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