Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi

Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth Century

Shana Walton Editor
Barbara Carpenter General Editor
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hz3b
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  • Book Info
    Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi
    Book Description:

    Throughout its history, Mississippi has seen a small, steady stream of immigrants, and those identities--sometimes submerged, sometimes hidden--have helped shape the state in important ways. Amid renewed interest in identity, the Mississippi Humanities Council has commissioned a companion volume to its earlier book that studied ethnicity in the state from the period 1500-1900. This new book, Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi: The Twentieth Century, offers stories of immigrants overcoming obstacles, immigrants newly arrived, and long-settled groups witnessing a revitalized claim to membership. The book examines twentieth-century immigration trends, explores the reemergence of ethnic identity, and undertakes case studies of current ethnic groups.

    Some of the groups featured in the volume include Chinese, Latino, Lebanese, Jewish, Filipino, South Asian, and Vietnamese communities. The book also examines Biloxi as a city that has long attracted a diverse population and takes a look at the growth in identity affiliation among people of European descent. The book is funded in part by a "We the People" grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-263-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-2)
    BARBARA CARPENTER

    The first volume ofEthnic Heritage in Mississippisprang forth almost spontaneously as part of the burst of research, scholarship, and programming surrounding the 1992 Columbian Quincentenary. Unlike the United States Bicentennial that was celebrated with general patriotic enthusiasm in 1976, the anniversary of theentradaprovoked more soul-searching, somber, and often impassioned examinations of events, their contexts, and their consequences over five hundred years. Historians, both professionals and amateurs, anthropologists from all corners of that discipline, scholars in literature and languages, art, and even such seemingly unlikely fields as agriculture, along with teachers, students, museums, libraries, historical societies, and...

  4. INTRODUCTION. Ethnicity in Mississippi: Stories Worth Telling
    (pp. 3-12)
    SHANA WALTON

    Mississippi has one of the smallest foreign-born populations in the U.S. (see Bankston, this volume), which means that lots of the people who live here now have had their families here for generations. Even when their families were new settlers, they seldom were from foreign countries, but had “immigrated” from other parts of the eastern U.S., or nearby states like Alabama. The roots of Mississippians are started as branches off the earliest family trees in our nation. In fact, the city of Natchez had a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution only a few years after the national...

  5. SECTION I Immigrants, Identity, and Sites of Connection

    • [SECTION I Introduction]
      (pp. 13-14)

      This section addresses the people who voluntarily and involuntarily first colonized the area now known as Mississippi. Carl Bankston presents an overview of immigration to the state and a look at the original European colonizers and how European identities play out today. Aimée Schmidt offers an article on a particular site of connection that has been unique in the history of the state as a meeting ground for disparate groups—the Gulf Coast, particularly the town of Biloxi. Also in this section are two chapters on African American heritage in Mississippi.

      Very few ethnic heritage volumes—almost none—address the...

    • 1 THE INTERNATIONAL IMMIGRANTS OF MISSISSIPPI: An Overview
      (pp. 15-31)
      CARL L. BANKSTON III

      The popular stereotype of Mississippi among people in many other parts of the country is that of a conservative agrarian society, with only limited openness to outside influence. There is some basis in fact to this perception. On the surface, for example, the immigration trends that have shaped the nation as a whole since the late nineteenth century seem to have bypassed the Magnolia State. However, despite limited migration, immigrants have played notable parts in Mississippi history. Moreover, contrary to the stereotype, Mississippi did become a destination for people from other countries in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries....

    • 2 EUROPEAN MISSISSIPPIANS
      (pp. 32-73)
      CELESTE RAY

      America’s colonial history is often told as an East Coast English experiment, yet the lands that now constitute the state of Mississippi were the scene of some of the earliest European exploration of North America (Cash 1992). Mississippi was actually a part of the West-Indies-looking, Creole society of the Gulf Coast long before it became a cornerstone state of the Deep South. A European history began there with contests between the French and Spanish who colonized the region for the better part of a century before Anglo arrivals. This chapter opens by outlining the successive endeavors and cultural legacies of...

