Soul Sessions Podcast: Chris Goodwin
Today, we’re talking with Chris Goodwin, the special projects manager for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
He's the man behind History is Lunch and other fascinating programs. And, we've been planning this for so long that Chris has just added more to his plate.
Note: Soul Sessions is produced as a podcast first and designed to be listened to. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes the emotion and inflection meant to be conveyed by human voice. Our transcripts are created using human transcribers, but may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.
Ever talk to someone and realize right away, this guy, he loves what he does? Well, as far as history is concerned some people might think that subject is, well, boring, but if you dig a little deeper you uncover some really fascinating stories of Mississippi's past and future.
Hey, it's Paul Wolf with a front row seat to conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. We call this podcast Soul Sessions. It's the people, places, and events that make the City With Soul shine.
Today I'm talking with Chris Goodwin, the special projects manager for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The man behind History is Lunch, and other fascinating programs. And, we've been planning this for so long that Chris has just added more to his plate.
There was no podcast, and there was no film series when we first started talking about it.
Okay, we've got lots to talk about. You are the special projects director for the Department of Archives and History. It sounds like a very important title, what do you do?
Whatever they tell me to do. But the three things that are sort of the top of the list are our weekly lecture series, which is called History is Lunch, and it's been going on since 2005, our podcast, Speaking of Mississippi, and the new Sunday film screening series that we've just started this year in 2023. So we're all over the place.
We're going to talk first about History is Lunch. This is a program as you said, been going on for about 18 years now, Wednesdays at the Two Mississippi Museums. I think it's really grown and gotten better over the years, wouldn't you agree?
Absolutely. Programs like this grow sort of slowly, but the great thing about Mississippi is there's so much history, it's so varied, and if you are willing to spend the time, take an honest look at it, there is story after story after story, and it's so compelling. And so we do this every week, which means that we do between 45 and 50 of those lectures a year, and they're not all going to be for everybody, but they're going to be some of them that you're going to think are fantastic and right up your alley.
Yeah. Tell me about some of your favorite programs that you've had over the past years.
We draw locally from across the state, and also nationally. And during the pandemic we were able to draw folks who could never come to Mississippi at noon on a Wednesday, were able to join us sort of like we are over the inter webs and talk about it. This year we've had some really interesting things where people talked about the history of the Delta Chinese, and that was sort of a scholarly presentation, and we followed it up the very next week with a history on Delta Hot Tamales, and it's stuff like that that helps us find an audience of folks who are there every week, plus folks who sort of drop in for the ones they're interested in.
Bailey Howell, the state's only member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, I think, and he was a 12-year veteran of the NBA, won two rings with the Boston Celtics game, and talked to us with Rick Cleveland. I mean, that was incredible.
Maryanne Graham: Dr. Graham was here talking about her long anticipated biography of Margaret Walker. It's kind of like Mississippi weather, if you don't like it wait a week it'll change.
And you try to tie things in too with kind of what's going on in the current cultural, political, historical landscape of the state, right?
Yeah, we do. Daphne Chamberlain gave a great talk on the 60th anniversary of the Jackson Children's Crusade, and so we do look for significant anniversaries for moments that we can sort of bring together and help folks see how, as Faulkner said, "The past isn't dead, it's not even past."
It's such a great quote. It's so applicable too, to what you do. History is Lunch, it's every Wednesday at noon at the Two Mississippi museums, and it's streamed on Facebook, so I guess we can thank the pandemic for that little technological advance.
And now YouTube as well yeah, so you can watch them live, and you can also watch them any time after.
That's fantastic. Now, if we don't get enough of you in person, History is Lunch, we can hear you at any time on the new podcast, Speaking of Mississippi. I say new, it's been around for a minute now.
It has. We got to looking around over here and thought man, everybody else is having fun with podcasts, how come we can't do that? And it really has been a great opportunity to talk to folks.
