The Hill Country Project began as an oral history project conducted by former civil rights organizers who worked in north Mississippi. Originally, it focused on the history of race relations in Benton County, Mississippi, located in north Mississippi's "hill country." Based on conversations with residents during and after the filming of their oral histories, the topic of Benton County's current economic condition invariably was raised.
Four decades after the civil rights movement, the county remains poor, farming has become increasingly unprofitable, jobs are scarce, and large amounts of young people need to migrate out of the county to find work. There is, however, great potential in Benton County: a large base of small landowners who have strong family ties and whose lives are centered on the local churches. Much of the county is pristine national forest that could attract tourism. School performance in the county is on the rise. Memphis, a rapidly developing job center, is less than an hour away, and two major highways that run through the northern part of the county. Most importantly, a core group of Benton County citizens, many of them veterans of the civil rights movement there, remain organized and active in the community and work closely with the Hill Country Project.
HCP's community development project expects to spread throughout other counties in the "hill country" that experience similar circumstances.
The Hill Country Project (HCP) is a non-profit organization in Benton County, Mississippi, We have a two-fold mission: first, to record the stories of residents of Benton County who grew up during the Southern civil rights movement and earlier; and second, to help local groups build a strong economic base and a sustainable community through establishing solid educational and job training programs, and developing entrepreneurship and new employment opportunities in the county.