    • 3 AFRICAN AMERICAN SACRED AND SECULAR IDENTITIES IN MISSISSIPPI’S PINEY WOODS
      (pp. 74-97)
      JOYCE MARIE JACKSON

      The American South is a complex phenomenon. One aspect of the South’s complexity is that cultures brought here from Africa and Europe interacted with one another despite efforts to keep them separate, and so African Americans and European Americans have assimilated to a certain extent and adapted similar traditions. In this chapter, the central question is to what degree do African American cultural patterns and identities—an “ethnic” or group identity—persist in the face of changing social and economic conditions both within and outside the region. Some answers to our questions of whether and how tradition-bound southern African American...

    • 4 THE STORY OF MOUND BAYOU PART I: DESCENDANT COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN AFRICAN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY IN MISSISSIPPI: DIGGING FOR THE DREAM IN MOUND BAYOU
      (pp. 98-121)
      AMY L. YOUNG and MILBURN J. CROWE

      In March 1998, a pubic dig was held in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The excavation was conducted by Amy Young, Milburn Crowe, five students from the University of Southern Mississippi, and, most important, local youth. After a brief sketch of the history of this remarkable all-black town in the Mississippi Delta was given, there was a discussion of the steps taken in working with a descendant community. The purpose was to share information about what we found that works when descendant communities participate in archaeological investigations.

      Mound Bayou was established in 1887 by Isaiah T. Montgomery and his cousin Benjamin Green...

    • 5 DOWN AROUND BILOXI: An Overview of Ethnic and Occupational Identity in a Coastal Town
      (pp. 122-142)
      AIMÉE L. SCHMIDT

      Biloxi is located on a peninsula about eight miles long and four miles wide on the far east side of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To the north is the Bay of Biloxi and Big Lake where the Biloxi and Tchoutacabouffa rivers empty. To the south is the Mississippi Sound, and beyond the barrier islands lies the Gulf of Mexico, the fertile grounds for the commercial and recreational fishing industries. Among the many towns of Mississippi, Biloxi—and to some extent its coastal neighbors—is unusual in that it grew from a small fishing community and vacation spot to a multiethnic...

  6. SECTION II Ethnicity in a Biracial Culture

    • 6 MISSISSIPPI DELTA CHINESE
      (pp. 145-171)
      EMILY ERWIN JONES and FRIEDA QUON

      In simply meeting and exchanging pleasantries with Frieda Seu Quon, one has had a personal encounter with the rich and complex culture and heritage that is symbolic of the fabric of the Mississippi Delta. On the surface, Mrs. Quon presents a person of Chinese heritage; yet with her voice and her mannerisms, she is entirely southern, Mississippi, and Delta. Her roots reach back across a nation and an ocean, but her branches, her childhood and heirs, are profoundly American. It is in Mrs. Quon’s very being that the terms “melting pot” and convergence of cultures become evident. Although Frieda Quon...

    • 7 MISSISSIPPI MAHJAR: The Lebanese Immigration Experience in the Delta
      (pp. 172-192)
      JAMES THOMAS

      The Lebanese began immigrating to Mississippi in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Between the 1880s and the end of World War I, a combination of famines, epidemics, extreme poverty, and religious and political genocide had led to over one hundred thousand Lebanese deaths in the Mount Lebanon region of the Islamic, Ottoman Empire–controlled Syria, and during that period over one hundred thousand Lebanese residents of the predominantly Christian region participated in a mass emigration that scattered them across the globe to places such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. While most of these Lebanese...

    • 8 CHAI COTTON: Jewish Life in Mississippi
      (pp. 193-218)
      STUART ROCKOFF

      The comedian Lenny Bruce used to joke that everyone who lived in New York City was Jewish, even if they were Christian. What he meant was that the culture of the city was profoundly shaped by its Jewish population, who made up almost 30 percent of city residents in 1950. One could feel Jewish in New York just by living there and walking its streets. By this same logic, no one is Jewish in Mississippi, even those who worship in synagogues every week. Indeed, in many ways Mississippi Jews are an anomaly. They cling to a religion that rejects Jesus...

