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Mississippi

The Help: Visit sites from the movie - and history

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Skeeter (Emma Stone) teams up with Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Viola Davis).

The film and best-selling novel The Help tells the story of Skeeter Phelan, a white Ole Miss graduate who collaborates on a secret writing project with the black women who work as maids for white families in 1960s-era Mississippi.

While some have been wary of the story by University of Alabama graduate Kathryn Stockett because it depicts black females in demeaning, stereotypical roles, others point to the compelling plot and the strong African-American characters.

Filming took place in Mississippi, and the main host cities - Greenwood and Jackson - are eager to guide visitors to locations from the movie and novel. (Some scenes were also shot in Clarksdale and Greenville).

Greenwood, a historic Delta town with deep roots in cotton and the blues, is about 90 miles northwest of Jackson and distributes a map and guide to filming locations. The town plays 1960s-era Jackson in the movie. It's also near a site linked to one of the most notorious and influential moments of the entire Civil Rights Era: the killing of teenager Emmett Till.

While only a few scenes were filmed in Jackson, the capital city has a detailed guide to sites mentioned in the book, from the Junior League headquarters to McDade's Market. The city has been slow to recognize its role in the Civil Rights Movement, but it does have a few sites worth visiting.



Greenwood

While most the filming sites in this town of 16,000 are on private property, a fan will definitely recognize city scenes, buildings, exteriors and landscapes. The film-makers liked the frozen-in-time look of the city - including gracious Southern buildings, and "modern" 1960s-era homes.

The major sites are below. Most are private property, so be respectful. You can find a Google map showing them all: here.

Greenwood's Civil Rights Sites



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Emmett Till, about six months before his murder.


Greenwood is located about 10 miles south of Money, one of the notorious spots in U.S. Civil Rights history. It's the site of Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, which is linked to the 1955 murder of teenager Emmett Till. The boy's crime? Whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, at the store. Two days later the 14-year-old boy was dragged from his great-uncle's home and brutalized. His body was later found in the Tallahatchie River. Bryant's husband and his half-brother were charged with the crime, but acquitted by an all-white jury. Later, they confessed.

Till was visiting from Chicago, and his mother insisted that the funeral have an open casket. Pictures of her son's mutilated body were seen around the world. The public was outraged and some link Till's death to the start of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Until recently, Mississippi has done little to recognize the site, but in May, 2011, it placed a historic marker at the grocery. There are now moves afoot to preserve the gas station next to the dilapidated grocery as a visitors center.

Greenwood itself has a checkered civil rights past. It's the birthplace of the White Citizens' Council, which formed in 1955 to fight desegregation and quickly spread throughout the South. It was considered more socially acceptable than the Ku Klux Klan, often acting behind the scenes with businesses and government.





Greenwood Guidebook

Greenwood has a surprising array of attractions. For info, visit the city's tourism bureau. Find Missisippi travel info here.

Many people come from across country to attend the celebrated cooking school run by Viking Range Corp.

TurnRow Books, an indepedent book store, was a daily hangout for the film's directors and producers. The store often has signed copies of The Help, a great souvenir of your visit.

If you want to sleep where the stars stayed, try the Alluvian, a boutique hotel renovated by the local Viking Range Corp. It has won national attention for design, and the Mississippi art gracing the walls. The Thursday night happy hour was a favorite with the Hollywood visitors. The hotel's also home to Giardina's, a famed Creole-Italian restaurant serving diners since 1936.

For dinner, the crew fell in love with Delta Bistro, knwon for its incredible catfish and surprises like braised bison with barbecue sauce. Reservations: 662/455-9575

Jackson

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The Help is set in Mississippi's state capital, Jackson.

Jackson has been eager to embrace its role in The Help. It has maps and tour routes for fans of the novel, which has been a book-club staple for several years now.

The story's set in Jackson's historic Bellhaven neighborhood. Although a work of fiction, many of the sites in the book are real. Click here for a detailed driving tour of the neighborhood sites tied to the novel. This link provide a tour of other Jackson sites from the novel.

And here are all the sites on a Google map.

Jackson's Civil Rights Sites

Although a crucial city in Civil Rights history, until recently Jackson hasn't done much to preserve its heritage. The state recently approved the construction of a Civil Rights museum, so that will change in coming years.

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The murder of Medgar Evers shocked the country,
and provides a backdrop to Jackson's troubled racial climate in The Help.


The city's most important Civil Rights location now is the site of Medgar Evers' assassination. The field secretary for the NAACP was shot in his driveway in 1963 hours after President John F. Kennedy gave a speech supporting integration. The event, mentioned in The Help, made headlines around the world. Evers helped lead a boycott against white Jackson merchants, and was a key player in James Meredith's integration of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), which enflamed many white Mississippians. Evers, who served in the U.S. Army, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Evers' assassin, Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council, was twice tried and freed when juries were unable to reach a verdict. In 1994, charges were brought again and he was convicted.

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A Mississippi historic marker, erected in May, 2011, now notes Evers' home.


Evers' home, 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive, was recently marked with a Mississippi historic marker. Visitors will notice it does not have a front door. The Evers family thought it would be safer to have an entrance through the carport. Although a museum has operated in the home, the current status is unclear. You can take a virtual tour here.

You'll also find a Mississippi historic marker at Jackson's old Greyhound bus station, 219 N. Lamar Street, where protesters were methodically arrested during the Freedom Rides of 1961.

Jackson Guidebook

Historic Jackson has a rich history and a winning art museum. For info, visit the city's tourism bureau. Find Missisippi travel info here.

You'll find a full array of chain hotels, including the top ranked Hampton Inn Jackson-North.

"Help" fans may want to splurge for a stay at the historic Fairview Inn, which housed the cast during filming, and makes an appearance on page 148 of the book. The Colonial Revival mansion has a "Help" package. Starting at $349 per night, it includes an overnight stay, dinner for two, mint juleps plus a pack of card and bridge lessons – a popular past-time in the book.

For a memorable meal, try the Parlor Market, 115 West Capitol St., 601-360-0090,