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.
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
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.
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
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.