Grants to preserve Delta Region’s culture will benefit historic Church Hill grocery restoration, film on master brick mason from Natchez

Published 11:13 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

NATCHEZ – Documenting the life and work of a third-generation Natchez brick mason and preserving the exterior of the historic Wagner Store in Church Hill are among two of the projects benefit from a grant program that preserves the Delta Region’s culture and history.

The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Jefferson National Parks Association (JNPA), on Thursday announced the award of $186,781 in Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative (LMDI) grants. This year’s awards will benefit 11 projects across five states and support the continued preservation of the Delta Region’s culture and history.

“Through the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative grant, NPS supports communities in the Mississippi Delta working to highlight the region’s rich history,” said Kathleen Bond, superintendent of Natchez National Historical Park and NPS chair of the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative. “The LMDI program provides up to $25,000 in grant funds for a wide variety of projects ranging from preservation projects to heritage festivals.”

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Five Mississippi-based projects are included in this year’s grant, including the exterior restoration of Wagner’s Store in Church Hill.

The store is one of the last remaining 19th century general stores in the state. The Historic Natchez Foundation has acquired the building and intends to restore it as a visitor center with exhibits to interpret the history of the Church Hill community. The HNF received a $24,998 grant for the project.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College received a $795 grant to produce a film documenting the life of Duncan Morgan, a third-generation brick layer from Natchez. Morgan will receive the Thad Cochran Humanities Achievement Award at the 35th Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. The project will include a series of interviews with Morgan. Along with video footage of his work, those interviews will highlight Morgan’s eight decades of preservation work. He started working at the age of 12 with his grandfather. Since Morgan will be unable to attend the award ceremony, the film will be shown to honor his lifetime of expertise in the preservation of historic structures in Natchez.

“Because of LMDI grants, communities across the Lower Mississippi Delta Region are able to protect and preserve the region’s culture, history and heritage,” said David A. Grove, president and CEO of JNPA.  “We are glad to partner with the National Park Service in supporting these efforts.”

As the co-administrator of the program, JNPA is responsible for managing the online application process and distributing funding to recipients.

The LMDI grants fund a variety of projects, from building stabilization and museum exhibits to music heritage and cultural programming. This year’s grants will support projects including the creation of an exhibit highlighting the role of women on the Ozark Frontier between 1800 and World War II; restoration of the Beulah Cemetery, a final resting place for members of Vicksburg, Mississippi’s African American community; and a film featuring Duncan Morgan, a brick mason from Natchez, Mississippi who has worked for decades to preserve historic structures in his community.

Established in 1994, the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative has provided more than $3 million in grants to organizations exempt from federal income tax, such as non-profit organizations, tribal groups, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and state and local governments. Administered by the NPS in partnership with JNPA, LMDI funds may be appropriated by Congress to support the Delta’s cultural entities in their work toward research, interpretation and preservation goals for the region’s cultural resources.