    • 9 “CHAHTA SIYAH ÓKIH”: Ethnicity in the Oral Tradition of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
      (pp. 219-260)
      TOM MOULD

      Human habitation of the land that would become known as Mississippi dates back over ten thousand years. Today, only one indigenous group remains in any significant numbers: the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Spread across eight distinct communities in central Mississippi, the Choctaw are the only federally recognized tribe in the state.¹ There are approximately 9,660 tribal members, a number that has almost doubled in the past decade.

      While the Choctaw are a politically and culturally coherent tribe today, distinguishing them as an ethnic group distinct from other native people in Mississippi is difficult until the mid-eighteenth century when the...

  7. SECTION III Local Changes, Global Forces

    • 10 THE VIETNAMESE IN MISSISSIPPI
      (pp. 263-283)
      VY THUC DAO

      The Vietnamese who first arrived along the gulf shores of southern Mississippi were no strangers to difficult times and rough transitions. Having arrived as refugees from their native country during the middle 1970s, they had established a place for themselves in the humid, warm coastal areas that reminded them of their native land. Over time, they built homes, formed businesses, raised families, and became part of the larger fabric of Mississippi. Their steady engagement with the difficulties of migration and settlement provided a sense of pride and confidence for the Vietnamese. Yet, in the closing months of 2005, it is...

    • 11 THE CHANGING FACE OF HINDU IDENTITY IN JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI
      (pp. 284-308)
      DEVPARNA ROY and LOLA WILLIAMSON

      Hinduism, with close to a billion followers worldwide, is the third largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam, and yet many Americans know very little about it. In this chapter, we look at the vast and heterogeneous religion of Hinduism by exploring how it is practiced by Indian Americans in Jackson, Mississippi, and how it serves as a cultural and identity touchstone. Hinduism is the oldest world religion still practiced today and encompasses many beliefs and styles of worship. This multifaceted quality can also be found in Mississippi as immigrants from different regions of India draw on their...

    • 12 FILIPINAS IN THE DEEP SOUTH: Reading Domestic Oral Narratives as Sites of Politicization and Community Building
      (pp. 309-332)
      LINDA PIERCE ALLEN

      Of the population for the state of Mississippi, totaling over 2.9 million, roughly 4,000, or .13 percent, are Filipinos.¹ The Filipino communities in the northern and coastal areas of the state are facilitated by the presence of military bases such as the Naval Air Station in Meridian and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi; these bases produce transitory populations of traditional Filipino military families and fairly typical representations of the Filipino immigrant family living in rural areas in the United States. The communities in south Mississippi, however, incorporating the greater Hattiesburg area and the surrounding cities of Columbia, Sumrall, Purvis,...

    • 13 THE GENESIS OF A NEW ETHNIC GROUP?: The Meanings of Latino/Hispanic Identity in South Mississippi
      (pp. 333-352)
      BRIDGET ANNE HAYDEN

      Mississippi has been best known in migration studies for its iconic role as a source of out-migration, particularly of African Americans. It was among the ten states with the smallest population change between 1950 and 2000. If the states are ranked by the size of their populations, it is one of only three states that had its highest ranking in 1900. At that time it was the twentieth most populated state; by 2000 it ranked thirty-first (U.S. Census 2002: 28–29). Since the last decade of the twentieth century, however, the state has increasingly become home for immigrants from Latin...

  8. POSTSCRIPT. Celebrating Heritage and Recognizing Complexity and Change in Mississippi Culture
    (pp. 353-366)
    SHANA WALTON

    Throughout this volume the appearance of chapters neatly divided, one group per chapter, has made “ethnicity” seem to be a simple fact—just a way people identify themselves now or maybe just where their ancestors originated. Groups of people are presented as if they have always existed, sharing identity through clear labels: Jewish, Chinese, Hindu. The reality, of course, is much more complicated. Take, for instance, the story of the Lebanese in Mississippi in this volume. As author James Thomas explains, most of the people who now self-identify as “Lebanese” had ancestors who came to the U.S. when the country...

  9. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 367-370)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 371-380)