It started out during the pandemic, and we couldn't resist having Deanne Stevens from USM as our first guest because she was the author of a book about the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic. And it just seemed again, to be too much of a connection not to follow up with.
But we've talked with Jim Woodrick, who wrote a fantastic book on the Civil War siege of Jackson.
We've had Randall Kennedy who teaches at Harvard Law School, who has studied extensively about the desegregation of public facilities in Jackson, the parks, the swimming pools, things like that. I mean, it's similar to the History is Lunch series in ways, but sometimes we'll have overlap.
We had Bobby Rush give a History is Lunch program, and it was great, and he was able to bring a guitar and harmonica and play a little bit, but when we talked to him in the studio for the podcast he told stories that he didn't tell in front of everybody. And it's a different setting, it's a more intimate setting as you know, and you get different things from it.
I just love podcasting, it's one of my favorite things to do. And just like we say for Soul Sessions, you can find Speaking of Mississippi anywhere you get your podcasts.
Yeah. So you've started a third program, as if those first two are not enough, and it's Sunday Screenings at the Two Museums: film time, right?
Yeah. We do include documentaries and films for History Is Lunch, but we have a one-hour time limit for History is Lunch. And as we said, we live stream them, and not all filmmakers want their product out there free for nothing for everybody at that particular moment. And a lot of times they're obviously going to be longer than an hour. So we have been having these programs where we screen the entire thing in the auditorium, the same place that we have History is Lunch of the Two museums. It's free. We have a little program either with the filmmaker or with some of the folks who were in it.
One of the first ones we did was The Fearless 11, which was a film that Jackson native Ashley Gibson made about the 11 Black teenagers who integrated Provine High School in 1965, and her father was one of those. There were other folks who were there. We had a couple of hundred folks from Jackson show up for it.
We have had others on the death of Meriweather Lewis, who was half of the Lewis and Clark duo. He died on the Natchez Trace under mysterious circumstances.
We've got the Game of Change, which again, is another one of those things that's tied to an anniversary. 60 years ago Mississippi State University basketball players had to sneak out of the state to play a post-season game against Loyola University because Mississippi players weren't allowed to play against integrated teams. And there have been not just one, but two films that have been produced about that.
And so if you're interested in good stories you don't have to look far in Mississippi to find them.
There's so much rich history and our tradition of storytelling here in the state that makes all three of these programs much worth your time. I'm going to put links in the show notes so that folks know how to find out what's coming up and who's going to be on what programs at what times.
Now, I got to ask you a question before we go. You've been here in Jackson for a while, I know you're a native of North Mississippi, but you obviously love Jackson. You're contributing to the cultural landscape of the city through your work at the museums, and your work as a musician with Waterworks Curve. Tell me Chris, what makes Jackson so special to you?
I love lots of things about it. If you can't love the people of Jackson I don't know what's going on with you there. But I grew up in the country in north Mississippi in Yalobusha County outside from Water Valley, and I live right in the middle of Jackson. I love that I can walk to work, that my kids go to Murrah, which is a half mile away from the house, they literally walk to and from school. And I love that there are spaces and places for all Jacksonian's to get together. You can see folks out at work, but you can also see folks out after hours, having a good time at restaurants, and listening to music, taking part in other artistic endeavors. I mean, if there's an art exhibit that's up you can count on all sorts of great folks showing up for those. I just think that Jackson has had the deck stacked against it in many ways, but has overcome, and I just feel like Jackson has a great future, a bright future, and I want to be a part of it.
That's Department of Archives and History special projects director Chris Goodwin.
Now, I promised you links to his work but they're .gov and Apple Podcast links, they're kind of long, so look for them in our show notes.
Soul Sessions is produced by Visit Jackson, the destination organization for Mississippi's Capital City.
Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Dr. Ricky Thigpen, and I'm our managing editor.
You want to know more about what we do, our mission? Well, you can check that out, it's at visitjackson.com.
I'm Paul Wolf and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.