New books in the Local History Department

The Local History Department now has two new books: African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album by Ronald S. Coddington and Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys!  Both books will allow researchers greater insight and context into the American Civil War.  See below for more details:

Book_African American Faces of the Civil WarAfrican American Faces of the Civil War: An Album
Ronald S. Coddington

A renowned collector of Civil War photographs and a prodigious researcher, Ronald S. Coddington combines compelling archival images with biographical stories that reveal the human side of the war.  This third volume in his series on the Civil War soldiers contains previously unpublished photographs of African American Civil War participants–many of whom fought to secure their freedom.

During the Civil War, 200,000 African American men enlisted in the Union army or navy.  Some of them were free men and some escaped from slavery; others were released by sympathetic owners to serve the war effort.  African American Faces of the Civil War tells the story of the Civil War through the images of men of color who served in roles that ranged from servants and laborers to enlisted men and junior officers.

Coddingotn discovers these portraits–cartes de visite, ambrotypes, and tintypes–in museums, archives, and private collections.  He has pieced together each individual’s life and fate based upon personal documents, military records, and pension files. These stories tell of ordinary men who became fighters, of the prejudice they faced, and of the challenges they endured. African American Faces of the Civil War makes an important contribution to a comparatively understudied aspect of the war and provides a fascinating look into the lives that helped shape America.

Book_Marrow of TragedyMarrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War
Margaret Humphreys

The Civil War was the greatest health disaster the United States has ever experienced, killing more than a million Americans and leaving many others invalid or grieving.  Poorly prepared to care for wounded and sick soldiers as the war began, Union and Confederate governments scrambled to provide doctoring and nursing, supplies, and shelter for those felled by warfare or disease.

During the war soldiers suffered from measles, dysentery, and pneumonia and needed both preventive and curative food and medicine. Family members–especially women–and governments mounted organized support efforts, while army doctors learned to standardize medical thought and practice.  Resources in the North helped return soldiers to battle, while Confederate soldiers suffered hunger and other privations and healed more slowly, when they healed at all.

In telling the stories of soldiers, families, physicians, nurses, and administrators, historian Margaret Humphreys concludes that medical science was not as limited at the beginning of the war as has been portrayed.  Medicine and public health clearly advanced during the war–and continued to do so after military hostilities ceased.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slave Documents from Civil War (Columbus, Miss. fortifications) Digitized at MDAH

List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863, page one. Series 608 (MDAH)

List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863, page one. Series 608 (MDAH)

A “List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863″ (part of Series 608: Miscellaneous Civil War Documents) was recently digitized at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).

It is a twelve-page list of slaves from various counties impressed to work on the fortifications near Columbus, Mississippi. The list is from Headquarters, 4th Brigade, Miss. State Troops.

Those from Lowndes County start on page 10 of the 12 page document.

It gives the owner’s name of each slave and the slave’s name, age, complexion, and height. Implements, if any, brought by each slave are also listed.

Published in: on February 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm  Comments (2)  

List of Spanish-American War Volunteers from Mississippi (including Columbus) Digitized by MDAH

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) has digitized two broadsides showing the list of Mississippi volunteers to the Spanish-American War.

Included in the list is Company D, or the Queen City Guards, from Columbus!  The Queen City Guards were mustered in as part of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment in Jackson on June 9, 1898.

To view the full list of Columbus volunteers visit:

A portion of the list can be seen here:


You can find out more about MDAH at

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

African American Photography Exhibit at Library

Geneva and Mitch Shackelford with unidentified boy, c. 1910s.

Geneva and Mitch Shackelford with unidentified boy, c. 1910s.

In the early twentieth century, posing for a photographic portrait was an event—it was an opportunity for people to make meaningful statements about themselves, their families, and their communities. For those living in rural Fayette County, Alabama, this service was provided by the family of Mitch and Geneva Shackelford, a family of multi-talented African American community leaders and commercial photographers whose photographs are currently on display at the Columbus Public Library in the exhibition Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs by the Shackelford Family, Fayette County, Alabama (1900-1935).

