The Mississippi Delta, where Blues music and the Civil Rights Movement were born

The Mississippi Delta, where Blues music and the Civil Rights Movement were born
Copyright Euronews
By Tim Gallagher
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Join writer and photographer Johny Pitts as he tours the Civil Rights trail of the American South to discover his heritage


The Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of the Blues and the home of the Civil Rights Movement.

An artist synonymous with the Blues is music legend B.B. King who was born along the Mississippi Delta and taught the reality of life on the floodplain to the world through his lyrics.

The Mississippi way of life that shaped the Blues is also intricately bound up with the Civil Rights Movement.

“Blues music is one of the basic backdrops to civil rights,” says Dr Alphonso Sanders, the retired director of the B.B. King Recording Studio.

“Civil rights itself was always an underlying verse in the music itself.”

The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.Euronews

The struggle for civil rights and the life and career of King are told at The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center through visual and audio exhibits including priceless memorabilia. The musician's rags-to-riches story is imbibed with the soul of this unique region of the American South.

“Experience what the Delta itself represents,” says Sanders.

“Because this is where B.B. King grew up.”

Music venues keeping the Blues on the map

The Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale.Euronews

Live music venues are an integral part of Mississippi Blues culture and clubs like Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale keep the spirit of the Blues alive.

“It’s become a place where people want to come and experience music in a very authentic environment,” says Eric Meier who co-owns the venue.

Ground Zero Blues Club celebrates contemporary Blues talent in an intimate setting. The space is always packed at the weekends and draws international crowds of Blues fans.

“There’s a lot of history and story there,” adds Meier.

Emmett Till: the murder that sparked a movement

One of the darker moments in Mississippi’s history is the lynching of teenager Emmett Till.

Till was 14 years old when he was brutally murdered by racists who were all later exonerated by the Mississippi courts. These events shocked the world and are considered a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

The town of Sumner in Mississippi today plays host to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center which aims to provide people with a sense of history through experience.

“Nothing beats or substitutes actually having an opportunity to spend real time in spaces of historical precedence,” says Public Engagement and Museum Education Director Benjamin Saulsberry.

The Mississippi Delta is certainly a place touched by historical events, that has shaped politics, and has a rich culture. It’s well worth a visit.

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