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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for September 13-19, 2002

In this issue:


The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.

1825: Lawyer, Congressman, and future Supreme Court justice L. Q. C. Lamar was born in Putnam County, Georgia. (Sep. 17)

1899: Presbyterian minister William Earl Crane was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. (Sep. 14)

1899: English professor Richmond Pugh Bond was born in Magnolia, Mississippi. (Sep. 16)

1904: Baptist minister and theologian C. E. Autrey was born in Columbus, Mississippi. (Sep. 17)

1907: Theologian William F. Orr was born in Corinth, Mississippi. (Sep. 13)

1910: Music composer and writer Lehman Engel was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Sep. 14)

1910: Zoology professor Osmond P. Breland was born in Decatur, Mississippi. (Sep. 17)

1919: The story “They Grind Exceedingly Small” by Ben Ames Williams appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. (Sep. 13)

1928: Methodist minister Perry Tanksley was born near Lorman, Mississippi. (Sep. 15)

1933: English professor, fiction writer, and poet Kenneth Holditch was born in Ecru, Mississippi. (Sep. 18)

1934: Classics professor E. Otha Wingo was born in Booneville, Mississippi. (Sep. 17)

1939: Larry Speakes, former journalist and deputy press secretary for U.S. President Ronald Reagan from 1981-1987, was born in Cleveland, Mississippi. (Sep. 13)

1940: Writer and civil rights activist Anne Moody, author of Coming of Age in Mississippi, was born in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. (Sep. 15)

1941: Social work professor Thomas D. Watts was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Sep. 19)

1943: Novelist Mildred D. Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Sep. 13)

1943: Environmental engineer Harry M. Freeman was born in Meridian, Mississippi. (Sep. 17)

1945: Editor, journalist and photographer James Dickerson was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. (Sep. 14)

1946: Science fiction and fantasy writer Howard Waldrop was born in Houston, Mississippi. (Sep. 15)

1946: Legal historian Walter F. Pratt, Jr. was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Sep. 17)

1947: Etiquette instructor and consultant Joan M. Coles was born in Houston, Mississippi. (Sep. 19)

1954: FBI officials interviewed Richard Wright in Paris about his relationship to the Communist Party when he went to renew his passport. (Sep. 16)

1957: Software developer and business professor H. Jeff Smith was born in Starkville, Mississippi. (Sep. 14)

1982: Music composer and writer Lehman Engel died of cancer in New York City. (Sep. 14)

1989: Jazz musician Milt Hinton performed at the White House with the Benny Carter All-Star Quartet. (Sep. 17)

2000: Playwright and poet Beah Richards died of emphysema in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Sep. 14)


Myrlie Evers-Williams to help dedicate memorial site Oct. 1

Activist joins day’s events to open yearlong observance of integration’s 40th anniversary

Sep. 12, 2002

By Patsy R. Brumfield
University of Mississippi News Services

Myrlie Evers-Williams

OXFORD, Miss. — Civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams comes to the University of Mississippi Oct. 1 to help dedicate the site for a campus memorial and to open a yearlong observance of 40 years of integration.

Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, said she hopes the events will help students better understand the history of the movement and why it is significant in their lives.

“I say to students, take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow. You then have a responsibility to give back to your country,” said the Vicksburg native.

Medgar Evers was gunned down outside his home in Jackson by Byron De La Beckwith in 1963.

Almost a year earlier, on Sept. 30, 1962, violence erupted on UM’s Oxford campus as federal officials accompanied James Meredith, a black man also from Jackson, who was being admitted as a student at the previously all-white university. Two men died, and dozens of citizens and military personnel were wounded in rioting at the scene.

“Among the significant events in the history of our state is the decision to make higher education accessible to all Mississippians. As the oldest public university in Mississippi, it has been our good fortune to lead the way in a number of important areas,” said UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. “Although the events of 1962 are painful and regrettable, we have built on that experience and have incorporated into the culture of Ole Miss the basic value of respect for the dignity of every individual. It is appropriate that this important date in history be highlighted by our community.”

At 3 p.m., the law school honors Williams and her slain husband’s legacy with a presentation and reception. Dedication of the memorial site follows a 5:30 p.m. community dinner and music program on the grounds in the Circle and a ceremonial walk through the historic Lyceum Building.

