Historic Mississippi Town Comes to Life in UM Documentary

Film will be part of judging in this weekend's Tupelo Film Festival

"Take the Mountain" by Deborah Freeland will be screened on April 18 in Tupelo.

“Take the Mountain” by Deborah Freeland will be screened on April 18 in Tupelo.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The documentary short “Take the Mountain” by Deborah Freeland, videographer for the University of Mississippi Division of Outreach, was screened earlier this spring as part of the university’s Black History Month events.

Now the film will be included alongside 64 other independent films chosen for the 12th annual Tupelo Film Festival, taking place this weekend in Tupelo. Freeland’s 12-minute production will be screened at 6:20 p.m. Saturday (April 18) on Screen 4 at the Malco Tupelo Commons Cinema.

“This film is the backstory leading up to the founding of the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou,” Freeland explained. “A lot of historians know about the hospital and how it figures into the civil rights movement, but what were its origins? I found this part extremely fascinating once I began to research.”

Freeland became interested in the small, historic town of Mound Bayou in 2011 when several UM departments were working together on service-learning projects in the area. Freeland teamed up with UM doctoral candidate Katrina Sims, who was writing and researching for her dissertation on the Taborian Hospital.

The hospital, founded in 1942, was one of the first modern medical facilities in Mississippi that was built, owned and operated by African-Americans.

“After learning more, my thoughts were that you couldn’t talk about the Taborian Hospital without talking about Mound Bayou, and you couldn’t talk about Mound Bayou without talking about Davis Bend,” Freeland said.

That interest led Freeland to create the film with the help of research adapted from Sims’ dissertation.

“The Bend,” as it was often called, was 20 miles south of Vicksburg and was developed by Joseph E. Davis, brother of Jefferson Davis, in the mid-1820s. The area included thousands of acres of rich farmland, located in a bend of the Mississippi River, but what made it noteworthy were Davis’ utopian ideas of a model slave community.

Freeland spent months scouring archives for information that would convey the inspiration behind the founding of this unique community and the special relationship between Davis and his most trusted slave, Ben Montgomery.

“Reading Isaiah Montgomery’s memoir about his father, Ben, in the New York World piqued my interest in the intertwining lives of the Davis and Montgomery families and the community at Davis Bend,” Freeland said. “Where did this idea of a cooperative community start? The culture at Davis Bend and its residents, who later start Mound Bayou, were so unique. Everyone took care of each other, shared the land and the corn crib was never locked.”

The intellectually gifted Benjamin T. Montgomery was a prominent leader in the slave community at the Bend. He managed all of Davis’ fields and cotton sales, and ran a store on the plantation.

Shortly after the Civil War, Montgomery purchased 4,000 acres from Davis and began to farm with the help of other freedmen from the area. Eventually the cotton business went under with the pressures of failing economic and agricultural conditions. The Montgomerys could no longer make payments on their land at the Bend. Years later, Ben’s son, Isaiah, took what he had learned at the Bend and established the new town of Mound Bayou.

“After these economic hardships, I think it was that legacy of cooperation and independence that allowed the former residents of Davis Bend and their descendants to re-establish their community as Mound Bayou,” Freeland said.

“Benjamin Montgomery was an extraordinary man and so was Joseph Davis, and I feel like they recognized that in each other.”

The documentary is stocked with original photos of the Davis and Montgomery families, the land and many of the residents of Davis Bend. Freeland found many of the photographs through extensive research in the Library of Congress and the city of Vicksburg archives.

“This compelling story comes to life through some truly amazing images,” Freeland said. “Each of the images chosen is original to the time period, and while some photographs are well-known, some may have never been published before. These decades-old photographs, often blurry and discolored with time, are both beautiful and haunting.”

The photos provide a rare look into the life of the “other” Davis brother and one of the most important sites for trade on the Mississippi River, said David Sansing, a retired UM history professor.

“This documentary gives us an insight into the community of Joseph Davis, who was probably the most influential person in the life of Jefferson Davis, the most famous Mississippian,” Sansing said. “There is not much known about Joseph Davis, and this film brings more light to his legacy and the founding by his former slaves of the cooperative community at Davis Bend. The Bend was a major trade site for Mississippi while shipping cotton up and down the river, and it was run meticulously.”

Clarion-Ledger: We all lost a great one in Flowers

JACKSON, Miss. – Years ago, Charlie Flowers was showing me a photo of the 1959 Ole Miss football team. He was pointing to each player, face by face, row by row.

There were 43 players in the photo. Forty-two, Charlie said, graduated.

“Bank president, CEO of his company, successful lawyer,” Charlie said.

“Athletic director, mayor, Chancellor,” he continued.

“Head football coach, Major League baseball player, insurance executive, another mayor,” he kept going and going.

Finally, he finished. “There will never be another team like it,” Flowers said.

