Feeling the emotional pull to reconnect to her grandmother’s wisdom and her African-American heritage, award winning photojournalist Alysia Burton Steele embarked on a personal mission to interview, photograph, and document Mississippi Delta women of her grandmother’s generation.
Their stories and portraits are captured in “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.” The book highlights the lives of over 50 Mississippi Delta church mothers.
With the help of local pastors, Steele records these living witnesses to history, and shares the significance of these Black women and their faith. Each woman is a unique treasure—child, daughter, sister, wife, mother, or grandmother—all jewels of the Delta.
Among those covered in the books are Mrs. Myrlie Evers, widow of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, who discusses her grandmother and the power of prayer;
Mrs. Tennie S. Self, who shares her experience of buying a new Cadillac and her right to have “Mrs.” by her name in the telephone book: “I just speak and if I have to die for what I believe in, then so be it.”
Mrs. Lillie B. Jackson, whose husband prepared Emmett Till’s body for his funeral, shares family stories and how she does the best that she can as a mother.
Mrs. Lillis M. Roberts, who expresses pride in her activity in the NAACP, as the first Black citizen in Coffeeville, MS to register to vote.
Alysia Burton Steele has been a photographer for more than 25 years. She worked as a picture editor for the Dallas Morning News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She was a team member of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News at the Dallas Morning News for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
“Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom “ by Alysia Burton Steele, Center Street/Hachette Book Group, $28.00 hardcover, April 7, 2015. Information is available at: http://www.alysiaburton.com