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Keywords: Mississippi , immigrants , ethnicity , immigration trends , ethnic identity , ethnic groups , Biloxi , identity affiliation , We the People , identity. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved. OSO version 0. University Press Scholarship Online. Sign in. Not registered? Sign up. University Press of Mississippi. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Amid renewed interest in identity, the Mississippi Humanities Council has commissioned a companion volume to its earlier book that studied ethnicity in the state from the period This new book, Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth Century , offers stories of immigrants overcoming obstacles, immigrants newly arrived, and long-settled groups witnessing a revitalized claim to membership.

The book examines twentieth-century immigration trends, explores the reemergence of ethnic identity, and undertakes case studies of current ethnic groups. The exact origin of the aboveground burial vaults in New Orleans is unknown. They could be an adaptation to the high water tables or a reminder of the Spanish colonial period, but suffice it to say these burial grounds provide a fascinating lure to visitors.

For instance the river grows into an overpowering feature as one travels ever southward:. As the Mississippi River flows to the Gulf of Mexico, the relationship between land and water changes; it is no longer close and intimate, but broad and unknowable.

The overwhelming defining feature in the lower Delta is the levee system running for hundreds of miles on both sides of the river. The lower river levee system is a compelling and eye-catching aspect of the landscape and of southern culture. In New Orleans swamp drainage and reclamation altered the landscape dramatically.

After the great flood of , other human-engineered elements became part of the river landscape, including riverbanks stabilized with mats of willows, revetments, mattresses of wire-linked concrete slabs, dikes, floodways, and cutoff channels. During the flood the river threatened to take the shorter route to the Gulf of Mexico via the Atachafalaya River, hut the Old River control structure, erected by the U. Army Corp of Engineers, held barely.

Twenty years later levees along the lower Missouri and Illinois segment of the lower Mississippi River Delta failed. Numerous farms and several farm villages such as Valmeyer, Illinois, have been relocated on higher ground since that disaster. The river is still the most significant, inspiring feature of the Lower Mississippi Delta region.


The lower Mississippi River Delta is an enduring theme in American literature. It is the source of great fiction and fancy, travel, history and tales — an inspiration to generations of writers. The Europeans who arrived to explore or exploit left accounts of the delta as well. Fathers Jacques Marquette and Louis Hennepin described the immense size of river, its natural state, and countless species of wildlife.

Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth Century Ed. by Shana Walton (review)

Numerous other travelers have written of their personal discoveries by way of their physical and mental journeys through the unknown. For more than two centuries travelers have described their journeys through the Delta. Jonathan Carver and Samuel S. Forman, in the latter decades of the 18th century, were followed by Zadoc Cramer, who described the delta in John Bradhury, Frances Trollope, and Charles Dickens recorded their impressions of the inhabitants and the river, and John James Audubon painted the avian life in this region during the early to mids.

These 19th century traveling authors shared their impressions of the lower Delta country not only with Americans living in the East, but Europe as well. Finally, the floodplain beyond the levees is an internationally recognized landscape feature. The Delta covers 35, square miles from southern Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, encompassing counties in seven states and approximately 8.

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In northeastern Louisiana, western Mississippi, and southeastern Arkansas, mile after mile of rich, black, alluvial soil stretches before the eye. The Delta supports not only traditional agriculture, thriving communities, and new economic endeavors but an internationally artistic and cultural expression as well. Like the down home blues of Robert Johnson and Elmore James, the lower Mississippi Delta landscape retains its raw, earthy, isolated, sensory, and soulful ethos.

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Yet no contemporary historian has assumed the daunting task of researching and writing a historical synthesis of this region. Fictional and autobiographical interpretations of life throughout the Delta recall the sickness, adversity, wonder, and insight that Mississippi River Delta life brought to many. There are also authors who grew up in the Mississippi Delta who chose to write about the Delta as well as other subjects. For example, early feminist author Kate Chopin of St. Richard Wright depicted harsh truths about slavery, segregation, and racism, and his best known work, Native Son , is set in a burgeoning African-American community in Chicago, many of whose residents had migrated north from the lower Delta region.

Also notable was Ama Bontemps, who depicted the lives and struggles of African-Americans and was a seminal contributor to the Harlem Renaissance, a period of vigorous literary creativity among African-Americans during the s.

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Other Delta-based or inspired authors include Mississippian natives William Faulkner, who used the Delta as the setting for his intricate novels, and Willie Morris, who embodies the southern tradition of backporch storytelling. Cape Fear resident Thomas "Tennessee" Williams shared his perceptions of the colorful delta characters he grew up with in rural Mississippi in his many plays.

Heritage and Hate: Mississippi’s State Flag

Historian Shelby Foote, of Greenville, Mississippi, enthralled readers with the personalities, ironies, and triumphs of the Civil War, and Alex Haley of Henning, Tennessee, poignantly depicted the struggles of African-Americans in his works of historical fiction. Contemporary best-selling author John Grisham uses the rich heritage of the Delta as a palette for his popular suspense novels.

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  4. As Greenville, Mississippi, resident Hodding Carter noted in , however, both the Mississippi River and the Southern Delta tradition remain elusive:. I have read what most have written, and without them I could not add another book to the list. Yet when you leave them you are still confused, for their eyes saw different things and at different times. The navigator tells his story and the explorer his, and the historian and the planter, the naturalist and the pilot and the soldier. The river is in all of them.

    But if you try to use them piecemeal, you find a patternless puzzle.