Based on the nationwide success of Mississippi’s efforts to tell the state’s story of cultural heritage through the Blues, Country Music and Freedom Trails, Mississippi organizations felt the time had come to honor Mississippi’s rich literary history.
The Mississippi Writers Trail is an initiative of the Mississippi Arts Commission, in partnership with the Community Foundation for Mississippi, Mississippi Book Festival, Mississippi Humanities Council, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Mississippi Library Commission and Visit Mississippi.
The first chapter of the Mississippi Writers Trail began with the unveiling of two prototype markers at a special ceremony during the opening of the 2018 Mississippi Book Festival Aug. 18 in Jackson.
“THE MISSISSIPPI WRITERS TRAIL NOT ONLY CELEBRATES AND IMMORTALIZES THE STATE’S VAST CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE LITERARY WORLD, BUT ALSO DRAWS SO MANY TO OUR STATE WHO ARE WANTING TO SEE WHERE SOME OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL AMERICAN WRITERS WERE INSPIRED TO WRITER THEIR MASTERPIECES.”
-VISIT MISSISSIPPI DIRECTOR CRAIG RAY
The two markers commemorating the launch of the Mississippi Writers Trail were dedicated to author Eudora Welty and novelist Jesmyn Ward, representing the Trail’s mission to honor Mississippians’ past and present contributions to the literary world.
The unveiling of the Welty marker at its permanent location at the Eudora Welty House in Jackson occurred Sept. 10, 2018 with Governor Phil Bryant, City of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jon Peede in attendance. See images below.
The date and location of the unveiling of the Ward marker will be determined at a later date.
Welty’s marker, and those that follow, will be made of cast aluminum and shaped like an open book. The markers will provide biographical information, including birthplace, home, gravesite, museum or literary locale. Ensuing markers will span the state and honor other Mississippians who have contributed to the state's literary legacy.
To ensure the quality and accurate representation of each marker and its honoree, the Writer’s Trail Advisory Committee relies on a group of literary scholars selected by the committee to make recommendations as to the selection of writers to be honored with a marker and the location of the marker. Scholars also make recommendations for the prioritization of markers to be completed within each available funding phase.
The Mississippi Writers Trail Advisory Committee has enlisted three literary scholars who will assist throughout in its inaugural year. These scholars include Marion Barnwell, author of Touring Literary Mississippi; Dr. Don Schaffer, associate professor of English at Mississippi State University and Dr. Kate Cochran, associate professor of English at University of Southern Mississippi. Staff from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Humanities Council and the Mississippi Development Authority will continue to serve as the primary work group and will liaise with members of the Advisory Committee, scholars and other public and private sector partners.
To brush up on the work of some of the Mississippi writers who will be honored along the trail, pick up Welty’s The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty; Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing; Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!; Wright’s Native Son; and any and all of Tennessee Williams’ plays.