Charley Patton

Admittedly “devastated” in the aftermath of his brother’s untimely death, , John Fogerty started to hear a little voice in his head, which repeated the phrase, “Go to Mississippi.” Fogerty was “very confused” and he “kept getting this strong feeling and not understanding it," he later told one journalist. It was in the depths of confusion that he developed an incessant urge to “dig up his blues roots.”

The musician, therefore, packed a suitcase, grabbed his boom box, and embarked on an expedition to the Magnolia state. Fogerty took several photographs of the alleged unmarked grave of 1930s blues legend Robert Johnson in the cemetery next to Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist (MB) Church outside Morgan City, but the film got overexposed and not a single picture turned out. So he decided to go back to the church, but this time two guys were standing in the graveyard. Not wanting to upset a sacred moment, he decided to keep on cruising the backroads. After a half mile, however, he thought, “Wait a minute. That’s a black church…, but those are two white guys standing there. They're not there seeing relatives. They're tourists like me!” Fogerty immediately turned the vehicle around and went back to the cemetery, where he met a kindred spirit, New Jersey guitar dealer Skip Henderson, who told him about Charley Patton--and that day the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund was born........

The rest of the in-depth text about the dedication of Patton's marker in 1991 has been temporarily removed from this page. An expanded and revised text will be published forthwith for Mississippi Folklife, a digital journal featuring original writing and documentary work focused on modern and present-day folk and cultural heritage throughout the state. Imagining its earlier print publication established in 1927 by the Mississippi Folklore Society, Mississippi Folklife contains new articles, interviews, photo essays, and films on music and the visual arts. The project receives its funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission. 
Ascribed with an impressive history, Mississippi Folklife has featured articles from historian Charles Reagan Wilson and native author Margaret Walker Alexander as well as photo-essays and other works from noted southern folklorists Bill Ferris and ethnomusicologist Jeff Todd Titon. Other notable contributors have been John T. Edge, of the Southern Foodways Alliance, sociologist Abbott Ferriss, and Ted Ownby.
The Mississippi Arts Commission's folk and traditional arts program supported the publication and the Society (later called the Mississippi Folklife Association) for a number of years. This ongoing partnership made it a natural fit for former folk arts director Mary Margaret Miller—a UM Southern Studies graduate—to receive the publication from the Center. In 2012, MAC revived Mississippi Folklife Online as a special project. In 2015, after a period of reassessment and restructuring under current folk arts director Jennifer Joy Jameson, Mississippi Folklife re-launched as a compremsive digital publication maintaining rigourous editorial standards, while honoring the accessibility its earlier print version. We hope you enjoy what's ahead for the publication: new, original documentary work and writing, photo essays, films, reviews, interviews, and more.

The headstone erected by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund in honor of Charley Patton sits in the back of the burial ground--in front of the trees in the picture above--where many of the older burials remain unmarked.  

Following the dedication, "Pops" Staples and John Fogerty, the former frontman of Creedence Clearwater Revival, performed at the Second Annual Pops Staples Blues Festival.

Rev. Ernest Ware and Cemetery Eradication

The dedication of the memorial for Charley Patton at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church also brought out into the light a most ghoulish crime of cemetery desecration.  After the ceremony, while different folks started discussing the destruction of headstones in Mississippi, Rev. Ernest Ware exclaimed, "Not just headstones, [but] whole cemeteries...they did it to my brother."  People were shocked. Having grown "up in a town where Revolutionary War guys were buried (Rahway, N.J.), Skip Henderson admitted that he "thought cemeteries were forever," "This was mind-boggling," he admitted. "Children's graves turned into cotton and soybeans?" Click here to read more about the first legal action supported by the MZMF.

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