The Mississippi Delta is one of the most unique places I have ever visited. Although I have been through the Delta many times, I had never, until 2016, spent much time there. For those who aren’t familiar with the Delta area, it is in the northwest part of the state, between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The Delta is often described as “the most Southern Place in the South” because of its history, racial composition, and location on an alluvial floodplain that was conducive to growing cotton. The Delta is mostly rural, economically disadvantaged, and home to some of the nicest people I have ever met. The Delta is also known as the place where the all American style of music, the blues, originated. David and I were originally inspired to visit the Mississippi Delta by Mr. Riley King, also known as “Blues Boy,” and more commonly known as B.B. King. I have had the extremely pleasurable experience of seeing and, of course, hearing, the late, great B.B. King play the blues on many occasions. He truly lived up to his name: B.B. was the King. I had heard about the B.B. King Museum, located in Indianola, and I decided that would be the first of many stops on our blues journey. David and I saw many sights, including Robert Johnson’s reputed grave (no one knows for sure where he was buried), the famous Crossroads where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for mastering the blues, several civil rights destinations, Elvis’ birthplace, and much, much more. We ate the best tamales I have ever eaten at Larry’s Tamales in Clarksdale, we saw the Yazoo and the mighty Mississippi Rivers, and we absorbed as much of the blues culture and music as we possibly could. For anyone who loves music as much as me, time spent in the Delta is a crucial part of personal growth.
The state of Mississippi is to be commended for recognizing and capitalizing on the relatively recent history of music, and civil rights, which exist within its borders. They have a color coded system of informational signs to denote places of importance in the world of blues, country and civil rights history. There is also a map, and an app created by the state. These things are certainly one of Mississippi’s main draws for tourists. We, in Florida, are of course, accustomed to tourists to the point of annoyance with them sometimes. Mississippians, however, proved very welcome, as curious about us (why we would venture there) as we were about them. The racial issues were, as we learned reading “Dispatches from Pluto” by Richard Grant, still an issue, though of a different sort than 50 years ago. Having read about it, our antennae were up and we certainly observed, and heard stories indicating the book was on point. It is amazing that we were in the United States, only 2 states away from our very familiar Florida, but in what seemed like a foreign land. The pace of life was different than the fast pace of south Florida. Few of our travels have taken us to places that have provide such a sense of themselves in the few days we were able to visit (in travels of the last few years Berlin also had this impact on us). Slowing down and enjoying the wild flowers, and sun flowers, venturing to the juke joint, and making stops on the blues trail were all positive experiences. Stops on the civil rights trail were similarly memorable, but in a more sobering way. Is there something for everyone there in the Delta? Probably not – partly as evidenced by the depressed towns full of vacant buildings that went as fallow as the fields when the economies of cotton farming changed. But, there is much to enjoy, and experience and we were able to answer the question of why we ventured there with ease.
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