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Overby Center features "Jewels in the Delta," a New Photo Book Highlighting Black Delta Women

Mrs. Virginia Hower

Ole Miss journalism professor Alysia Steele unveils “Jewels in the Delta,” her new photo book on black Delta church women, at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at the Overby Center at Ole Miss. 
Steele will display some of her striking photos and discuss her groundbreaking work, which is featured in a six-page spread in the current edition of Southern Living.
She has spent nine months painstakingly combing the Delta, finding these women and photographing and interviewing them. Their moving stories deal with the lessons of life learned by these women and cover a variety of issues, from the importance of staying married to voting to childbirth.
There are also poignant tales of race told with a humorous bite. In one, a woman recalls trying to buy a Cadillac a few years after World War Two from a white car salesman in Clarksdale who obviously was reluctant to sell such a fine car to a black person. So she walked out and promptly went to Memphis to buy one. Every day, on her way to work, she took great delight in driving that big Cadillac past the offending dealership and tooting her horn loudly so they would know it was her.
Steele plans to produce a book with photos and interviews of 50 of the women. Most are members of the Mother Board of a Missionary Baptist church. Church mothers have a place of honor and respect in the church and are considered role models of some influence in their communities.
Mrs. Annyce Campbell

Steele began the project to honor the memory of her late grandmother, “the matriarch of our family.” She sees the church mothers playing a similar role.
“To me, these women are the women in their communities that hold their churches together and hold their families together. They deserve to have their stories told, ‘cause they’re amazing stories,” she said. Steele is a former photo editor for the Dallas Morning News and was a member of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She was also deputy director of photography and enterprise photo editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  She is working on another book set in the Delta, this one on the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, commissioned by owners Bill Luckett and Morgan Freeman.
The event is free and open to the public.
Alysia Steele
Alysia Steele

Courtesy Overby Center

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