In 2009, after 10 years of effort, Congress awarded official designation for a Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, recognizing that the Mississippi Delta is a unique landscape which has created a distinct culture that is unusually rich in heritage stories. The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is currently developing a management plan to guide activities intended to preserve, celebrate and share the area’s unique culture and heritage. Mississippi Humanities Council Vice Chair Dr. Luther Brown is the director of the MDNHA, and Dr. Barbara Carpenter, executive director of the Council, serves on the board.

By Dr. John Hilpert, Chairman, MDNHA Board of Directors

Please help us plan the future of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. Below is information on how to get involved.

Everyone who lives in this region reaches an inevitable conclusion: This is a special place. The Mississippi Delta has shaped our nation’s history and culture.  Civil rights . . . blues . . . southern literature . . . the Mississippi River . . . agriculture . . . culinary traditions. The list of the Delta’s contributions goes on and on.

As noted by the National Park Service: “Much of what is profoundly American — what people love about America — has come from the Delta, which is often called ‘the cradle of American culture.’”

Thus, these 18 counties earned the Congressional designation “National Heritage Area” in 2009. This legislation created unique opportunities for the Mississippi Delta.

By working with partners across the region and with our federal partner, the National Park Service, we seek ways to document, save, and celebrate what is special about the Delta. We tell our story to increase awareness and community pride among residents and to attract visitors. All of these efforts enhance sustainable economic development.

Work began in November 2011 on a management plan to guide our activities for the next 10-15 years. Throughout 2012, board members worked with a consultant team led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There have been public meetings, surveys and tours of important sites to understand what opportunities exist for the National Heritage Area.

In November 2012, we hosted a regional planning forum with nearly 100 in attendance representing interests in historic preservation, tourism, downtown revitalization, state and national parks, museums, community development, education, arts, history/archives, business and public events to share ideas about the future of the Delta.

During an entire day of discussions, we shared ideas about potential involvement in a wide range of activities such as developing school curricula, preserving historic sites, creating heritage-themed tours, documenting our history and more. Through all of the discussion ran the common theme of bringing partners together and building a strong network of people and organizations to accomplish our goals.

The result of this year-long research phase is the development of five options for what the heritage area can do and what resources may be needed.

On Feb. 26, we will hold two public meetings — one in Greenwood and another in Southaven — to explore these options. Your involvement is needed to help us make plans for the National Heritage Area that will support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, education and other activities.

These meetings are open to everyone, and reservations are not required. Meetings will be held Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the following times and locations: 10 a.m.-noon, Museum of the Mississippi Delta (formerly Cottonlandia Museum), 1608 Highway 82, Greenwood, and 4 to 6 p.m., Landers Center (DeSoto Civic Center), 4560 Venture Drive, (Intersection of I-55 and Church Road), Southhaven.

Please plan to attend one of these important meetings and help us shape the future of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.

For more information, visit or call 662-846-4311.

Dr. Hilpert is president of Delta State University in Cleveland serves as chair of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area Board of Directors, appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant. The heritage area planning process is managed by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

Posted on January 28 2013