The Mississippi Delta
On May 15, 2022, Dr. Moore, the Executive Director of Mount Zion Memorial Fund, drove for around 10 hours from Prairie View, Texas, to Greenville, Mississippi. Ajibola Abdulrahman joined Dr. Moore the following day to kickstart a Mount Zion Memorial Fund’s project in Mississippi Delta. “A Community-Engaged, Participatory Historical Preservation Project for African American Blues Communities,” this project aims to preserve historical and cultural heritages in African American blues communities. For this project, we mainly target three counties in Mississippi Delta namely; Bolivar, Carroll, and Washington.
In a preliminary research/survey that lasted four days, Dr. Moore and Abdulrahman stormed several communities in these counties, conducting oral, archival, and participatory research. To identify and locate historical sites in various African American Blues communities, including but not limited to Bound Bayou, Cleveland, Tutwiler, Rolesdale, Metcalfe, Greenwood, and Greenville. We collaborated with and built trust among the community members in these counties. The collaborations yielded fruits, as we located many historical sites, including cemeteries housing graves of many blues artists. Having located the sites, we made efforts to trace churches and or people who were/are associated with or connected to these historical sites. We also Visited County Courts, Town Halls, Libraries, Archives, and Museums in various counties to obtain additional information relevant to understanding the relevance of these historical sites.
The historical sites we visited include Ever Green Cemetery in Metcalfe and St. James Cemetery in Greenwood. Sonny Boy’s grave is located at the Evergreen Cemetery. Unfortunately, the cemetery has been abandoned and found in an unkempt condition.
In our search to find the person in charge of the Evergreen cemetery, we talked to some community members and visited Town Hall. To our surprise, many people in the community seemed either not to know of the existence of Evergreen cemetery. Few people who knew of its existence and location could not readily provide information about those that maintain the cemetery. A visit to Town Hall did not produce any positive outcome in locating those in charge of the cemetery. Like the Evergreen cemetery, many cemeteries belonging to African American Blues communities are endangered and urgently need preservation.
A visit to St. James Cemetery revealed a tragic experience. The cemetery has been desecrated by a new Private owner, the Spain family. In addition to this, the new owner has renamed the cemetery, an act capable of silencing history and eroding important historical and cultural heritage of African Americans. We tried to retrieve the old map at the Court House showing that ST. James cemetery was initially sited at the location.