LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Who's Who in Black Mississippi?

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

When Juanita Sims Doty travels across the country and people find out she's from Mississippi, she is often asked what it's like to live here.

"I quickly say I have lived here all of my life. I don't plan to leave Mississippi. And I can't do any better anywhere in the country than I am doing in Mississippi," says the Jackson businesswoman and community activist.

"Then there is a pause from the other person, and maybe some comments, as if to say that I may not be giving an honest answer or response. I then go on to say that we have so many brilliant and talented African Americans across our entire state.

That led Doty to compile a book heralding the accomplishments of Mississippi African Americans. The book will be unveiled at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Jackson Convention Complex.

Who's Who in Black Mississippi features biographical data and pictures of Mississippi's most influential African Americans.

"It will provide the evidence of who we are and the impact we have, not only in the state of Mississippi, but across the nation and world," Doty said.

The inaugural edition of Who's Who in Black Mississippi was published in 2010. The second edition pays tribute to more than 950 elected and appointed officials.

"Our state has been touted for having the largest number of African American appointed and elected officials," said Doty. "We wanted to showcase some of them."

It features sections on legislators, mayors, the military and corporate, community, educational, business and spiritual leaders.

Othor Cain, who is featured in the book and helped write some of its content, said the 2012 publication will set the standard for others to follow.

"It will feature newly appointed Major Gen. Augustus 'Leon' Collins," said the managing editor of The Mississippi Link. "It will also feature most of our federally appointed judges including James Graves, Henry Wingate and Carlton Reeves to name a few."

Doty said those included in the book have made a difference in their communities and set extraordinary examples for others.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson wrote the foreword, and Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, the state's first black gubernatorial nominee, wrote the introduction.

"This is an opportunity for us to afford a measure of recognition to the men and women who have made their mark in their specific occupations, professions, or in service to others in the Mississippi community," Doty said.

Doty said the Columbus, Ohio-based Who's Who company is responsible for publishing the books in more than 25 major cities around the country.

Who's Who in Black Mississippi is the first statewide book to be published.

"Mississippi's history regarding African Americans has had some challenging and painful moments that some may choose to forget," Doty said. "But we shall always remember our past so that we will not repeat it.

"That's why you will find in this edition an historical review of where we have been as African Americans in Mississippi. Because of our past, we are able to move forward with great strength, courage and resilience to ensure that our Mississippi continues to be a great Mississippi for all of us."

Doty said the publication is dedicated to Mississippi's African-American children. "It is our hope and prayer that as they journey through these pages, they will see themselves as an entrepreneur, college professor, attorney, physician, community or spiritual leader, and yes, a cabinet secretary for the president of the United States. (And) they will, indeed, see the state of African Americans in Mississippi."


The Journalism Portfolio of LaReeca Rucker