship. She remembers how there was always room at the table for family and friends, especially during the holidays.

This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.

PHOTO: Schlatter.org

Nov 18, 2019

Charlsie Mae Graham Hammond grew up in Ethel, Mississippi, just outside of Kosciusko in the 1930s and 40s. In this episode, taken from her 2001 interview, she shares some cherished childhood memories. She discusses her father’s job at the sawmill there and how he would take her and her brothers on business trips occasionally to provide them a real-world education.

Growing up in a large family, Hammond spent much of her free time outdoors. She recounts watching Westerns with her parents and playing “cowboys” with her siblings and friends. As a child, Hammond also enjoyed a close relationship with her maternal grandparents. She recalls her grandfather as a good-natured shopkeeper and her grandmother as an entrepreneur.

Hammond has many fond memories of life in Ethel. She describes how she and her best friend would ride the train to Kosciusko, listen to favorite programs on the radio, or travel to the Delta with her family to visit her paternal grandparents.

Charlsie Mae Hammond enjoyed a long career as a public school teacher. She taught in the Port Gibson Public Schools, the Ethel Public Schools, and the Kosciusko Public Schools. She was a member of Kosciusko First Baptist Church, serving in various departments of the church. She was also active as a volunteer in organizations of her town and community. She passed away on June 3, 2017.

Nov 11, 2019

Dr. Kent Wyatt became the President of Delta State University in 1975. In this episode, Wyatt shares some of the accomplishments and challenges of his tenure. He also explains the importance of having an emphasis on academic excellence and an “open door” policy for faculty and students.

When Wyatt took over as President of Delta State in 1975, inflation made it difficult to control operating costs. He recalls how that early experience foreshadowed future shortfalls brought on by statewide budget cuts. Throughout Wyatt’s tenure as the President of Delta State, he insisted on developing programs that met the academic needs of the Mississippi Delta. He discusses some of those programs.

The Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University was built in 1994 through state funding from the Mississippi legislature. Dr. Kent Wyatt explains the importance of having such a Center in the Delta.

This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.

PHOTO: http://inauguration.deltastate.edu/past-presidents/

 

Nov 4, 2019

As a young man, Fred Clark of Jackson traveled to Midway, Georgia, to attend a series of meetings with Dr. Martin Luther King. In this episode, he recalls fearing for his safety as the group planned protests across the Jim Crow South.

The Freedom Riders were protesters who rode interstate buses to challenge southern segregation laws. Clark describes being arrested in Jackson in June of 1961 for trying to buy a ticket from the whites-only window. So many Freedom Riders were arrested in Jackson, many were taken to Parchman to handle the overflow. Clark remembers how their nonstop singing led to severe reprisals by prison officials.

PODCAST BONUS: In order to break the spirit of the protesters, prison guards resorted to putting them in windowless iron holding cells known as hotboxes.  Unable to breath in the sweltering heat, Clark describes feelings of panic and being ridiculed by the guards.

PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History

Oct 28, 2019

Fred Clark, Sr. grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode, the first of two parts, he recalls the death of Emmett Till and how fear dominated the black community at that time. As events unfolded around him, Clark was determined to overcome his fear and work to make things better.

During the Civil Rights Movement, local organizers would hold events called Mass Meetings. Clark explains how these gatherings satisfied a variety of needs within the community. After the meetings, he would often catch a ride with civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He describes the sense of dread he felt riding with Evers, even as he marveled at the man’s bravery.

The culture of fear used to maintain social order in the Jim Crow South was deeply ingrained in everyone. Clark explains how being part of a greater movement inspired everyone to do their part.

Oct 14, 2019

In the late 1920s, Donald Hemphill’s father took a job with the Homochitto Lumber Company and the family moved to Bude, Mississippi. In this episode, he shares his memories of growing up in the thriving sawmill town.   At that time, many sawmills provide free company housing for their employees. Hemphill recalls the move to Bude and the primitive conditions in which they lived.

For Hemphill, growing up in Bude was a pleasant and carefree life. He recounts walking home from school to eat lunch and working at the local service station. He also discusses Bude’s prosperous times, and the important role passenger trains played in the people’s lives.

While the Homochitto Lumber Company was in business, life in Bude revolved around the mill’s work whistle.  Hemphill describes the sawmill’s last day and how they tied the whistle down after the last board was cut.

PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History

Sep 30, 2019

Jewish immigrant, Jacob Kern, migrated from Germany to America in the late 1800s. His daughter, Lourachael Kern Ginsberg recounts how her father paid for twelve of his family members to join them in Bastrop, Louisiana, in 1938. Growing up Jewish in Bastrop, Ginsberg remembers their family was accepted as part of the community. She remembers raising chickens and ducks for food and driving to Monroe to go to Temple.

