Monday, December 26, 2011

It pays to Shop Brownsville!

Winners of the Shop Brownsville First - Big Prize Giveaway with their prizes.
Pictured  (from left) are Julie Taylor, Lori Hatcher and Santia Taylor. 

We had a fun time last Friday preparing to give away three great prizes from the Brownsville Business Association (BBA). This was the second year the BBA has sponsored a give-a-way and this year it got a lot bigger and included his and her Citizen watches, a 7-inch E-reader and a 40" flat screen TV.

Look at all the tickets that were entered in the giveaway!
Kenny Ellington  was on hand to give the box a good shaking before the drawing.
And you always need a child around to do the drawing .... 

Thanks to the BBA for choosing us as the drawing location and congratulations to the winners. I think it was a very successful event with 20 merchants participating. We're looking forward to next year already!

Remember it pays to Shop Brownsville First!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

West Tennessee native writes mystery books

A. Scott Pearson
Scott Pearson is a Haywood County native and a Nashville surgeon. He's also a mystery writer.

His first book, Rupture, was released in 2009. The second in the series of medical mysteries, Public Anatomy, was released earlier this year. Pearson uses his knowledge of medicine and the Mid-South area to weave a compelling plot that takes place in and around areas that we are all familiar.

Rupture's main character, Eli Branch, is a successful surgeon and scientist, who finds himself searching for answers when a patient dies under suspicious circumstances. What he finds leads the reader on an adventure through the streets of  Memphis where he encounters danger and the "dark side of medicine."

In Public Anatomy, Eli Branch is found investigating the murder of a colleague and discovers even more lives are in danger. Once again, this book holds your interest until the very end.

Both books are an easy read .... and you won't want to put them down once you start. They are both available in our gift shop -  Rupture $10, paperback; Public Anatomy $20, hardback

Learn more about A. Scott Pearson and his books at

Freedom Ride driver shares his story

Jim Ruth
We are always so excited when people call and say they've heard about us on the radio, TV or newspaper, but it was an especially nice surprise to get a call a week ago from Mr. Jim Ruth. He had heard about our new exhibit on Channel 3 news (a short sound bite they had picked up from the AP).

Mr. Ruth began to tell me his story... of being the youngest driver Trailways ever hired in Nashville .... that he was the first driver to take a group of Freedom Riders from Nashville to Jackson, Miss in 1961. ... and he was and still is a resident of West Tennessee.  What a find! Or rather what a blessing that he found us!
Mr. Ruth autographs a picture of himself for Tennessee State Museum Curator of Social History Graham Perry during the installation of the exhibit "We Shall Not Be Moved: 50th Anniversary of Tennessee's Civil Rights Sit-Ins" at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center December 8, 2011.
He was coming through Brownsville the next day and wanted to stop and see the exhibit. I explained the curator of the exhibit would be here and I was sure would want to meet him. I also invited him to come back on Friday for our Opening Reception. He immediately accepted.

The next day Mr, Ruth shows up with memorabilia of his early days with Trailways and other Freedom Ride artifacts. I couldn't help but ask if we could include them as part of our companion exhibit and happily he agreed to leave them.
Mr. Ruth tells his story to O. G. Stewart at the Opening Reception of "We Shall Not Be Moved" Friday evening, December 9, 2011.
This gracious man is full of interesting stories, but what stands out more than anything is the fact that he considers it a privilege to have driven that bus. He was doing his part for his fellow man in a day and time when he was certainly ridiculed and in mortal danger. Luckily the ride went smoothly and everyone remained safe on this particular voyage. Other Freedom rides were not so lucky.
Ruth's memorabilia, from the 1961 experience and recent honors, on exhibit at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center.
Within the last year, Mr. Ruth has had opportunity to reunited with several of those who shared that ride in 1961. He says they were the best group he'd ever driven. From what I hear they seem to be as complimentary of him as he is them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Great gift idea for history lovers and architects

Here's an interesting book that would make a great Christmas gift - Historic Tennessee! The book presents some of the historic architecture and treasured sites in Tennessee. Photographs by Robin Hood, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and publisher. The treasures that have been photographed include a diverse collection of archaeological, Native American, African American, early industrial, and residential sites, in addition to the traditional and architectural canon. It is published by the Tennessee Preservation Trust and available in our gift shop.

