September 17, 2014  

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Library Exhibit Examines Moonshine Tradition in South Mississippi from 1900-1966

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The exhibit “Black White Lightning: Mississippi Moonshine, 1900-1966” will be held April 24-May 11 at The University of Southern Mississippi's Cook Library

The American folk tradition of moonshine has long been associated with the white hillbillies of Appalachia. But an exhibit at The University of Southern Mississippi will examine the role African Americans played, along with their white counterparts, in its production and subversion of the laws of prohibition in South Mississippi.

“Black White Lightning: Mississippi Moonshine, 1900-1966” set to open Monday, April 23 on the first floor at Cook Library’s Learning Commons, is the work of Southern Miss history doctoral student Shane Hand of Birmingham, Ala. The exhibit runs through May 11.

Since 1900, South Mississippians have distilled homemade liquor under the light of the moon, which was considered by many to be of a higher quality than those produced by Appalachia’s moonshiners. Moonshiners in Kiln, Miss. produced enough “white lightning” in the last century to serve customers all along the Gulf Coast and as far north as Chicago.

Hand’s research, based on oral histories, newspapers, photographs and artifacts, adds to this knowledge base in its revelation of the story of the South’s black moonshiner.

"Moonshine is one of those subjects that most people are familiar with," Hand said. "However, it's also a subject that most people tend to know little about. The idea of this project is to look at the historical aspects of the moonshiners, which entails breaking away from the geogrpahical perspective of Appalachian production with a focus on Gulf Coast moonshiners,  while also incorporating the narrative of black Americans to the story."

For more information on this exhibit, contact Hand at shane.hand@eagles.usm.edu or the Southern Miss Department of History at 601.266.4333.