cover image Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty

Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty

Thomas J. Ward, Jr. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-062462-0

Ward (Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South), chair of the history department at Spring Hill College (Ala.), celebrates the nation’s first rural community health center and its groundbreaking mission to provide medical care and be “an instrument of social change” in the impoverished Mississippi Delta region. In this densely packed chronicle, Ward covers the growth of the Tufts-Delta Health Center from a small health clinic in 1967—opening amid skepticism from both black and white communities—to its unique role as a medical center and organizer of programs addressing rampant malnutrition, poor maternal and child healthcare, unsafe drinking water and sewage disposal, and hunger. Woven throughout are vivid portraits of the clinic’s founders, including H. Jack Geiger, the “father of community health”; community organizer John Hatch; environmental services director Andrew James; and farm expert L.C. Dorsey. Ward argues that the center’s true measure of success is its enduring legacy as one of the first of “more than 1,200 community health centers in the U.S.” Ward shows that “in both practical and symbolic terms, the Tufts-Delta Health Center was a radical assault on both the medical and social status quo”—and that story is as urgent today as it was a half century ago. (Dec.)