University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park History Professor Dr. Deanne Stephens reels in the story of Mississippi’s world famous seafood in her recent publication, The Mississippi Gulf Coast Seafood Industry: A People’s History, based on nearly 20 years of research that includes her discussions with local people about their love for the water and their way of life.
Inspired by the seafood culture of the Biloxi Point, Pass Christian harbor, and other locales along the Coast where she learned firsthand about the experiences of those working in the industry, Dr. Stephens’ book features “the contributions of all people who worked to build the seafood industry along coastal Mississippi,” which includes waves of immigrants and others who helped make it into the vibrant economic force that continues to help power the entire coastal region.
“That point is important because everyone who worked in the industry—from the pickers and shuckers to the fishers to the processing plant owners—all contributed and sustained it through hardships and good times,” she continued. “Their efforts created a dynamic industry that supported generations, and still lures people to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Over the last two decades, Dr. Stephens often talked to people like Ellison Hebert, who “related wonderful stories about his family coming over from Louisiana and working in the seafood industry” and at the docks, where she would visit with workers on the shrimping boats or speak to men coming in from harvesting oysters. “The Gollott family also embraced my research and shared their family history, as did members of the Dubaz family,” Dr. Stephens said. “Their collective stories and many others told the tale of hard work and perseverance.”
Dr. Stephens will be available to discuss and autograph The Mississippi Gulf Coast Seafood Industry: A People’s History at a book launch Thursday, June 10 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, located at 115 East 1st St. in Biloxi. This event is co-sponsored the USM Center for the Study of the Gulf South, the city of Biloxi and Main Street Biloxi; copies of the book will be available for purchase.
A member of the USM History program faculty since 2000, Dr. Stephens’ areas of expertise include Mississippi history; medical history; Southern history; and women in American history. For information about the USM History program, which is housed in the USM College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Humanities, visit https://www.usm.edu/humanities/index.php.