On Friday April 16, 2010 The Mississippi Delta Music Exchange group was taken on an extensive Blues and Civil Rights Heritage Tour of the Mississippi Delta region. Director of the Delta Center conducted the tour for Culture and Learning at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.
The tour took our group from the Delta Center for Culture and Heritage, to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, site where a young Emmett Till is alleged to have offended Carolyn Bryant by whistling at her. Money is also the site of one of the alleged resting places of the late Legendary Bluesman Robert Johnson’s and we made a brief stop at his gravestone.
We then drove to Greenwood, Mississippi site of B.B. King’s first live radio broadcast in 1940. Though Baptist town in Greenwood is best known as the final residence of the legendary “King of the Delta Blues,” Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson’s grandson, Steven Johnson, Vice President of The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation joined us for the audition and 5-week scholarship award ceremony in the heart of Baptist Town of one of Mr. Johnson’s students, saxophone player Calvin Bogan of Jackson, Mississippi. Calvin will be coming to Berklee for this summers 5-week program.
From Greenwood we went onto Ruleville, Mississippi the resting place of the late voting rights activist and civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. The final stop on the tour was the Dockery Plantation, which was a 10,000-acre cotton plantation and sawmill on the Sunflower River between Ruleville and Cleveland, Mississippi. It is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Delta blues as blues musicians Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf were all once residents of the plantation.
After the tour students, Taylor Gordon, Mario Castro, Eric Finland, Director of Media Relations, Allen Bush and I traveled north to Clarksdale to visit the historic Hopson’s Plantation Commissary. Hopson’s was the first farm in the world to grow and harvest a commercial acreage of cotton produced completely by mechanical methods. Though at one time over a million families were needed to raise 22 million acres of cotton.
Today, Hopson’s serves as a bar and restaurant with a main stage where local and national blues and country acts perform. The students in our group sat in and jammed with Big Bruce Brewer & The Deep Water Baptists, a local Clarksdale Country/Classic Rock group.
– Kevin Johnson