Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Friday, May 31, 2013

Announcing My New Book Project: "Tillman Branch, King of the Mississippi Bootleggers"

I am happy and proud to announce that I recently learned The History Press, an independent publisher located in Charleston, South Carolina, has accepted my book proposal, with plans to publish "Tillman Branch, King of the Mississippi Bootleggers," in April 2014.  I am especially delighted to be associated with The History Press, which publishes books in 50 states and was named by Publishers Weekly as a "2012 Fastest-Growing INDIE PUBLISHER."

I wrote about Tillman on this blog several years ago.  Well-known as a bootlegger in Attala and Holmes Counties, Tillman was shot and killed in 1960's Mississippi.  Not only did Tillman make and sell liquor that was illegal during the time in which he lived and in the state where he grew up, he also ran nightclubs where the liquor was sold. Locally known during that time as "juke joints," Tillman's clubs offered entertainment to patrons that featured blues music and moonshine, a combination that often resulted in a little mayhem to boot.  Some of the bluesmen who performed in Tillman's clubs, including David "Honeyboy" Edwards, would later leave Mississippi and become well-known throughout the country.

I have a personal interest in the life of Tillman Branch, since my paternal great-great-grandfather and Tillman's father were brothers. Although I never met Tillman, I was often fascinated by the many stories about him that I heard as a child.  Surprisingly, others knew Tillman as a person who was quite different from the one who lived and worked on the other side of the law. In this book, I hope to present both sides of Tillman's life and the significance of the history and culture of the place where he lived. 

Watch here for updates on the book's progress.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where in the Heck is Possumneck?

Based on some comments on this blog by those who watched today's airing of The Price is Right (a long-running game show currently hosted by Drew Carey), Possumneck, Mississippi, may now be a household word!  It seems someone on the show was a resident of Possumneck, a small community in Attala County, Mississippi. For more about Possumneck, check out this link to a post I wrote about the area four years ago on this blog:

It really is a small world, isn't it? And thanks to the visitor on The Price is Right, it's existence is now known about throughout the world!  One reader wanted to know where she could get a T-Shirt?  I aim to please my readers, so do you think I should have some made?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Southern Jewish Experience

A couple of years ago, I became aware of two museums in Mississippi that deal with the state's history. Unlike many of Mississippi's older, more established museums, these are fairly new, having been around only since the mid-1980's. They are not, however, Civil War museums, museums that showcase Native American history and culture, or museums that chronicle the history of the music phenomenon known as The Delta BluesThey are museums that have a mission "to document and preserve the rich history of the Southern Jewish experience." If you are among those who may be searching for information about Southern Jewish ancestors, their lives, and their customs, the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, or "ISJL," may just be the place to visit. Two locations now exist, the original location in Utica, Mississippi, near Jackson, and a newer site in historic Natchez, Mississippi. The ISJL's website describes the original museum facility as sitting on "a beautiful rural setting on the 300-acre site of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi.....with exhibit galleries and a central sanctuary that is actively used for programs and services." The Natchez museum is located at 213 South Commerce Street at Washington Street, and houses an exhibit that documents the history and everyday life of Natchez's Jewish families, beginning with the arrival of the first Sephardic Jewish families in the late 1700s. Of interest here, is the fact that the oldest Jewish congregation in Mississippi was housed at the temple in Natchez. Behind the stained glass windows and historic walls of Temple B'nai Israel are a century-old organ and an ark made out of marble.

For readers who live outside the State of Mississippi, it may be a surprise to hear that the Magnolia state would have enough
Jewish population to warrant these two museums. But the fact is that Jews have lived in the South since the 18th century. A large portion of that population likely resulted from the mass emigration of Jews from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Europe to the United States during that time period. And many of these families migrated further south. This theory is supported by information on the museum's website that states "as early as 1820, more Jews lived in Charleston, South Carolina than in New York City." If you haven't visited Mississippi's wonderful museums, I encourage you to do so. 
And don't forget to include the ISJL. These museums will certainly be worth the "southern experience."