Jeremy Houston, the founder of the Miss-Lou Heritage Group and Tours, has recently published volumes four and five of his ongoing Black History series on the people of Natchez.
In 2016, Houston began writing true stories for the first time about black people from Natchez who achieved great things in their lifetime, called “Straight Outta Natchez.”
His goal in doing so, he said, is to preserve history and tell African Americans about their heritage – not stories of “people picking cotton” but free people who have influenced history, art and culture.
It was within a year of the release of the movie “Straight Outta Compton”, centered around the famous NWA rap artists Dr. Dre, Easy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella’s life.
At the time, “They put ‘Straight Outta’ everywhere,” Houston said. “I wanted to use it, so I took it and ran with it.”
Less than six years later, he has published the fourth and fifth books in the series.
He released “Straight Outta Natchez Volume IV: Women of Black Natchez” and “Straight Outta Natchez Volume V: Leaders of the New School” last month.
As the name suggests, the first is centered around black women living under Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and beyond.
Among them is Daisy Newman, well-known opera singer and founder of the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra; Nellie Jackson, best known for owning an illegal brothel in Natchez and contributing to several charities; and Artimese West, the first black Natchez councilor.
“They were important to the essence of what Natchez is today,” Houston said.
Volume V takes a more modern turn and highlights six people who are still alive and continue to do “good work,” Houston said.
Among them is Jamar White, one of the youngest to run for political office in Natchez’s history. In 2020, White fielded Natchez Alderman Ward 1 as independent against his former teacher, Joyce Arceneaux Mathis, at the age of 21. Although he lost the election, Natchez has not seen the last of him. He has since founded a summer camp for young men, Restoring Manhood, to take place in June in Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park.
Another man who is put in focus in the book is Barney Scoby Jr., who was honored as the National Park Service Ranger of the Year in 2015. The book also talks about Justin Hamilton, a defensive linebacker from Natchez who graduated and continued with to play in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.
Modern women from Natchez are also featured in the fifth volume, including Chantel Marsaw, the founder of the organization “It Still Takes a Village”, which aims to help young people who have lost a parent. It also puts the spotlight on Jackie Marsaw, who started a “Grieving Mothers and Others” social group for parents who lost a child and leads many other social and charitable causes.
Houston said he also plans to publish a coloring book for children this summer called “Color the Heritage of Natchez.”
“I hope these books are inspiring and motivating for young people in Natchez,” Houston said. “I hope to get into the schools and tell the kids about these amazing people who also grew up here. “Some helped change not only Natchez and Mississippi, but also the United States and the world.”
The books are available for purchase on amazon.com and may soon be on sale at Natchez locations this summer, he said.