Tennessee Preservation Trust donates "Historic Tennessee" to local libraries

The Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) and West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center presented the Elma Ross Public Library with a copy of Historic Tennessee on Monday, November 7, 2011. Presenting the book to Librarian Katherine Horn are (from left) Delta Heritage Center Director Sonia Outlaw-Clark, Horn, and TPT Board members Susan Sills and Billy King.

Historian Billy King also presented Horn with a copy of his recent book Big Black Creek, Vol. 1. The book tells about the important preservation work being done by the Big Black Creek Historical Association in Madison and Haywood County.

Historic Tennessee and Big Black Creek, Vol. 1 were also presented to the Haywood High School Library. Pictured with the books are HHS Librarian Julie Dahlhauser and Library Assistant Justin Kemper.

The Tennessee Preservation Trust is committed to placing a copy of Historic Tennessee, their recent publication that commemorates the state’s rich historical and architectural heritage, in each college and high school library in Tennessee. In partnership with the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, the book was recently donated to the Haywood High School Library and the Elma Ross Public Library.

Historic Tennessee features 300 color photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Robin Hood and the moving words of nationally esteemed history writer James A. Crutchfield. The book showcases ninety sites significant to the drama of Tennessee’s colorful past– from upper East Tennessee to the Mississippi River. Tennessee Preservation Trust would like all students to have access to this great resource. The book is available at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center.

The Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) is a membership-based statewide non-profit historic preservation education and advocacy organization. Headquartered in Nashville, TPT represents thousands of the state's heritage supporters through its individual members and organizational affiliates. We strive to be the critical link for the state's diverse heritage community. Our organization helps monitor and promote preservation-friendly legislation at the local, state, and federal levels, and assists citizens across the state with advocacy issues pertaining to specific historic sites—as well as historic districts and zoning issues. TPT has a committed staff, an active board of directors, and many dedicated volunteers throughout Tennessee.

New Exhibit Premiers at Center

Below is an article written by our local reporter, Calvin Carter, of the Brownsville States Graphic. Thanks Calvin, for letting us share it with our friends.

Photo by Calvin Carter, Brownsville States Graphic


Approximately 50 years ago, Nashville college students from Fish University, A&I, and American Baptist Theological Seminary began a sit-in campaign with religious leader Kelly Miller Smith and James Lawson during the Civil Rights fight against segregation.

The non-violent protest emerged in the form of massive sit-ins at downtown lunch counter.

The incident would serve as the spark and guide for many others throughout Tennessee, including those in the Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis areas.

Until January 22, 2012, residents will have the opportunity to learn much about the sit-ins at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center thanks to the traveling exhibit We Shall Not Be Moved: The 50th Anniversary of Tennessee’s Civil Rights Sit-Ins.

The free exhibit made its premiere at the center last Friday, December 9, pulling a pretty strong crowd.

Through its immense collection of pictures, signage, stories and even letters from protestors, the exhibit explains the thoughts and motivations of a generation forced to fight violent reactions to their protests with non-violence and steady resolve.

Brownsville States-Graphic Reporter Calvin Carter (second from right) speaks with Tennessee State Museum Curator of Social History Graham Perry (far right) and West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center Director Sonia Outlaw-Clark (far left) during the opening reception of "We Shall Not Be Moved" Friday, December 9, 2011.
What’s perhaps incredible about the exhibit is that while it offers a lot, it’s a significantly scaled down version of the original, noted Tennessee State Curator Graham Perry.

“We had a lot of visuals, for example like hundreds of photos. And there was also a replica lunch counter we couldn’t include for the mobile version,” Perry said. “We had to choose the most visual, or the ones that told the best parts of the story.”

While the exhibit has been “from one end of Tennessee to literally the other,” Perry said, it will conclude its journey in February 2013, before settling at the University Of Tennessee at Martin in 2014.

Perry stated that he learned so much while helping to put the exhibit together, including how the national sit-ins reflected locally.

