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Magnolia Culture: Bringing you...

Magnolia Culture: Bringing you Mississippi’s best

By: Susan Marquez - April 27, 2023

Announcing a new approach to telling Mississippi’s true story. Each week Magnolia Tribune will bring you a glimpse into Mississippi’s cultural heritage, as well as what is happening in the here & now.

Welcome to Magnolia Tribune’s culture newsletter, a weekly roundup on the art, literature, music, dance, food, people and places that help define who we are as Mississippians. Culture is a term that is broad and diverse, the aspects of social life that are mostly abstract and ethereal. Culture embodies our values and our beliefs, as well as the language and shared practices of a collective of people.

Culture, particularly Southern culture, is so important in our society that the Center for the Study of Southern Culture was established at the University of Mississippi in the mid-1970’s. The Center is dedicated to strengthening humanities teachings and scholarship through exploration and documentation of the American South.

In 1977, a three-day Eudora Welty symposium was held as a kickoff for the Center, featuring the author herself. Author Bill Ferris was named director of the Center in 1978, co-authoring the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture with Charles Reagan Wilson in 1989, which U.S. News & World Report noted was “the first attempt ever to describe every aspect of a region’s life and thought, the impact of its history and policies, its music and literature, its manners and myths, even the iced tea that washes down its catfish and cornbread.”

Recognizing that some aspects of Southern culture required a bit more study, three institutes within the Center for the Study of Southern Culture were formed. John T. Edge was instrumental in the formation of the Southern Foodways Alliance which documents, studies and explores diverse food cultures of the changing American South. Oral histories, films and podcasts are recorded and shared, along with a quarterly collection of food-related essays in the popular journal and podcast duo, Gravy.

The second institute within the Center for the Study of Southern Culture is SouthDocs, short for the Southern Documentary Project. The institute works with students to produce works of documentary storytelling from the perspective of living in the American South. Highway 61 is a weekly radio program on the blues which airs on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Scott Baretta, a writer and researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail (and former editor of Living Blues magazine), is the host of the program, which is produced by the Southern Documentary Project.

And finally, the third institute is Living Blues, America’s first blues publication. The magazine was founded in Chicago by Jim O’Neal and Amy van Singel in 1970. Living Blues was acquired by the University of Mississippi in 1983 and continues to be published bimonthly by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, aiming to document and preserve the African American blues tradition while sharing the Center’s mission to promote scholarship and documentary work.

(Photo Credit: Margo Cooper)

Studying, documenting and preserving our culture is an important endeavor. Culture, more often than not, is what makes our lives full and rich. It keeps us entertained, makes us think, and brings us together. Culture is the thing that helps people realize that we are really more alike than we are different. Music, food and art bring us together in a way that encourages harmony and understanding.

Each week Magnolia Tribune will bring you a glimpse into Mississippi’s strong cultural heritage, as well as what is happening in the here and now. Hopefully, you will be entertained. And hopefully, you’ll learn something. And maybe you will be motivated to try something new, visit a place you’ve never been, and stretch your imagination in ways you have never dreamed. Our writers will seek out the known and the unknown, from award-winning authors and actors to those who are more obscure, but no less talented.

We will seek to find the backstories and little-known facts that make the people and places in Mississippi interesting. We’ll write about Mississippi legends, political figures, Civil Rights icons, writers, actors, filmmakers, producers, broadcasters, and Mississippi history. We’ll explore faith in the Magnolia state, and fellowship, including the chefs, restauranteurs, restaurants, distillers and breweries. We’ll go on the road to explore places and events in Mississippi to visit and experience.

We hope you’ll come along for the ride. And we hope you’ll let us know if there is something or someone you would like us to cover. We’re all in this cultural gumbo together.

About the Author(s)
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Susan Marquez

Susan Marquez serves as Magnolia Tribune's Culture Editor. Since 2001, Susan Marquez has been writing about people, places, spaces, events, music, businesses, food, and travel. The things that make life interesting. A prolific writer, Susan has written over 3,000 pieces for a wide variety of publications.