Co-Lin to Host Mississippi Encyclopedia Release

Co-Lin to Host Mississippi Encyclopedia Release Picture

If you love Natchez, you’ll love the brand-new “Mississippi Encyclopedia,”published earlier this year by University Press of MississippiThe Natchez area has more entries in the 1,451-page volume than does any other part of the state. The book will make its debut Thursday, Nov. 2 at the library on the Natchez Campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College at 5 p.m.

“It stands to reason that Southwest Mississippi would have numerous entries,” said James F. Barnett Jr. of Natchez. “Natchez was the home of a prehistoric mound building culture, an important historic Indian tribe, one of the oldest colonial settlements in the state and the first capital of Mississippi.”

“For more than 300 years the Natchez area has been a leader in Mississippi,” Barnett said. “Natchez has led in politics and government, historic preservation, education, business and industry, cultural activities, tourism and hospitality.”

Barnett, author of “The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735” and other non-fiction books, is one of two from Natchez whose articles appear in the encyclopedia. The other is H. Clark Burkett, retired from Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

They join more than 600 other scholars whose 1,600 entries are in alphabetical order.

Barnett’s entries are “Natchez Indians” and “Fatherland Site (Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.”

Burkett wrote about the author, Prentiss Ingraham (1843-1904). “His 1,000 novels and novelettes make him Mississippi’s most fertile writer,” Burkett said.

The encyclopedia, published especially to help celebrate Mississippi’s bicentennial anniversary, will make its formal debut in Natchez at the Carolyn Vance Smith Natchez Literary Research Center.

This collection of Natchez-related books and other materials, which opened in 2016, is housed at the Willie Mae Dunn Library at Co-Lin, 11 Co-Lin Circle.

“It took the editors of the encyclopedia nearly 14 years to create and complete this massive research project,” said Beth Richard, Director of the Co-Lin Library. “We are delighted to help launch this impressive publication.”

The free event is part of Co-Lin’s salute to the 200th anniversary of the state of Mississippi. Book sales and signings by the encyclopedia’s co-editors Charles Reagan Wilson and Ted Ownby of The University of Mississippi, will kick off the event at 5 p.m.

Wilson and Ownby will speak at 5:30 p.m. about their work on the nearly nine-pound volume.

“We’ll be happy to take questions,” Ownby said. “One question is bound to be why we left out something. The answer is that we had a space issue. But we have an online version of the encyclopedia coming by 2018, and new entries can be added.”

Published by the University Press of Mississippi, the book has more than 135 references to the Natchez area, ranging from people to places to things. Some are stand-alone entries, while other times Natchez is mentioned within a general subject.

“My colleagues and I hope the book does a good job of showing the whole range of Mississippi places and people and experiences, both the famous and the obscure, and both problems and problem-solvers,” Ownby said.

“Also, we hope that it does a good job with the distinctive history of southwestern Mississippi.”

References to the Natchez area include such diverse topics as:

  • The French-Natchez War (1729-30)
  • Seven state governors, from the first in 1817 to the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and 59th, some of whom served multiple terms: William Allain, Adelbert Ames, Gerard C. Brandon, John Guion, David Holmes, George Poindexter, John A. Quitman, plus Abram M. Scott of nearby Wilkinson County, Miss.
  • Stephen Duncan (1787-1867), planter and banker
  • Natchez slave market (1790s-1863)
  • The Freedmen’s Bureau (1865-1872)
  • Manufactured ice plants (before 1880)
  • Richard Wright (1908-1960), whose books “Native Son” and “Black Boy” were best-sellers
  • Natchez Pilgrimage (an annual tourism event that began in 1932)
  • Mammy’s Cupboard (1939), a business on US 61 south of Natchez
  • Beauty pageants, with reference to Miss America Lynda Lee Mead of Natchez (1960)

“We're hoping that the encyclopedia allows people to compare the populations, economies and histories of different parts of Mississippi,” Ownby said. “That will let readers learn more about what's unique about each part of the state.”

Copies of the book are $70.

“It would have cost more,” Ownby said, “except for benefactors including the Phil Hardin Foundation, Lynn and Stewart Gammill of Hattiesburg and other supports of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss.”

CUTLINE:  James F. Barnett Jr. of Natchez, author of two entries in the new “Mississippi Encyclopedia” will sign copies of the book Nov. 2 at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez.