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Released March 5, 2004

FORUM TO FOCUS ON ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY
OF HISTORIC MOBILE-BOUIE STREET AREA

HATTIESBURG -- Anthropology students and residents of Hattiesburg's historic Mobile-Bouie Street area will share findings of a joint ethnographic project March 12 at The University of Southern Mississippi.

The forum will feature at least 20 residents, eight Southern Miss anthropology students, and two professors who spent months studying the people, places and events associated with one of Hattiesburg's most storied areas.

The discussion, held in the Gonzales Auditorium in the Liberal Arts Building, begins at 3 p.m. and is open to the public. Residents from the Mobile-Bouie Street area attending the discussion will be arriving on campus via trolley car, courtesy of the university and the city of Hattiesburg.

The panel will discuss the facts, events, attitudes and perceptions that are behind Mobile-Bouie Street residents' search for a connection to past struggles and sacrifice.

"At the dawn of integration," anthropology professor Dr. Jeffrey Kaufmann said, "Mobile Street and its immediate surroundings still flourished as a segregated 'town within a town.' Nowadays, the street appears more like an historical cul-de-sac than one of Mississippi's historical main streets."

Some of the issues to be discussed, Kaufmann said, are the district's earliest formations during frontier days, ways of making a living among long-term residents and the impact of World War II. Panelists will also share their experiences with the local civil rights movement, discuss the area's urban ecology and address the deterioration of the local economy.

The forum and yearlong ethnographic study that produced it is a vital component of the university's mission, said Dr. James Flanagan, chair of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. "It is very important that Southern Miss cultivates relationships with the city of Hattiesburg, just as it is important for Hattiesburg to take ownership of the university, because it belongs to them," Flanagan said.

"Not only has this been a wonderful project--the way Dr. Kaufmann and his students brought the university and the community together--but what's just as laudable is the welcome he and the students got from the community and their generosity in cooperating with the project."

He added, "And now they are coming to hear the students' papers. We expect a great afternoon for the anthropology and sociology department, as well as for the community."

Work on the project began last summer and entailed students interviewing residents and doing in-depth historical and anthropological research in the area. One of the papers produced from the project is titled "Across the 'Color Line:' An Examination of Population, Economy, and Community Resources in the First Half of the 20th Century," authored by Amber Huff. In it, Huff uses census data, historical documents and ethnographic information to demonstrate major factors influencing migration to and from this part of Hattiesburg.

Another student paper, by Anna Warren, focuses on the role of Lillie McLaurin, known affectionately as the "Mother of Mobile Street."

"One of the most remarkable people in the Mobile-Bouie Street community is a woman entrepreneur, the owner of the largest distributorship of the Hattiesburg American newspaper," Warren said of McLaurin, who still sells papers from her home. Warren's paper examines McLaurin's role as a businesswoman and role model during the last 60 years.

Dr. Elliott Pood, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said the project is an "amazing example" of the university finding innovative ways to partner with the surrounding community. "This research provides an opportunity to document and understand a cultural heritage that played a significant role in making Hattiesburg what it is today. At the same time, our students have been given the opportunity to participate in real world professional research, as opposed to a simulated environment in the classroom. The results of this 'town/gown' partnership will continue to resonate for many years to come," he said.

For more information about the panel discussion or about the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, contact (601) 266-4306.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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