greenwood and turnrow books

I spent yesterday with a new friend, Mary Carol Miller, born and bred in Greenwood, Mississippi, and knowledgeable about its history and buildings -- we walked around town, and were stopped every few minutes by Greenwood people who wanted to chat with Mary Carol -- she's a treasure. And I didn't get one photo of her! I was happily overwhelmed (stunned at my good fortune, and Mary Carol's generosity, is more like it) with the research angles and possibilities -- more on this later, but let us just say that Mary Carol is a treasure in more ways than one. I'll be going back to Greenwood for further research, but I only had a few hours yesterday, before my signing at Turnrow.
This is the neighborhood that housed the COFO office in 1964 during Freedom Summer. I have the address, but there is no building there now -- it's a park. I'm not sure if this is because the building was bombed or burned in the sixties -- I'm still researching this.

Greenwood has such a distinct feel -- two sides of town, and a definite, literal "other side of the tracks" look. The Yazoo River and the railroad divided Greenwood in the sixties-- black on one side, white on the other.
 Freedom Summer volunteers -- mostly white, middle class college students -- came to Greenwood in 1964 and stayed with black families, working with SNCC, under COFO's umbrella. Their charge was to register blacks to vote, to organize and operate a Freedom School for black children (to teach them their history and heritage, for one thing), and to open a community center in black neighborhoods.

Below is the Greenwood courthouse, where people went to register to vote -- and be turned away, over and over, as they couldn't pass literacy tests or move around other barriers set up for them because of the color of their skin. Blacks -- and whites -- were arrested here and jailed for attempting to register to vote, or for creating a public nuisance or disturbance of the peace while trying to help register black voters. 
 Above is the Greenwood pool that was closed in 1964 after the passage of the civil rights act, so it wouldn't be open to people of all colors. Today it's a parking lot. The changing house/showers is a locked building now, maybe storage:

Sally Belfrage was one of the Mississippi Summer Project volunteers. In her book Freedom Summer, she says it was nothing short of a revolution that took place in Mississippi, and particularly in Greenwood. Curtis Wilkie told me on Monday that Mississippi -- particularly Greenwood and McComb -- was a war zone in 1964. And yet there were good people, working behind the scenes, white and black, working for change in a climate of fear... fear of reprisals by the white Citizen's Council, fear of injury, and death. What a time. My gal Sunny is going to be in the thick of this time -- Sunny and her love of the movies and her family, and her.... pool. Hmmm....

I'll talk about this time at length -- explore it -- here on the blog, write about how it fits into my fiction and book two of the sixties trilogy. Right now, I'm due at school #2 today -- but I want to show you some photos from yesterday at Turnrow. Jamie and Kelly Kornegay are my favorite people in the Delta. I could go on and on about how smart, generous, and amazing they are, but for now, here are a few photos of some booksellers extraordinaire.
 We've been friends for years; I come to Turnrow just to visit (and be spectacularly hand-sold), when I'm in Mississippi. This trip we had time for dinner together next door at Giardina's. Below, Jon Mayes, sales rep with Publishers Group Worldwide, Jamie and Kelly, and the fabulous Ben.

I love y'all. Thank you so much for bringing me back to the Delta. Thank you for lovingly hand-selling my books. Above all, thanks for your friendship.


  1. So glad you and Brother Jon met! I'm sure he told you all about us and how far back we go. I am glad I set you two together. Now I have to get to that part of the world and see this amazing bookstore in person.

  2. You've absolutely got to come to the Delta with me and stay at the Alluvian, dine at Giardina's -- to die for -- take a class at the Viking Cooking School, and spend some time with Jamie and Kelly, et al. Magical is the word for it.

    They are filming THE HELP here right now -- Kelly will be an extra in a scene filming next week.

  3. And THANKS for introducing me to Jon! I loved meeting him. We are both Gwinecians! Who knew?


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