On February 11 at noon, Both Sides of the Lens curator Andrew Nelson

Unidentified portrait, c. 1910s.

Unidentified portrait, c. 1910s.

and Annie Shackelford, whose great grandparents and grandfather were

among the photographers responsible for these remarkable images, will give a gallery talk about the Shackelfords’ photography on the first floor of the Columbus Public Library. In this informal and interactive presentation, Nelson and Shackelford will provide an in-depth look at the Shackelfords’ photographic process and describe the powerful impact the family’s photography had on their local community. Along the way, Nelson and Shackelford will also describe the historical significance of these images and speak to the valuable and often overlooked role that

photography plays in historical research.

Wedding couple, c. 1910s.

Wedding couple, c. 1910s.

The over 40 photographs were reproduced from the collection of early 20th century glass plate negatives held at the Birmingham Public Library.

“Both Sides of the Lens” will be displayed through the end of February.

The gallery talk as well as the exhibit are free and open to the public.

For more information contact Mona Vance-Ali at 662-329-5304.

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 11:07 pm  Comments (2)  

New Hope High School Collection Open for Research

Kevin Rowland shows off materials from the New Hope High School Collection, MS 428.

Kevin Rowland shows off materials from the New Hope High School Collection, MS 428.

The New Hope High School Collection is now open for research at the Billups-Garth Archives.  The collection consists of athletic programs from 1988-1994 (not consecutive), the student newspaper Echo from 1948-1998 (not consecutive), one August 2000 issue of the newspaper The Cutting Edge, photographs of the boys and girls basketball teams from 1988, and 2 scrapbooks about the school covering the 1960s and 1970s.

The collection was processed, or organized, this past Fall semester by Mississippi University for Women history student Kevin Rowland as part of his Capstone Project to graduate with a bachelors degree.

New Hope High School first opened its’ doors on September 4, 1923. It was created from the merger of the following schools: Mount Vernon, Little Hope, McCrary, Windham, and Dunbar. The school included both high school courses as well as a grammar school. The land to build the school was given by G.D. McKellar.

The first two buildings constructed were made of brick veneer and comprised of nine classrooms with an auditorium in one and a gymnasium in the other.  J.E. Vaughn served as the school’s first principal.

The first four school buses were built by Charlie Gaston in 1923 out of Model-T automobiles that could carry 35-40 children each.

The first graduating class consisted of one graduate, James Cooper, and the second year there were seven graduates.

To view this collection (MS 428) you can visit us at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, call 662-329-5304, or email us at

Published in: on January 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pioneer families remembered with Bible donation to Columbus library

Commercial Dispatch
Jan Swoope
November 23, 2013

The Bernard Romans  Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution would like to know more  about who they were, what

Mary Ann McCollum of Birmingham, Ala., points to records contained in the Wiatt Randle family Bible donated to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library Nov. 14. Looking on, seated from left, are library archivist Mona Vance-Ali, Bernard Romans DAR Regent Alice Lancaster and Randle family relative Mark Gaines Miles of Jacksonville, Fla. Standing, from left, are family members Chuck and Kitty Edwards of Florence, Ala., and Dan and Carol Randle of Chattanooga, Tenn. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff.

Mary Ann McCollum of Birmingham, Ala., points to records contained in the Wiatt Randle family Bible donated to the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library Nov. 14. Looking on, seated from left, are library archivist Mona Vance-Ali, Bernard Romans DAR Regent Alice Lancaster and Randle family relative Mark Gaines Miles of Jacksonville, Fla. Standing, from left, are family members Chuck and Kitty Edwards of Florence, Ala., and Dan and Carol Randle of Chattanooga, Tenn. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff.

they did and where they rest in peace.

