When Arcadia Publishing approached Southern University Law Center communications director Rachel L. Emanuel about producing a pictorial history of Scotlandville, she wanted some local expertise.
“I knew, not being from Scotlandville, that Ruby Simms was a Scotlandville scholar, and I knew Charles Vincent from way back, and they would really add legitimacy to the book,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel and the two Southern University history professors introduced “Scotlandville,” part of Arcadia’s “Images of America” series, at a Juneteenth celebration at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Scotlandville. It was an appropriate venue; churches make up one of the book’s seven chapters.
“Growing up in Scotlandville, the church was the glue for everything,” Simms said. “You knew that you were going to be church-focused on Sunday.”
If readers choose to read it that way, the book offers a different focus for every other day of the week: the community’s first families, businesses, education, social and civic organizations, neighborhoods and politics. Each chapter has a brief introduction, but the 128 pages are dominated by photos.
The authors decided to avoid archival photo collections that might already be familiar to those interested in Scotlandville. Emanuel said they asked — through churches and organizations — for people to provide old photos that represented life in the community. They extended their deadline twice.
“Toward the end, more and more people got the word and started finding those images,” Emanuel said. “We had a few people that gave us a lot of pictures, and toward the end people started giving us pictures, so we had to take out some of those other images because we felt it would be better to have more people represented.”
The book contains 102 photos, roughly half the number submitted, Emanuel said. Each photo has information explaining its significance, such as the Kelly family, which is said to have been the only black family living in Scotlandville prior to the opening of Southern University in 1914, to the Charmette Social and Civil Club enjoying a line dance at the Masonic Hall, to Herman “Poochie” Bowie posing at his record shop with The Commodores’ Lionel Ritchie and Thomas McClary.
Simms grew up in Scotlandville. Vincent grew up in Mississippi, but moved to the community that surrounds Southern after coming to the university in 1968, which he describes as Scotlandville’s heyday.
“Everything you wanted was in this self-contained community, a vibrant community,” Vincent said. “Scotlandville has a wonderful history.”
Emanuel said the book research taught her a lot about that vibrant past, when the campus and community had a growing, symbiotic relationship. The present is different, as businesses like grocery stores and theaters have moved to more lucrative locations.
“You may say, ‘My, how times have changed,’ and we have great challenges now and in the future,” she said. “There is much work to be done, and from time to time in everyone’s life, there will always be things to overcome. But when we know our history, we should be inspired to do the work and know that we can rely on our faith on him who will provide. The history of Scotlandville is a noble example of the power of a dream fueled by the power of faith.”
“Scotlandville” ($21.99) is available online at arcadiapublishing.com and Amazon.com, and locally Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Old State Capitol Museum, Southern University Bookstore, Cottonwood Books and Walgreens, 11297 Florida Blvd.