Other activities launching UM’s observance “Open Doors: Building on 40 Years of Opportunity in Higher Education” include speakers, exhibitions and establishment of an oral history and memorabilia archive. A Student Media Center exhibit in the Union will show today’s students the look of 1962’s campus and students. Open Doors culminates in September 2003 with an international conference on race.

Plans call for the memorial artwork to be erected next spring. Donations of more than $100,000 from friends, faculty and students were raised for the project during the past six years. Two recent gifts are a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and $35,000 raised by UM fraternity and sorority members.

A model of the memorial is on display in the Student Union. The artwork has been commissioned to noted installation artist Terry Adkins of New York, who won a national competition for the project.

The university and the City of Oxford host a variety of other activities Oct. 1. During a luncheon on the Square downtown, Oxford officials will honor state and other military personnel who came to help quell the civil disorder.

University activities begin at 9 a.m. with a long-term oral history project to capture personal experiences of people who were on the campus during the integration or who were affected by the events. Last month, the university issued public calls for participation in the oral history and for the submission of private materials relating to the integration era.

Numerous persons associated with the historic event are expected on campus to speak in classes or public forums throughout the day. Open Doors also features exhibitions, a walking tour with markers at key campus sites and multicultural activities.

Other upcoming programs complement the observance. The 27th annual Porter L. Fortune Jr. History Symposium is hosted Sept. 25-27 to examine “Race & Sport: The Struggle for Equality On & Off the Field.” The Nov. 12 Silver Em Day, hosted by the UM Journalism Department, brings to campus past recipients of the university’s highest journalism award for public discussions about reporting on the Civil Rights Movement.

For information about UM’s Open Doors activities, contact the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at 662-915-5993 or visit university Web sites or Oxford’s events are detailed at


Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to


The following articles were recently added to the Writer Listings:

NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Absalom, Absalom!
A Novel by William Faulkner
First published 1936
Random House (Hardcover, $22.00, ISBN: 0375508724)
Publication date: September 2002

Brief Review:

One of Faulkner’s greatest novels, Absalom, Absalom! recounts the story of Thomas Sutpen, born into a poor farm family in western Virginia in the early 1800s who runs away with plans to create a vast “design” of wealth and power. When he appears in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi (Faulkner’s apocryphal setting for most of his novels), he carves out of the wilderness a vast plantation, marries a local shopkeeper’s daughter, and settles into the life of a planter when his wife bears him two children, Henry and Judith. But when Henry brings home Charles Bon, a classmate from the University of Mississippi, who becomes romantically engaged with Judith, Sutpen’s design begins to unravel. On the eve of the Civil War, Henry spurns his birthright, and together he and Bon leave. It is only after the war, after Henry and Bon have served together in the same regiment throughout the war, that one of the central mysteries of the novel emerges: why did Henry shoot Charles Bon at the gate of Sutpen’s mansion?

The present-day of the novel is 1909-10 and is told primarily by contemporaries, including Rosa Coldfield, the fiercely proud sister of Sutpen’s wife, a spinster who after her sister’s death spurns Sutpen’s rude sexual advances; Jason Compson, a confirmed cynic and nihilist who did not witness the key events befalling the Sutpen family but heard most of them from his father; Quentin Compson, Jason’s son, a romantic young man who is drawn into the Sutpen saga against his will by Rosa Coldfield, but once he is involved he must follow it to its logical end; and Quentin’s roommate at Harvard, the Canadian Shreve McCannon, who along with Quentin feels compelled to complete the saga by any means necessary. These memorable characters not only recount historically factual information about Sutpen’s story; they also freely add to it and change it in order for it to make sense. The novel, then, which is a compelling exploration of Southern history, race, and gender, is likewise a powerful statement about how we interpret the past and impart meaning to it. John B. Padgett

In the Deep Heart's CoreIn the Deep Heart’s Core
By Michael Johnston
Grove Press (Hardcover, $22.00, ISBN: 080211721X)
Publication date: September 2002