That research led recently to a donation of pioneer family records to the  Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.

In search of any information she could find on one of those Revolutionary-era  patriots — Nathaniel Lawrence — Bernard Romans Regent Alice Lancaster of  Columbus came across an email address for Mary Ann McCollum of Birmingham, Ala.  McCollum is a descendant of the Rev. Wiatt Randle (1785-1853) family, which was  connected by marriage to the Lawrences. Lancaster was thrilled to establish a  connection with McCollum, especially in light of the DAR chapter’s centennial  year coming up in 2014.

Lancaster was also pleased to learn McCollum and several other family members  from throughout the South were planning to visit Columbus to check on the  Lawrence-Randle cemetery in western Lowndes County. It’s believed the  Revolutionary War patriot is buried there, although there’s no visible marker  now. The grave of his son, the Rev. Nathaniel Lawrence, is marked, however, as  is Wiatt Randle’s.

On Nov. 13, McCollum and other relatives cleaned up the cemetery near  Artesia, repairing graves damaged by time and fallen trees. They were assisted  by Sam Pilkinton of Columbus, a member of the Sons of the American  Revolution.

McCollum brought with her the Wiatt Randle family Bible and donated it the  following day to the Billups-Garth Archives at the library. Records of births,  marriages and deaths in its pages will add to the history of early Lowndes  County. Segments of hair from several family ancestors are even glued  inside.

“I was overwhelmed when Mrs. McCollum wanted to donate the Bible to our  library’s genealogy section,” said Lancaster. “That is a very special object,  and they have kept it these many years in their family. It’s an honor for  Columbus to maintain their keepsake, and everybody will be able to see  it.”

Library archivist Mona Vance-Ali added, “The Bible contains invaluable  historical information. Often Bibles are the only location in which families  documented momentous occasions, and they are vital to genealogists and  historians alike.”

Families across the country continue to unearth their histories, Lancaster  noted. Markers that have sunken below ground are discovered. Photographs,  letters, old wills and documents surface. Each new piece of information helps  form a more complete picture.

To learn more about county history resources at the library, contact  Vance-Ali at 662-329-5304.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

Additional photos taken by archives staff below:

List of Randle family deaths written inside the family Bible.

List of Randle family deaths written inside the family Bible.

Lockets of hair from deceased members of the Randle family in the 1880s and placed inside the family Bible.

Lockets of hair from deceased members of the Randle family in the 1880s and placed inside the family Bible.

Published in: on December 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Project Will Plan a Series of Exhibitions and Symposia on Photographs by O.N. Pruitt

By Lauren Steele

Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 22, 2013) — Berkley Hudson, an associate professor of magazine journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, is the recipient of a $40,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for Humanities. Hudson will use the grant to plan a series of three exhibitions and symposia focused on historical Mississippi photographs by O.N. Pruitt, the de-facto documentarian of small-town, rural Mississippi life through imaging from 1920 to 1960.

This project and one for the Kansas City Public Library are the only two in Missouri to receive a planning grant during the current NEH grant cycle. Hudson said that it’s a long-time-coming project that is both professional and personal.

Photograph by O.N. Pruitt. Courtesy of the Pruitt-Shanks Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

Photograph by O.N. Pruitt. Courtesy of the Pruitt-Shanks Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

Photograph by O.N. Pruitt. Courtesy of the Pruitt-Shanks Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

“Pruitt was the picture man for my town, Columbus, Miss.,” Hudson said. “He photographed my family at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I and four friends joined together in 1987 to preserve the Pruitt collection that also includes photographs by his assistant Calvin Shanks.”

Hudson will front the project and will work with Beatriz Wallace, MA ’08, a visiting professor at Duquesne University, and Steve Rice, an assistant professor of convergence journalism at Missouri, who will assist in creating a mini-documentary. MacArthur Fellow and Guggenheim Fellow Deborah Willis of New York University, along with former NEH Chairman William Ferris of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also will serve as consultants. Other consultants include Duke University‘s Tom Rankin, former director of the Center for Documentary Studies, and Charles Reagan Wilson, a noted historian of the American South, who is a professor at the University of Mississippi.

