Monday, September 14, 2009

Library Lines

The Pontotoc County Historical and Genealogical Society cordially invites you to attend a special book review and book signing-- David Magee, author of The Education of Mr. Mayfield, will be in Pontotoc at the Library Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at Noon. This event is free and open to the public. Come have lunch with us and hear about Mr. M. B. Mayfield’s education. Magee will be joined by singer-songwriter Melanie Hammet who wrote a song titled “Mr. Mayfield”.

For David Magee, who loved to tell stories and always wanted to write books, Oxford, Mississippi, was the perfect place to grow up, a small, Southern town surrounded by the University of Mississippi. As a child, Magee played on the grounds of Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home. After graduating from Ole Miss with a journalism degree, he became an editor for the local daily newspaper. As an adult, he was friends with writers like John Grisham and Larry Brown. Although he was a successful businessman and a member of the Oxford City Council by the time he was in his early thirties, he still had a burning desire to write books.

In 1999, he began to write full-time. His first success came when he approached Nissan’s CEO, Carl Ghosn, about writing a book about his leadership of that company. The result was Turnaround, which sold almost 100,000 copies worldwide and was published in seven languages. Although that book’s success opened up a well-paying career in writing corporate histories and biographies, Magee was still not writing the kind of books he wanted. When his mother said, “Write something I want to read,” Magee told her, “Hold tight.”

As he thought about his writing career, Magee kept returning to a story he had heard in Oxford about Stuart Purser and M.B. Mayfield and how their friendship overcame racial barriers and allowed Mayfield to gain an education at Ole Miss more than a decade before forced integration.

In 1949, Purser, the chairman of the university’s newly created Art Department, discovered Mayfield’s artwork while driving around the countryside. Purser recognized Mayfield’s talent but knew that a black man could not legally attend the university. He arranged for Mayfield to be the department’s custodian and allowed him to audit art classes while sitting in the janitor’s closet. Purser, other members of the Art Department, and even William Faulkner purchased Mayfield’s art supplies and sent him to gallery exhibitions and become a successful folk artist.

In telling this little-known story of Southerners who found ways to defy the injustices of Jim Crow era, Magee was finally able to reconcile some of the inconsistencies between the idyllic Oxford of his childhood and the tainted images of 1960’s racism that had defined the town for much of the world. With the Education of Mr. Mayfield, Magee was also finally able to write a book his mother would want to read.

Mr. M. B. Mayfield is from Pontotoc County. Some of his artwork is on permanent display at the Pontotoc County Library and the Town Square Museum. The book review/book signing is also sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Mark and Lorna Anderson made a memorial donation in memory of Catherine Keenum.

The following made donations to the library: Shelia Martin, Donald Dillard, Debbie Anderson, Sheila Martin, and Billy Thacker.

Annette Culpepper, MSU Extension Program Assistant will be at the library for storytime on Wednesday, September 16th, at 10:00.

Wendy Smith from the University of Mississippi Department of History and Archives presented “Makin’ Do Rural Women Coping with Difficult Times” Documentary to the Library. The Documentary Project will be available for checkout.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read will be celebrated September 26−October 3, 2009. Observed since 1982, this annual American Library Association event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.

Stop by the library and checkout a banned book today.

Annette McGregor

Pontotoc County Library

Branch Manager

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