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Photo-Essay Review   


The Majesty of the Mississippi Delta
Text by Jim Fraiser, Photography by West Freeman.
Pelican Publishing Company, 2002
ISBN: 1-56554-869-8



This compact collection of vivid narrative and photography details the fascinating architectural history of the 200 mile long, 52 mile wide plain known as the Mississippi Delta.  The book's route begins with Port Gibson, a cotton town on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, and proceeds toward Memphis through Vicksburg, Rolling Fork, Greenville, Cleveland, Clarksdale, Greenwood, Yazoo City, and Holly Springs.  Near Greenville is Lake Washington, with its three small communities that date from the 1820s and 30s Erwin, Foote, and Glen Allen.  Near the latter are the ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church.  The poignant photograph shows the remnants of a once magnificent edifice that survived the Civil War, but not a 1907 tornado.

Intact treasures include Port Gibson's handsome Catholic Church, built in 1863 by a niece of frontiersman Jim Bowie to "serve the spirituality of slaves," and Barnard Observatory at the University of Mississippi.  Also on that campus is the splendidly ornate Ventress Hall, where, according to the author, "William Faulkner agreed to paint the turrets in return for being allowed to take classes without having first graduated high school." What was once the Delta Grocery and Cotton Company is now the Ground Zero Blues Club, owned in part by actor Morgan Freeman.  Whether of impressive exteriors and interiors of fine antebellum houses, or of simpler structures that have clung just as tenaciously to this fabled land, the pictures are gorgeous, and so is the prose.

Jim Fraiser is Director of Legal Services for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.  The author of four books of nonfiction and a novel, he writes regularly for newspapers and magazines. West Freeman is a New Orleans photographer who specializes in architecture and interiors.  His work has been featured in Architectural Digest and Southern Accents.


Julia Oliver
Southern Scribe Reviews


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