All involved, including Dean Mills, dean of the School, see much value in the project. Mills said Hudson’s “revelatory analyses of racial representation in photographs, press reports and the culture of the American South are important works in the field.” And Ferris said, “This project will make a significant contribution to our understanding of Southern and American photography.”

That understanding could not have occurred without the grant, which has given the project an incredible boost, Hudson said. It is hoped that subsequent funding to implement the project can be received from the NEH, other public agencies and foundations.

The exhibitions and symposia are being planned for the Missouri School of Journalism, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in Mississippi in collaboration with the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. Part of the project has involved and will continue to involve focus groups with scholars and members of the communities where the exhibits will be held.

The MU Office of Research and grant writer Christine Montgomery assisted in the grant writing process.

In addition to this project, Hudson also serves as editor in chief of the Visual Communications Quarterly, a publication of the Visual Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and recently he led the “Politics of the Black Body” series in Columbia.

Published in: on December 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Coverage by the Commercial Dispatch in Columbus of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

JFK Assassination Nov 22 1963

Published in: on November 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eliza’s letters: A voice from Columbus’ past helps define a ‘New Southern Woman’

The Commercial Dispatch
Jan Swoope
November 11, 2013

m_jg8mf1182013120308PMOn a clear winter’s night in December 1860, Eliza Lucy Irion Neilson of  Columbus sat down with a notebook and began writing her life story. One hundred  and fifty-three years later, those who have come after her have a firsthand  account of the ordinary and extraordinary world of the American South during and  after the American Civil War. Courtships and marriages, hardships and grief,  family life, religion, education and social events are preserved in journals and  more than 130 letters Eliza penned or received and saved.

“A New Southern Woman: The Correspondence of Eliza Lucy Irion Neilson,  1871-1883” is the 28th volume in a series titled Women’s Diaries and Letters of  the South. The documentary book’s editor is Dr. Giselle Roberts who is, rather  extraordinarily, a native of Melbourne, Australia.

“People are often very intrigued by the thought of an Australian specializing  in Southern history,” Roberts said in emails from La Trobe University in  Melbourne, where she is an honorary research associate in American History.  “When I was 19, I read Charles East’s edition of the Civil War diary of Sarah  Morgan, the journal of a young Southern woman from Baton Rouge, La. Reading her  diary literally changed my life.”

Roberts was in her first year at La Trobe at the time, studying Australian  politics and reading book after book on the Civil War. She received her  doctorate in 2000 and was recently named co-editor (with Melissa Walker of  Converse College in South Carolina) of the Women’s Diaries series by its  publisher, the University of South Carolina Press.


Dr. Giselle Roberts of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

Roberts’ fascination with the American South was cemented in 1998, when she  spent several weeks in Mississippi researching material for her dissertation on  young Southern women in Mississippi and Louisiana during the Civil War. During  research, she came across Eliza’s diaries and correspondence at the Mississippi  Department of Archives and History in Jackson and felt they were historically  significant.

“They provide us with a rare window into life in the South,” said Roberts,  pointing out the insight about the political and social landscape woven into the  fabric of everyday life. Eliza’s commentary on her family and community unfolds  with warmth and humor. “She was an exceptional storyteller,” the researcher  said.

Looking back in time

Eliza, born in Somerville, Tenn., in 1843, moved to Columbus as a young girl  with her family and lived most of her years at Wildwood Farm and Willow Cottage,  a “large, established farm nestled on the banks of the Luxapalila.”

Throughout the book, Eliza tells of good times and hard — of life at  boarding school in Corinth, of meeting her future husband, of churches in  Columbus and balls at the Gilmer, and of many of the town’s citizens. She also  comes face to face with the grim reality of war.

