Houck and Students Roadtrip to the Mississippi Delta and Civil Rights Landmarks

Davis Houck, professor in the School of Communication, has been at Florida State University for over seventeen years, researching the history of the civil rights movement and how the civil rights movement moved. A large part of the movement happened in the Mississippi Delta, what Houck calls “the most southern place on earth”.

To better understand the history, Houck and doctoral student Pablo Correa packed up a van with 11 students and took a road trip to Mississippi. The group spent four nights, five days visiting different civil right landmarks across Mississippi.

Over the past semester, Houck and his class have been working on a movie script telling the story of Joe Pullum. Pullum was an African American tenant farmer who was lynched in 1923. Before he was killed, he killed four white men and wounded 15 others. The story of a black sharecropper fighting back was unique during this time period, so Houck and his class decided to share it with a bigger audience.

Students at Pullum’s Corner, the corner of the cemetery where Pullum’s victims were buried.
Students with Rev. King and journalist Jerry Mitchell in Money, MS

The group started in Jackson, MS and traveled onto Money, MS. In Jackson, the group met with Rev. Ed King and Clarion Ledger journalist Jerry Mitchell, both who played integral roles in the civil rights movement.

While in Money, the group visited the Pleasantview Plantation, a place that was largely untouched since the 1950s. Students were able to walk into the shacks where slaves lived and discovered letters and newspapers from the 1950s.

“It looked like somebody shared a freezeframe from 1955,” said Houck. “The shacks were still there and the students were able to walk through and experience a plantation. They really got into it – we read about plantation life and they were able to experience it. It was really powerful for them.”

“You can’t understand it until you go,” said Kyle Jones, graduating senior in Digital Media Production.

Over the semester, students have been researching the story of Joe Pullum, how it was covered in the 1920s news. Through use of primary source documents and microfiche, students have spent many hours in the basement of Strozier pouring over old newspapers and documents.

“Seeing things we’ve read about and researched, it was cool to go back and see what they saw with their own eyes,” shared a student on the trip. ” It’s been a really interesting experience, we’ve bonded a lot as a class.”