When we think of places that are culturally diverse, Mississippi may not immediately spring to mind. But Mississippi’s heritage is as rich as it is thanks to the variety of ethnic cultures of our people, past and present. We’re giving away a limited number of copies of Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth Century. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request one and we’ll get it in the mail to you.
Celebrate Mississippi’s diverse cultures by learning more about some of them!
The original Mississippians: Evidence of Native American cultures in the Mississippi area goes back thousands of years, including the burial and platform mounds featured in the Mississippi Mound Trail. Once America was “discovered,” however, and the devastation to this culture ensued, Mississippi’s remaining Native American tribes included Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Today, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is now the only federally recognized American Indian tribe in the state. Need more information? Try James F. Barnett’s Mississippi’s American Indians (University Press of Mississippi, 2012).
European Influx: In the 16th-18th centuries, a steady stream of European explorers arrived in what would become Mississippi. These immigrants included Spanish, French, British, Swiss, and German settlers. Beginning in the early 19th century, most immigrants came from eastern states, making Americans the main import. Between the 1880s-1920s, European immigrants were mainly Greek, Italian, Irish, and Slavonian.
African Displacement: Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, hundreds of Africans were forcibly brought to America, many of them ending up in Mississippi as slaves. By 1860, over half the population of the state was African-American. African-Americans played a central role in establishing the economic development of the state and their contributions to the overall culture of the state is immeasurable. Visit the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson; read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
The Mississippi Chinese, who mostly settled in the Delta, moved from farm labor to careers as merchants. Visit the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum at Delta State in Cleveland.
After the Vietnam War, Mississippi’s Vietnamese population expanded, especially along the Gulf Coast. Read the story of the Vietnamese in Mississippi.
The reason you’re able to enjoy kibbe along with your barbecue is thanks to the Lebanese population.
Mississippi has a small, yet vibrant Jewish population, dating from the nineteenth century. The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life seeks to promote and educate Judaism in the south through community engagement, historic preservation, and cultural events. Read The Lonely Days were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner by Eli N. Evans.
The Mississippi Hispanic Society‘s mission is to create interest in the history, traditions and current issues regarding the Hispanic community in Mississippi.