Just what is The Mississippi Delta?
Turns out it looks a lot like Iowa.
This is my third trip to Mississippi and the first time I’ve really been able to look around. I went down to Oxford, Miss., to visit my new friend, Alysia, a journalist in residence at Ole Miss at the Meek School of Journalism. Oxford is a small college town, much like Columbia, Mo., but smaller. So Al and I set out for The Delta on my second day there.
We crossed the Tallahatchie River at least half a dozen times on the trip, meaning that I couldn’t help but have the lyrics of “Ode to Billie Joe” in my head all day.
Even though I’ve heard The Delta mentioned in many ways and things, I’ve never known what people meant when they talked about The Delta.
At its core, The Delta is a large agricultural region between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. But The Delta is the people, an attitude, an economic situation. It’s not as depressed as I was expecting, but it is depressed. And rural. Very rural. Mississippi has 42,000 farms spread over 11.4 million acres of farmland (Iowa has 92,600 farms on 30.7 million acres.) And it’s full of history, predominantly Civil Rights and blues music history.
We had two primary destinations on this trip, one that Al has made many times: the grocery store in the small town of Money where Emmett Till is said to have whistled at a white woman; and Ground Zero, a blues club in Clarksdale owned by actor Morgan Freeman and attorney Bill Luckett, the mayor of Clarksdale. No, Morgan wasn’t there, but I did get to meet Bill. Al is working on a coffee table book of the club.
On the way to Clarksdale we passed the Tallahatchie Flats just outside of Greenwood, Miss. I don’t know if I’m more offended by this or not, but the tenant houses at the flats are now rented out like vacation cabins. You can rent history for a minimum of $85 a night.
On the way down I stopped at Graceland, Elvis’ home in Memphis. I was there too late to go in but that’s ok. I’ve seen the photos on the Internet and don’t think I missed that much. You can see my pictures from there in the gallery below.