Delta Health Center records, 1956-1992.

Creator: Delta Health Center (Bolivar Co., Miss.).
Collection number: 4613
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Abstract: The Delta Health Center was established in the mid-1960s, in the rural, all-African American town of Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Miss., and served Bolivar, Coahoma, Sunflower, and Washington counties, where poverty was widespread. The Center, which was federally funded through Tufts University and later through the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was one of the first community health centers in the United States. The comprehensive community health center model aimed at building upon traditional health services by addressing the underlying causes of illness, including economic, environmental, and social factors. Originally, Jack Geiger served as project director and John Hatch as director of community health action. The collection contains business files documenting the establishment and operations of the Delta Health Center, including the efforts of John Hatch, Jack Geiger, and others to obtain and maintain federal funding for the Center from the Office of Economic Opportunity; the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and the Department of Health and Human Services. Major topics include health care for minorities and impoverished communities, social medicine, nutrition, environmental health, and medical education and training. Materials document the economic, social, and health conditions of the residents of the Mississippi Delta, especially the African American community in northern Bolivar County; John Hatch and L. C. Dorsey’s efforts with the North Bolivar County Cooperative Farm and Cannery; the role of the North Bolivar County Health and Civic Improvement Council; and the Delta Health Center’s relationship with other health facilities, medical schools, and outreach programs, including the Mound Bayou Community Hospital (with which it merged in 1972), Meharry Medical College, the Delta Ministry, and the Columbia Point Health Center (now the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center), and others. Included are administrative records, correspondence, financial materials, grant proposals, legal materials, personnel files, reports, studies, education and training materials, publicity materials, photographs, printed matter, and other items. Of note are newspaper articles, protest photographs, and other items related to Mississippi Governor Bill Waller’s vetos of the Delta Community Health Center and Hospital’s federal funding, and photographs of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches in March 1965. Audio recordings include speeches of and interviews with persons connected with the Delta Health Center, among them director Andrew James. Also included is a recording of Stokeley Carmichael speaking at North Carolina Central University in March 1970 and a recording of a 1968 speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Delta Ministry’s Mount Beulah Conference Center in Edwards, Miss.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Subseries 1.1 documents the origins of Delta Health Center. Of particular note in Box 1 is documentation in a Folder entitled “Background: Delta White Community, 1966-1970” that includes letters to Delta Health Center director Andrew James and Deputy Director David Weeks, among others, regarding the economic boycott against white merchants in Rosedale, Miss., held by the local African American community in protest of their poor living conditions in 1970. Box 6 also contains folders related to the boycott.

Box 2 contains articles, pamphlets, and printed materials from 1963 to 1971 on a variety of topics including socioeconomic conditions and education for African Americans, health conditions in Mississippi, nutrition, legal issues, Medicaid, and medical doctors in Mississippi, with a few items published by the Delta Health Center.

Subseries 1.2 contains information on the town of Mound Bayou and the merger of Delta Health with the local hospital, among other topics. Also of note are materials regarding the treatment of African Americans in health care facilities and the socioeconomic stratification between races in Mississippi, found in the “Office of Economic Opportunity documents,” ” Mississippi data,” and “North Bolivar County Civic and Health Improvement Council” files (See Box 6,7, and 11 particularly).

Box 22 in Subseries 1.4, has a  number of letters of support written by residents of Mound Bayou.

Box 39 in Subseries 1.5 contains a flyer and a book list for the Food Co-op’s African American bookstore.

Box 48 in Subseries 1.6 includes field research, observations, and statistics on health, housing, lifestyle of communities primarily in Durban, South Africa. Materials appear to be associated with Jack Geiger’s involvement with the Department of Preventative and Family Medicine at the University of Natal. Gieger got the idea to bring community center health model to the U.S. from his time in South Africa.

There are also a number of materials related to the protest of Governor William Wallers’s attempt to veto federal funding for the center. Box 55 contains articles, pamphlets, and other publicity materials related to this topic.

Photographs in Subseries 1.8 include images from the Selma to Montgomery voting right marches in Alabama in 1965.  Images are of a police barricade, marchers lined up on the highway, several men carrying a woman who has fainted or been injured, amputee marcher Jim Leatherer standing by a bonfire, and Martin Luther King Jr. delivering a speech at the Alabama State Capitol at the conclusion of the final march (See Image Box IB 4163/1).

Audio recordings include a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Delta Ministry’s Mount Beulah Conference Center in Edwards, Miss., on 16 February 1968. (See Audiotape T-4613/23), and a speech by Stokeley Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at North Carolina Central University in Durham in 1970 (See T-4613/25).