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01/05/2016

Southern Literary Trail Headquarters at Mississippi State University Libraries

JACKSON, MISS. – January 5, 2016 – The Southern Literary Trail, the nation’s first and only tri-state literary trail, has found a new home at Mississippi State University. Recently, the Southern Literary Trail board accepted an offer from Frances Coleman, dean of University Libraries at Mississippi State University, to base the trail at Mississippi State University. Locating the trail at Mississippi State University provides access to university resources and support, allowing the trail to expand its goal of promoting the South's cultural heritage while celebrating its classic writers.

“The board's decision was favorably impacted by Mississippi State University’s invitation to provide a home for operations of the Southern Literary Trail and by Mitchell Memorial Library's archives, collections and museums such as the Charles H. Templeton Music Museum, the John Grisham Room, and the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library,” said Southern Literary Trail Director William Gantt. Currently, the trail features writers of 20th century classical fiction. With the exceptions of Alice Walker and Harper Lee, inclusion is posthumous. Mississippi writers on the trail are Tennessee Williams, Bordon Deal, William Faulkner, Stark Young, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, Margaret Walker, and Richard Wright. Mississippi communities on the trail are Columbus, New Albany, Oxford, Como, Clarksdale, Greenville, Jackson, and Natchez. So far, the trail has attracted a large tour group from Australia, librarians from Belarus, and a reporter from Danish Public Radio.

“We are honored and inspired to be a part of this outstanding organization which embodies the classical Southern literature from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia,” said Dean of University Libraries at Mississippi State University Frances Coleman. “We look forward to working with the Southern Literary Trail Board in continuing their outstanding work and dedication – all of which will mean so much to students, faculty and researchers throughout the South and beyond.”

The mission of the Southern Literary Trail has been expanded, from connecting mythic places that influenced great novelists, to also celebrating the places of influence, in addition to the writers’ homes, and to the programming and events of these places.

“Mississippi’s story is one of the greatest ever written, and it’s told through the voices of writers like Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner and so many others,” said Interim Director of Visit Mississippi Daron Wilson. “Each of their voices was formed from experiences and memories of our beloved state, and told to the world through a lens so uniquely ours. The Southern Literary Trail is an exciting adventure for Mississippi and the communities located along the trail. We are thrilled to offer visitors another great reason to come to Mississippi and stay a while.” The idea for the trail originated several years ago during a discussion among William Gantt, a Birmingham attorney, Gwyn Turner of Demopolis, Alabama, and Pat and Sam Kaye of Columbus during the Tennessee Williams Tribute in Columbus. All were dedicated preservationists, as well as literary and theatre enthusiasts. Talk of the preservation of writers’ homes and their use as cultural heritage tourism assets led to talk of a literary trail uniting Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama.

“We consistently and increasingly receive attention from cultural and tourism groups as we undertake to build our profile as a promoter of the South’s best literary and artistic heritage,” said Gantt. The Trail is overseen by a board of 12, including Mississippi University for Women faculty Bridget Pieschel and Steve Pieschel, who have helped guide the Trail’s development since its Columbus beginnings. Other Mississippi board members are Jimmy Thomas of Oxford, Center for the Study of Southern Culture; Lorie Watkins of Hattiesburg, William Carey University; and Sarah McCullough of Jackson, Visit Mississippi. For more information on the Southern Literary Trail, visit southernliterarytrail.org, explore the state’s official tourism website at www.VisitMississippi.org, or contact William Gantt, director of the Southern Literary Trail, at ganttwilliam7@gmail.com

Whether you’re exploring the nation’s history or looking for an authentic cultural experience, Visit Mississippi is here to help. Come see us at www.visitmississippi.org.