All too many people love to talk about themselves. Charlie Flowers loved to talk about his team.

Read the full story by Rick Cleveland here.

MBJ: UM Young Alum of the Year To Open Oxford Restaurant

Chef Kelly English plans this spring to bring his restaurant The Second Line to Oxford, Mississippi — the home of his alma mater — according to a news report. See the story in the Memphis Business Journal. Or read the UM release on English and other other distinguished alumni honored this year.

WAPT: UMMC Staff Trained to Treat Ebola

JACKSON, Miss. —The University of Mississippi Medical Center is training its staff to treat and avoid catching Ebola.

Doctors and nurses are working to recognize the symptoms of the virus to keep it from spreading further.

“You know, you never want to jinx yourself, but we are about as prepared as we can be,” said Jonathan Wilson, UMMC’s chief administrative officer.

Eighty percent of UMMC’s doctors and nurses are receiving enhanced training on Ebola response. The latest Tuesday was training on hazmat suit use — how to put them on and take them off without risking the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Since last week, the hospital has received a handful of what it deemed potential Ebola threat cases: Patients with flu-like symptoms who were ruled out after they failed to meet other criteria.

Read more: http://www.wapt.com/health/ummc-staff-trained-to-treat-ebola-patients-should-need-arise/29261286#ixzz3GtgDBXM8

NewsMS: Gov. William Winter Documentary to Premier on Mississippi Public Broadcasting

JACKSON, Miss. – Parents were not always able to send their kids to public kindergarten in Mississippi. That all changed after a successful political battle for education reform lead by former Governor William Winter in the 1980s. The story is revisited in the Southern Documentary Project’s film The Toughest Job: William Winter’s Mississippi.

The film premiers Thursday, October 2 at 8pm on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Read the full story.

WTVA: Grant Funds Study of Cancer Gene kRAS

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA) — The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy will help with a U. S. Department of Defense study of a cancer gene called kRAS.

The school is receiving a grant for $333,878 to study the DNA make up the gene.

Researchers say kRAS is an important gene in the progression of pancreatic, lung and other cancers.

Read the entire story. 

 

NEMS Daily Journal: Markley Finds Passion in Higher Education

TUPELO – Derek Markley’s first visit to Tupelo did not come at the most opportune time.

The new executive director of the University of Mississippi’s Tupelo and Booneville campuses had his job interview with the school scheduled for late April. Two days before he arrived, Tupelo was struck by an EF3 tornado that carved a 31-mile path of destruction.

It was the first time the Auburn, Indiana, native had seen any area that had been freshly hit by a twister. It didn’t dissuade him from the job.

Read the full story.

Mississippi Business Journal: Ole Miss makes ranking of most beautiful campuses in U.S.

OXFORD, Miss. – Best College Reviews, a ranking service for American colleges and universities, has released a list of the 100 most beautiful college campuses in America, and the University of Mississippi made the cut.

The 100 campuses were selected based entirely on aesthetics. The author placed particular emphasis on natural features such as green spaces, bodies of water, and arboretums as well as man made features, primarily notable architecture and look and feel of campuses as a holistic, cohesive whole. Higher education become more competitive every year, which brings higher amounts of stress to college students, and one way of mitigating that stress is attending school in a beautiful setting, whether that means bucolic, relaxing grounds or a vibrant, architecturally interesting campus.

Read the entire story.

Mississippi Business Journal: Robert Khayat wins 2014 Mississippi author award

OXFORD, Mississippi — The Mississippi Library Association has announced the winners of the 2014 Mississippi Author Awards. Robert Khayat, author of The Education of a Lifetime (Nautilus), was named Mississippi Author of the Year in the nonfiction category. Previous winners in nonfiction include Eudora Welty, Willie Morris and Margaret Walker. The winner in the fiction category was Michael Farris Smith for his novel Rivers.

Otha Keys, Mississippi Author Awards committee member and a librarian at South Jones High School, said, “This memoir by Robert Khayat is one I could not put down. He is an excellent storyteller and he definitely has had an ‘education of a lifetime.’”

Robert Khayat, who heard about the award at his home in Oxford, said, “My family and I are profoundly grateful to the Mississippi Library Association for the Non-Fiction Award—a complete and pleasant surprise to us.”

“The overarching goal of the book was to move the perception of Ole Miss and Mississippi from 1962 to the present. I felt it was my responsibility to help others understand us . . . and for us to acknowledge our challenges,” Khayat added.

Read the entire story. 

Clarion Ledger: Mannings, UMMC develop healthy-living campaign

Imagine, for the moment, every famous athlete gave back to their community in the manner the Archie Manning family does. Just imagine.

Dr. Jimmy Keeton, who heads up the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has.

“The world would be a better place,” Keeton says. “Mississippi would be a much more healthy place.”

Read the entire story by Rick Cleveland.