When I interviewed her 10 years after that attack, neither of us could have imagined that Indianola would one day erect markers saying, "Home of Fannie Lou Hamer," but it has.
After revisiting history, the student group headed out for Po' Monkey's, a noted juke joint six miles north of Cleveland. A few of these road houses survive from the days when they were among the few places that black field workers could go to drink and dance.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 02, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Civil-rights activist's home: An article in Sunday's Travel section about the Mississippi Delta said that Indianola, Miss., had erected markers calling it the "Home of Fannie Lou Hamer." Ruleville, Miss., hometown of the civil-rights activist, is the city that erected the markers.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, September 07, 2008 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Civil-rights activist's home: An article in the Aug. 31 section about the Mississippi Delta stated that Indianola, Miss., had erected markers calling it the "Home of Fannie Lou Hamer." Ruleville, Miss., hometown of the civil-rights activist, is the city that erected the markers.
The building is an old sharecropper's shack in which every available inch inside is plastered with posters and stuffed animals. When I asked Willie Seaberry, who runs the place, why it was called Po Monkey's, he replied, " 'Cause I'm po'."
Exploring the Mississippi Delta means exploring its food scene.
Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, 26 miles west of Indianola, is a must. Its ambience is what Michael Stern of RoadFood.com describes as "at least a few degrees this side of 'casual.' " Newcomers, he added, "may be shocked by the ramshackle surroundings, but Doe's is easy to like once the food starts coming." There are tamales, big salads, French fries and shrimp, but carnivores go to Doe's for the steaks, huge and delicious.
In Greenwood, 30 miles east of Indianola, the Viking Range Corp. has transformed a decrepit 1917 hotel into a 50-room boutique hotel called the Alluvian. At its restaurant, Giardina's, I had a fine steak, onion rings and a tasty bread pudding on a visit last year.
Not far away, Lusco's, which opened in 1933, is older and funkier than the Alluvian, partly because it's in a shabbier part of town. But the food is abundant and delicious. One night, my friends Cynthia and Jim Abbott and I sat in one of the curtained booths, stuffing ourselves with delicate-tasting pompano.
In Indianola, the Crown has long been the place where everyone eats at lunchtime. Specialties are catfish or chicken, in a gratin of Parmesan cheese, butter and green onion sauce. Owner Evelyn Roughton displays local artists' paintings on the restaurant walls.
Beyond the artistry of the food, there's also artistry in crafts, including Mama's Dream World, a small museum in Belzoni, 23 miles south of Indianola. Ethel Wright Mohamed's creative and delicate embroidery of scenes from family life -- and even a few dreams -- covers virtually every wall of her former home.
Folk-art fans will enjoy the descriptions that Carol Ivy, Mohamed's daughter, gives as she guides you through the rooms. Scouts from the Smithsonian Institution liked Mohamed's work so much that one of her pieces is now part of its permanent collection.
Mississippi's famed clay becomes works of art in the hands of its potters. McCartys in Merigold, 24 miles north of Indianola, is tricky to find -- no signs, a common occurrence in the Delta -- so follow the directions on its site (www.mccartyspottery.com). Be sure to visit the lush courtyard gardens behind the shop. Peter's Pottery (see www.peters-pottery.net), started by four brothers, is in nearby Mound Bayou, a historically all-black town.
It's the intangibles, though, that make the Delta irresistible.
Jamie Kornegay of Turnrow Book Co. in Greenwood likes to encourage people to take the back roads and often sends them down the road to Money. I took his advice.
"You cross the Tallahatchie River, and you're in the country," Kornegay said, and you end up at the crumbling remains of the general store where Emmett Till, a black teenager, allegedly flirted with a white woman in 1955 and was killed for it. "It is the quintessential Delta drive. Sort of a haunted drive.
"History is right up in your face here."
Planning this trip
THE BEST WAY
From LAX to Memphis, Tenn. (may be the easiest starting point), nonstop service is offered on Northwest, and connecting (change of planes) service is offered on Continental, United, American, Delta, Air Tran and US Airways. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $270.
WHERE TO STAY
Alluvian Hotel, 318 Howard St., Greenwood; (662) 453-2114, www.thealluvian.com. packages start at $210.
Best Western Blues Traveler Inn, 910 Highway 82, Indianola; (662) 887-6611, $76 and up.
WHERE TO EAT
Doe's Eat Place, 502 Nelson St., Greenville; (662) 334-3315, $10 to $30.
The Crown, 110 Front St., Indianola; (662) 887-4522, lunch only, $7 to $10.
Giardina's, 314 Howard St., Greenwood; (662) 455-4227, entrees $10.25 to $31.50.
Lost Dog Pizza Co., 807 Highway 82, Indianola; (662) 887-1555. $10 to $15.
See more of the Delta and hear some of its music at latimes.com/delta.