What lies beneath? These guys. Lumbering along throughout the Big Muddy like unto the Mighty Mississippi itself, channel catfish and gar permeate the murky waters. The MUS seventh graders ended First Quarter with a field trip as they saw this and numerous other displays within the Tunica RiverPark Museum.
We bused down the entire seventh grade class to an area that we think is essential for budding scholars and future Memphis leaders to begin their understanding of the region: the Delta cotton fields along the Mississippi River. From this experience, the boys discuss in their Memphis Leaders class the 16th-Century Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto (c. 1496-1542) who first discovered the Mississippi River for European eyes. Gradually, the territory transitioned from indigenous American Indian natives to its New World chapters of successive conquests, battles, exploitation, and evolution into what we know today.
Every culture and every people group have some turbulent, ugly history, including ours. We desire our students to develop a circumspect, disciplined ability to study and discuss these complex things directly while they learn to exercise their responsibility for investing their best efforts toward cultivating a better future, both for themselves and others. We believe that this ethic is a mark of true leadership.
While de Soto played a fundamental role in organizing the conquest of Peru and commandeering the gold of the Incan Empire, he later sold his fortune to fund his return to the New World in what is now the Mid-South United States. However, this time he failed to find either gold or a passage to China. Should have listened to Kenny Rogers.
The eventual settlers, some three hundred years later, cleared the rich Delta soil of its dense hardwood forest and planted hundreds of thousands of acres of "white gold" (below), much of which sold to markets in Europe and China, from fields adjacent to the transportation and logistical necessity of the Mississippi River. Memphis was a direct recipient of the immediate cotton commerce including processing all that freshly-cleared hardwood timber. So, de Soto's economic and international trade vision, arguably, was merited, albeit centuries before the necessary components were in place.
Within this complex story Memphis Leaders curriculum introduces our students to our region's history of local and international business, immigration, the horrors of the African slave trade, the legacy of the American Civil War, of Reconstruction, of sharecropping, of urbanization, of the central the role of the church, the genesis of the Delta Blues, the lingering effects of segregation, the assimilation of cultures in the birth of Rock and Roll, of successive social changes culminating in desegregation and the Civil Rights movement, ultimately seeing the story through the lens of the region's largest urban center, Memphis, a central player in the unfolding of American history.
Here it is. An entire curriculum can be built around this singular commodity and the numerous effects and implications of its presence. We introduce the concept during this trip as our boys assemble into the first year of MUS where they matriculate to us from 25 schools. Boys representing families who range in race, creed, professions, zip codes, and culture assemble under our mission of academics, leadership, and well-rounded character development as they grow into their responsibilities and opportunities of becoming some of the region's future servant leaders.
Coach Torrey quizzed the boys as they completed the museum scavenger hunt. This crowd wasn't allowed to eat lunch until they correctly spelled "cypress."
Ah, that's why the University of Mississippi chose an alternate logo. These bears can still be spotted in the Delta.
From generations of hand-picking to the modern industrial methods, the cotton crop is harvested this time of the year. This yellow monster contains 4 bales, picked incredibly efficiently by the John Deere sharing the field.
Mr. Judd Peters helped us gain access to Mr. Will Owen's Tunica field on a warm October afternoon. Mr. Owen's son, Whit, is a MUS seventh grader.