“I learned a lot about the sit-ins. Despite the fact that the Civil Rights Movements was happening nationwide, it was really a thinly veiled version of what was happening locally. It was the spark,” Perry said.

The exhibit also received a new surprise in the form of a noteworthy addition.

Jim Ruth drove the first group of Freedom Riders from Nashville to Jackson, Miss., in 1961. He was 21 years old and drove for Trailways. Mr. Ruth greeted visitors as they arrived to see the new exhibit.
In 1961, a Chester County resident by the name of Jim Ruth, served as a bus driver for Trailways.

At 21-years-old, and with the promise of $19 and half pay per day for the trip, Ruth would drive a group that many of his other co-workers had refused from either fear or hate of the group.

“One professor in that group told me that, ‘Mr. Ruth you don’t know what you’re doing. You could get hurt or worse from this,” Ruth recalled. “’I said, I’m doing something that I’m suppose to do. If I’m going to die, then my bags are packed.’”

But Ruth took the Nashville group to their destination in Jackson, Miss., and unknowingly would immerse himself as a part of history.

Ruth would drive a group that would become known as the Freedom Riders, and while there was potential opposition, he noted the group arrived safely to their destination.

“They were the best group of people I’ve ever hauled,” Ruth said. “This makes me feel good that I’ve done something for someone.”

Ruth, who was recently honored by the NAACP in Nashville, heard about the exhibit at the West Heritage Delta Center on the news, and decided to see if he could offer any items from the incident for display.

His items will be one display until the exhibit makes it exit. But along with Ruth’s addition, the hopes of what the exhibit will do for the latest generation remains the same.

“I hope that young people will come in and see that young people are capable of causing change,” Perry said.

WestTAM group moving forward

Members of the West Tennessee Association of Museums (WestTAM)
Back in the late Spring, a group of West Tennessee museum professionals decided to get together. From this first meeting, we have continued to network and grow friendships. We recently gathered at Davies Manor Plantation in Bartlett, Tenn., for a tour and Christmas gathering. I'm very proud that the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center is a part of this group and look forward to what we will be able to accomplish in the coming year. 

Traveling Exhibit Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Tennessee Sit-Ins

Student protesters sit-in at Walgreens on Fifth Avenue in Nashville, February 20, 1960.
Photo by Jimmy Ellis, courtesy of The Tennessean.

The landmark events that helped shape the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s are the focus of a traveling exhibition now open at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tenn.

The exhibit, entitled We Shall Not Be Moved: The 50th Anniversary of Tennessee’s Civil Rights Sit-Ins continues through January 22, 2012, and is free to the public.

During the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans began mobilizing in a massive movement against segregation. This included non-violent, direct action campaigns, which culminated in sit-in demonstrations, economic boycotts, and marches.

Fifty years ago, a handful of Nashville college students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (later Tennessee State), and American Baptist Theological Seminary along with religious leaders Kelly Miller Smith and James Lawson, began a sit-in campaign targeting downtown lunch counters. These actions sparked the formation of a mass sit-in movement, which became the model used across Tennessee and the rest of the South.

These actions will be examined in this special exhibition, organized by the curatorial staff at the Tennessee State Museum.  The exhibit also looks at segregation in the state and how significant resistance developed in African American communities.

Although the sit-ins were organized as a non-violent action, occasionally students were met with violence from white bystanders, however it was usually the protesting students who were arrested and taken to jail. The exhibit examines why these students were willing to face possible violence and endure incarceration, and how their parents reacted.

The exhibit covers similar events which occurred in Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville and other locales.

Along with period photographs of these events, the exhibit includes such artifacts as signage, which has been preserved to show examples of segregation during this time.  Other important artifacts include a letter from a sit-in participant describing a protest and other items related to the sit-ins.

Staff gets in the Holiday Spirit

We love it when our staff gets involved. They do a great job of representing the Center and our community!
Mary has joined the Haywood County Rescue Squad. One of her first assignments was helping with the Annual Christmas Parade.

Kathy and Janet represented us well with the Christmas tree they put together for the Annual Festival of Trees.  All proceeds from the event went to the Exchange Club Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.