Columbus during war

During the War Between the States, Columbus was home to an arsenal that  employed about 1,000 people to produce munitions. It also served as a hospital  base after battles. But for the most part, Columbus occupied a rare pocket that  saw neither conflict or extended Union occupation. Regular rumors of impending  Yankee invasion made the “people in general and women in particular turn  lunatics,” burying the “silver in particular and everything in general,” wrote  Eliza.

“All social affairs were neglected and jewelled fingers were busy knitting  for the soldiers,” she recorded. Sewing societies were organized and “whole  hearts, minds and souls were taken up” with anxiety and concern for those off at  war.

In 1862, the Battle of Shiloh brought the stark aftermath of conflict to  Columbus.

“Our town was filled to overflowing with the sick and wounded,” penned Eliza.  “Every public building and even our churches were taken as hospitals, and still  there were more to accommodate. Private citizens then threw open their houses  and the poor soldiers found rest beneath their hospitable roofs.”

Eliza’s own brother and three cousins died during the war.

Passages she wrote just weeks after the surrender at Appomatox reveal a  deep-seated uncertainty. “Times are so unsettled!” “The horrid blue coats are in  our midst: in our streets, in our kitchens and in our churches!” ” … The  gentlemen are like caged tigers — so restless, so anxious for settlement.” “…  New goods have been brought into town, but no one has any money to buy anything.  Everybody feels so poor.”

History’s perspective

In the months and years that followed war, Eliza, her sisters and niece —  and all their Southern sisters — had to find ways of becoming women of the New  South. It was a watershed time, an era of turning war-torn vestiges of  antebellum femininity into a workable postwar reality within a new social order,  wrote Carol Bleser, the late editor of the Women’s Diaries series.

Historians contend that, on one hand, there was a resurgence of more  conservative ideas about Southern womanhood, as ladies committed themselves to  domestic usefulness. Others argue that women became more outward-looking,  embracing paid employment, independence and intellectualism.

Roberts feels as though she came to know Columbus, at least a bit, through  Eliza. The researcher set out to tell the story of one woman, but soon realized  she was also telling the story of a family and, perhaps more importantly, a  dynamic community and the women at the forefront of its cultural, religious and  educational landscape.

“I feel privileged to have edited Eliza’s beautifully crafted and heartfelt  letters,” said Roberts. She praised archivist Mona Vance-Ali of the  Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, Bridget Pieschel of Mississippi University for  Women and Lowndes genealogist Carolyn Giles for their help. The Mississippi  State University Special Collections Department and Mississippi Department of  Archives and History were also valued resources.

There are thousands of wonderful stories like Eliza’s sitting in archives  across the country, Roberts said — in letters and diaries written by others  like one woman in Columbus more than 150 years ago. One who sat down on a  winter’s night to begin a “sacred volume of memory before my mind’s eye.” Those  stories are just waiting for someone to discover them.

Editor’s note:  “The Correspondence of Eliza Lucy Irion Neilson” is available  at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center in Columbus ($38), from the University  of South Carolina Press and online at sites including Giselle  Roberts also edited “The Confederate Belle” (University of Missouri, 2003) and  “The Correspondence of Sarah Morgan and Francis Warrington Dawson” (University  of Georgia Press, 2004).

1yq4x218201085238AMJan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

Published in: on November 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Next Program: “Working in the Middle East: An Archaeologist’s Experience”


Join us at Mississippi University for Women (MUW) for the next program in the Muslim Journeys series tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5th at 7:00pm!

Titled “Working in the Middle East: An Archaeologist’s Experience” Dr. James W. Hardin, Middle Eastern Archaeologist at Mississippi State University, will discuss his experiences with Muslims and Jews while working in Jordan, Israel, and other parts of the Middle East.

The presentation will be on the MUW campus at Parkinson Hall in Room 117.

This event is free and open to the public.

Published in: on November 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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