Tupelo, Mississippi: Place and Name

Return to issue

Tupelo, Mississippi: Place and Name

by Thomas Harvey
Southern Cultures, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 1996

"Tupelo is one of the most-mentioned place names in southern geography. The author takes a look at Tupelo's evolving image."

I am interested in landscape, local history, and sense of place. This is a common avocation for southerners; we identify strongly with our region. I am particularly fascinated by Tupelo, Mississippi. I was born there in 1951 and grew up there, but my interest goes beyond simple hometown nostalgia. In the winter of 1970, while living in Chicago, I awoke one morning to a radio announcement report- ing the temperature outside: “It’s two below in Tupelo.” It was mildly entertaining then—they were obviously not talking about Tupelo, nor was there any further explanation. “Tupelo” was simply a word—a place name—to throw in. I thought little more of it then, but over the succeeding years I have come to perceive “Tupelo”—the name—as something special. On a per capita basis, Tupelo must be one of the most commonly referred to place names in the country.