The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience has a new exhibit titled Through the Looking Glass by Alysia Burton Steele and Betty Press. This exhibit was all inspired after Burton’s move to Mississippi and interest in the history of cotton.
“We saw the fields and people would drive past it and wouldn’t even think about it. People would take pictures like it was a tourist attraction. The state made so much of its money from cotton. It was called king cotton for a reason,” said Alysia Burton Steele.
Burton found more history of cotton and sharecropping after traveling 64 miles and interviewing 54 women in 27 towns.
“It was an honor of asking these amazing women what life was like and just learning more about what we’re not taught about history because a lot of it is just brushed under the rug, it’s not explained,” said Alysia Burton Steele.
Mary Dickenson is featured in Burton’s exhibit and says picking cotton helped make a way of life.
“We were able to survive, and cotton helped us also in our living because we got paid a smaller amount, but it was a way of supplementing our income,” said Dickenson.
Darlene Longino is also featured in Burton’s exhibit and says she grew up picking cotton and had to miss scohol. he decided there was a better of life by furthering her education and is a graduate of Jackson State University.
“My dad told me along with my siblings if we picked 250 pounds of cotton he would never keep us out of school anymore. The next day we went and picked cotton. I picked nearly 300 pounds of cotton and the next day my father kept us out of school,” Longino said.
Naomi Evans, a visitor from Georgia says this exhibit brought back memories of her childhood because her family also picked cotton but wanted a different way of life for her.
“I was fortunate enough to be the first out of a family five to go to college and I was very fortunate enough to become an elementary education teacher,” Evans said.