The Mississippi Historical Society held its annual meeting March 2-3 in Jackson to honor its 2023 award winners, including the best Mississippi History Book of 2022, the lifetime achievement award, teacher of the year, and awards of merit.
Leslie-Burl McLemore, a former member of the Jackson City Council and current alderman in Walls, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement and a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 that made history in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As the founding chair of the political science department at Jackson State University, he was a trailblazing academician. More recently, McLemore was involved in the location, funding, and interpretation of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and played a central role in creating the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a group of historical markers about civil rights history.
Evan Howard Ashford, assistant professor of history at State University of New York Oneonta, received the Book of the Year Award for Mississippi Zion: The Struggle for Liberation in Attala County, 1865–1915. The book examines how African Americans in a rural Mississippi county shaped economic and social issues after the Civil War.
Jere Nash won the Journal of Mississippi History Article of the Year Award for “The Mississippi Legislature Changes the Flag,” which documented the remarkable, historic passage of a law in 2020 that led to the adoption of a new state flag for the state.
The Outstanding Local Historical Society Award was presented to the Historic Ocean Springs Association for its project installing more than thirty interpretive signs at landmark locations throughout the historic districts of Ocean Springs.
The Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Alexandria Drake of JPS-Tougaloo Early College High School.
Awards of Merit were presented to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce for publishing a history of the agency from the first commissioner in 1906 through the present; city of Jackson and Visit Jackson for organizing the celebration of the bicentennial of the city’s founding; city of Madison for installing ten historical markers to mark significant sites in the city’s history; Jackson State University for its community-building project to honor the life and legacy of James “Jim” Hill, a Reconstruction politician who was the last 19th century African American to be elected to statewide office in Mississippi; LightHouse | Black Girl Projects for its work to add the Unita Blackwell Property to the National Register of Historic Places; Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument for opening as the first national monument in the state of Mississippi; Mississippi Humanities Council for its Museum on Main Street program; Mississippi Museum of Art for its brilliant exhibit called A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration; and the Museum of African American History and Culture and the city of Natchez for designating twenty-seven African American historical sites with markers.
Tougaloo College professor Daphne Chamberlain completed her term as president of the Society and welcomed new president Will Bowlin of Northeast Mississippi Community College. Rebecca Tuuri of the University of Southern Mississippi was elected vice president. New board members are DeeDee Baldwin, Mississippi State University; Sylvia Gist, Migration Heritage Foundation; Jean Greene, Utica Institute Museum; Sharelle Grim, Mississippi Delta Community College; Brian Perry, Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce; and Rory Rafferty, Pass Christian Historical Society.
The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching, and preserving Mississippi history. Membership is open to anyone; benefits include receiving the Journal of Mississippi History, the Mississippi History Newsletter, and discounts at the Mississippi Museum Store. For information on becoming a member visit www.mississippihistory.org.