Without question, Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey was one of the most intellectually gifted women of Mississippi. With considerable aplomb, she dealt as best she could with the emotional tensions arising from her lifelong compulsion to balance the conventional female role of the plantation South with a more rigorous life of the mind. Her heart and soul refused to submit to all the repressive demands that held women in a virtual prison, called hearth and home. But finding a proper balance between these polarities in the 19th century was scarcely easy.
Hazel Brannon Smith was a southern belle whose life was anything but typical compared to the women of her time. Upon graduation from college, she relocated from Alabama to Holmes County, Mississippi, where she became the owner of two local newspapers. While faced with great resistance and pressure from segregationists, she courageously reported the news during a turbulent time in the history of the state and nation.
In May 1964 Hazel Brannon Smith, editor and publisher of the Lexington Advertiser, won a Pulitzer Prize for “steadfast adherence to her editorial duties in the face of great pressure and opposition” from the Holmes County Citizens’ Council, which had formed in 1954, and from its segregationist supporters. The Lexington Advertiser served the small community of Lexington, Mississippi, the county seat of Holmes County.
Ida Bell Wells (1862-1931), one of the most important civil rights advocates of the 19th century, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, just before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. She was the first child of James Wells, an apprentice carpenter, and Elizabeth Warrenton, a cook.
Mississippi has produced more world-class writers than other states in the South and among them is Richard Nathaniel Wright, an internationally acclaimed African American novelist and social critic. Wright, the son of a sharecropper father and a high-school-teacher mother, was born September 4, 1908, on a Mississippi plantation some twenty miles from Natchez.
Eudora Welty is one of America’s greatest writers. When she died in 2001, she left a substantial body of prose — fiction and non-fiction. Literary critics believe her work will become a more and more enduring fixture of the American literary canon, as scholars and readers continue to explore her works in order to understand them better.
On the sweltering afternoon of July 7, 1962, the town of Oxford, Mississippi, paused to pay its final respects to its most famous native son. Winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature, creator of a dense fictional domain modeled largely on Oxford and Lafayette County, William Faulkner had suffered a heart attack and died early Friday morning, July 6, at Wright’s Sanitarium in Byhalia, Mississippi.