Ginsberg was attending Tulane University, when she met her future husband Herbie Ginsberg. She recalls knowing immediately that he was ‘the one’, and her mother’s reaction to the news. After the couple married, they moved to his home in Hattiesburg. She describes stopping off at the bootleggers to pick up a bottle for his law partner and future Governor, Paul B. Johnson, Jr.

Sep 23, 2019

Funding for two Mississippi museums was approved by the state legislature in 2011. In this episode, Lucy Allen recalls the planning process for the Civil Rights Museum and the message contained in its design. When Mississippi announced plans to build a civil rights museum, some doubted it would tell the whole story.  Allen explains how the state’s willingness to ‘go there,’ resulted in a powerful learning experience.

With a mandate that the two museums be opened by the State’s Centennial celebration in 2017, Allen’s team was hard pressed to deliver on time.  She recounts the process of selecting the design firms and the endless meetings they sat through.

As the opening day approached for the Two Mississippi Museums, there were countless small details to be addressed.  Allen remembers the pre-opening tours and feeling proud of a job well done.

Sep 16, 2019

Lucy Allen moved from North Carolina to Mississippi and spent the next seven years teaching school. In this episode, she explains how her interest in photography led to a career with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. 

In 1961, the first State Historical Museum for Mississippi opened in the Old Capitol building. Allen discusses conditions that highlighted the need for a new museum and archives and how MDAH began planning for a new state museum in 1998. She recalls how Hurricane Katrina devastated the old museum in 2005 and altered all their plans.

PODCAST EXTRA: As MDAH developed plans for a new state history museum, the State Legislature’s Black Caucus continued their years-long push for a separate civil rights museum to be located on the campus of Tougaloo College. Allen recounts how Governor Haley Barbour, former Governor William Winter, and Judge Reuben Anderson worked with others to combine the two museums together into one state-funded project.

Don’t miss next week’s episode as Allen discusses the challenges they faced in making the Two Mississippi Museums a reality!

PHOTO: Two Mississippi Museums architectural drawing

Sep 2, 2019

Jimmie Person grew up in Port Gibson, Mississippi during the 1930s.  In this episode, he recalls summers on his father’s plantation and the warm, nurturing environment small-town life provided the children.  Back when Person was a child, the closest hospital to Port Gibson was in Vicksburg. He remembers how doctors would make houses calls, and the childhood diseases of that time.

When Person reached high school, he attended Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson. He reflects on life at the all-male school and how they hosted off-campus dances in an old ballroom.

PODCAST BONUS: Person was in his freshman year at Mississippi State when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  He shares those vivid memories and discusses how he ended up as a Military Policeman at a base in England.

PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History

Aug 26, 2019

As Hurricane Katrina churned across the Gulf in August of 2005, Ruth Christian left her Pascagoula home to wait out the storm with her son’s mother-in-law, a few miles inland. In this episode, taken from an interview conducted in 2007, she shares her memories of the days following the storm as people struggled to feed themselves. She recalls trying to feed 16 people with anything they could find.

A couple of days after the hurricane, Christian found out her home had been destroyed.  She remembers coming to terms with the loss of everything she owned at the age of 77.

According to Christian, everyone was in a state of shock. She describes the despair she felt combing through the wreckage, and the joy of finding family keepsakes.

PODCAST BONUS: Because Hurricane Georges damaged her home in 1998, Christian decided not to rebuild a second time after Hurricane Katrina. She discusses her decision to move into an apartment, but remain on the Gulf Coast.

Aug 19, 2019

For many young people, participation in the Civil Rights Movement began with a membership in the NAACP. In this episode, Franzetta Sanders of Moss Point recalls joining the group and the work they did to promote Equality for all. During the 1960s, members of the NAACP would test local businesses for compliance with new Civil Rights laws.  Franzetta Sanders describes their work in Moss Point and how the community reacted.

In the Jim Crow South, there were separate public restrooms marked for “Whites Only” and “Blacks Only.” Sanders recounts how a stopover at the Hattiesburg bus station resulted in their bus being surrounded by police.

Most Mississippi public schools did not begin to fully integrate until 1970. As the mother of six children, Sanders worked to make sure they had the best educational opportunities possible. She remembers those difficult early days and how things eventually got better.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Sanders worked diligently to break down racial barriers. She expresses frustration at the apathy of young people who are reluctant to join the NAACP.

This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Lucas Somers, and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.

PHOTO: USM Digital Collections – Herbert Randall

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