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Fresh from a postcollege, intensive five-week crash course, Johnston began his two-year stint with Teach for America, a program that addresses the needs of some of America’s most desperate classrooms. In Johnston’s case, it’s a high school classroom in Greenville, Miss., with “chalkboards so scratched, rusted, and embedded with chalk dust that I couldn't read the boards even if I wrote on them with fresh white paint.” There he teaches students who have been through “more funerals than honor roll assemblies” due to drugs and gang violence. The school system’s countless institutional failures (among them, a counselor who sells high school credits) challenge Johnston’s assurance that education was the “one valuable skill I could bring to Mississippi that she could use.” The students’ truancy, sexual promiscuity and aggression sorely test Johnston’s conviction that “underneath, they were vulnerable … still children.” Successes are minuscule and failure is rampant.

What makes Johnston’s account noteworthy is his ability to move beyond making generalizations about impoverished schools and students. Rather, he takes readers into the constricted and often doomed lives of individuals: Corelle catches up on months of work with a six-hour marathon, but drops out of school; “confident, gracious, and charismatic” Egina becomes the accidental victim of cross fire. Although Johnston occasionally catches sight of a “few students who were trying to work effectively,” they occupy the periphery. “In making the Delta my home,” he observes, “I found inside her a despair beyond any I could have imagined.” That compassion, leavened with good sense, makes this honest and often painful account a moving, memorable call for action. —Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Aug. 1-Nov. 4: J. D. William Library, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

“Civil Rights, Mississippi, and the Novelist’s Craft.” This exhibit highlights fictional accounts set in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, including works by Ellen Douglas, Patrick D. Smith, Elizabeth Spencer, Eudora Welty, Lewis Nordan, William Mahoney, Joan Williams, and many others. Supplementing the display of books will be correspondence, manuscripts, and related ephemera drawn from the archive’s literary collections. Located in the Hall of Mississippi Writers in the Special Collections Department, J. D. Williams Library. Open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, please contact: Leigh McWhite, (662) 915-7937,

Sep. 18: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.

Reading by Michael Johnston, author of In the Deep Heart’s Core, a book about his two years of teaching in the Mississippi Delta as a member of the Teach for America program. For more information, visit

Sep. 19: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.

Reading by Whitney Terrell, author of The Huntsman, on Thacker Mountain Radio. Musical guest will be country music singer/songwriter (and Mississippi writer) Marty Stuart. For more information, visit

Sep. 25: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5 p.m.

Reading by Thomas Hal Phillips. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

Sep. 26: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.

Reading by Will D. Campbell on Thacker Mountain Radio. Musical guest will be Mississippi Delta gospel-blues artists Duff & the Revelators. For more information, visit

Sep. 26-28: Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, 7:30 p.m.

“June Recital,” an adaptation of extracts from, among others, Eudora Welty’s “Losing Battles” and “Why I Live at the P.O.” Brenda Currin’s one-woman show also features the direction of David Kaplan and music of Phillip Fortenberry. For more information about ticket prices or details on the performance, contact the Mississippi State University communications department at (662) 325-9810 or

Sep. 27: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5 p.m.

Rick Bass will sign and read from his short story collection, The Hermit’s Story. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

Oct. 1: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 2 p.m.

On the 40th anniversary of the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith, author William Doyle will sign copies of An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962, which chronicles the history of that epochal event. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

Oct. 7: Bondurant Hall Auditorium, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 7:00 p.m.

Poetry Reading by Alan Michael Parker. Respected poet Alan Michael Parker will read from his work. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English. For more information, contact the English Department at (662) 915-7687,

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at 


The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

November 11, 2002

Poetry Reading by J. D. McClatchy, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

November 14, 2002

Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History, will sign and read from her long-awaited second novel, The Little Friend, at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

November 16, 2002

Mary Carol Miller will sign copies of Lost Landmarks of Mississippi. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

January 16, 2003

Poetry Reading by Tom Chandler, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

February 6, 2003

U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2002) Billy Collins reads from his poetry and offers commentary on his work and other matters. Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

February 17, 2003

A reading by Clifton L. Taulbert on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

March 25, 2003

Poetry Reading by Andrew Hudgins, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

March 26-30, 2003

Seventeenth Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana. For information, visit their web site at

April 10-13, 2003

Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi.

July 20-25, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:

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