Bobby "Chickenhead" Rush performs at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, 1998. Photo courtesy MACE/Delta Arts Projects
Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival
Founded in 1978, this annual festival attracts
20,000 people, who come to listen to local, regional and national
blues artists and celebrities. As the flagship activity for the
Delta Arts Project, the festival is the state's single largest
one-day event, and the largest tourist attraction in the state.
The Delta Arts Project is a regional organization
created in 1977 by the Mississippi Action for Community Education
Incorporated (MACE) to preserve and promulgate the art and cultural
heritage of Mississippi Delta people. Its mission is to increase
the quality and accessibility of American cultural arts and
humanities programming for the predominantly black, rural poor of
the delta region.
MACE was established in 1967 by civil rights
activists and community organizers to empower African-American poor
and disadvantaged citizens by developing their individual and
collective capacities to effect socioeconomic improvement. MACE
considers the celebration of the history and heritage of African
Americans in the delta to be an integral part of empowerment
efforts. The centerpiece of cultural preservation is the festival,
which began on the back of a flatbed truck in Freed Village. Held
the 3rd Saturday each September, the Mississippi Delta Blues &
Heritage Festival is the second oldest blues festival in the
country, and the oldest and largest blues festival in the South.
Along with music, home style cookin', arts, crafts, and novelties
The Mississippi Delta, a wedge-shaped region in
northern Mississippi between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, is
generally believed to be where the blues originated. The area has
spawned an enormous number of musicians, many of whom now have
international reputations. The conditions that gave birth to the
blues-poverty, racism, and inhumane working situations-led many
musicians to leave the state as soon as they could. Most traveled
North, heading first to Memphis, and then to urban centers, such as
Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit. Nonetheless, the blues did not
vanish from the Mississippi countryside, and even today the music
can still be heard in juke joints in a number of towns.
Music is played on three festival stages, including
gospel and jukehouse stages. Special tribute to blues legends is
paid during each festivals Among these have been W.C. Handy, Elmore
James, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin' Wolf, Son House,
Otis Spann, and John Hurt. Performing artists have included B.B.
King, Bobby Blue Bland, Bobby Rush, Albert King, John Lee Hooker,
Sam Myers, Johnny Winter, the Stable Singers, the Nighthawks, Muddy
Waters, Sam Chatmon, Furry Lewis and Big Joe Williams.
Documentation includes newspaper articles, 20 slides,
19 photographs, souvenir programs books, several T-shirts and caps,
a record, brochures, flyers, and other promotional material.
Originally submitted by: Bennie G. Thompson, Representative (2nd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.