‘The Great River Road’ comes to town for Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019


NATCHEZ — A vast array of art, literature, history and culture is shared throughout the Miss-Lou that is tied together by the Mississippi River.

Therefore it is fitting that the theme for this year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is “The Great River Road,” which begins 6 p.m. Thursday at the Natchez Convention Center.

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This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, co-chairman, Brett Brinegar said, adding that the Great River Road, stretches as far as the river itself.

“We chose (The Great River Road) because we wanted to highlight all of the connections up and down the Mississippi River — from New Orleans all the way up to the northernmost boundary of the state,” Brinegar said. “We’re covering topics that apply to the entire region collectively.”

The 30th annual NLCC encompasses a range of history conversation topics, and all events at the Natchez Convention Center are free and open to the public, Brinegar said. Other events include a tour of Concord Quarters at 5 p.m. Friday for $15 each, a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Pilot House in the Hotel Vue for $30 and a benefit gala and reception at Magnolia Hall for $60 each.

The celebration starts at 6 p.m. Thursday in the convention center with a presentation of the documentary film “Mississippi Madam: the Life of Nellie Jackson” by Mark Brockway and Tim Givens.

Nellie Jackson, born in 1902 near Woodville became a legend in the Natchez community — both for her illegal brothel called “Nellie’s” that survived for decades with the full knowledge of local officials and law enforcement, her somewhat ironic charitable contributions and for her tragic death in 1990 when she was burned alive in her home, Brockway said.

“(When filming) It seemed like there was a surprise every other day,” Brockway said. “If you look back at some of the old newspapers — like The Natchez Democrat and the Natchez Times — they wrote extensively about her business, about how it wasn’t respectable and the need to close it down. … Over time, she takes on a new persona, and is kind of a Natchez legend. … That, to me, was surprising.”

Givens said Jackson was well-known for more than just her unbecoming business; she also bailed many civil rights activists out of prison and gave generously to local charities.

The documentary had a tremendous response both locally and nationally, Givens said.

“It’s great to show the film in Natchez again,” Givens said. “We’ve been to eight film festivals since the beginning of 2018. … We’ve been fortunate enough to have Natchezians travel with us and ask ‘When are you showing it in Natchez?’ … We showed the first cut I edited in February 2017 (at the Natchez Convention Center) and it was standing room only. … I don’t know if we could ever replicate that night. It was a special night, and we were blown away.”

The documentary will be followed by a presentation by Beverly Adams and Mark LaFrancis film titled, “Women of the Struggle,” a documentary on the civil rights era. The filmmakers began production on the documentary last summer.

The NLCC festivities will continue throughout the weekend with nationally recognized speakers and guests, Brinegar said.

Some of these include authors, journalists and producers such as Anne Butler; Pamela D. Arceneaux of New Orleans; University of Mississippi author and poet, Beth Ann Fennelly; National Book Award winner, Ellen Gilchrist; Jack Elliot, who is retired from the Associated Press; New York Times best selling author, Tom Franklin; chef and culinary historian, Michael Twitty; Karen Cox of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; James Pate of the University of West Alabama; Gene Dattel, a Jewish cultural and economic historian of the Mississippi Delta region; and more.

“This is probably the best lineup we’ve ever put together,” Brinegar said. “I have the greatest admiration for our (NLCC) founder, Carolyn Vance Smith, who retired in 2015 after 26 years. … and I’ve tried to make it more modern and inclusive. We picked a theme that was broad and provides something for everyone. … There is literally no presentation this weekend that I wouldn’t go to.”

For more information, or to purchase tickets to events, call 601-446-1206, or email nlcc@colin.edu or visit the front desk at the convention center.