Portrait of a Juke Joint
A photographic tour of a quintessential staple of the Mississippi blues
Outside of Merigold, Mississippi, off an unmarked dirt road, stands Po’ Monkey’s, perhaps the most famous house in Mississippi and the last rural juke joint in the state, now closed to the public. Before the death of the lounge’s owner, Willie Seaberry, in 2016, it was a mandatory stop on the constant blues pilgrimage that flows through the Delta.
Seaberry ran Po’ Monkey’s Lounge for more than fifty years, opening his juke joint in the 1960s. A hand-built tenant home located on the plantation where Seaberry worked, Po’ Monkey’s was a place to listen to music and drink beer—a place to relax where everyone was welcomed by Seaberry’s infectious charm.
In Po’ Monkey’s: Portrait of a Juke Joint, photographer Will Jacks captures the juke joint he spent a decade patronizing. The more than seventy black-and-white photographs featured in this volume reflect ten years of weekly visits to the lounge as a regular—a journal of Jacks’s encounters with other customers, tourists, and Willie Seaberry himself.
An essay by award-winning writer Boyce Upholt on the cultural significance of the lounge accompanies the images. This volume explores the difficulties of preservation, historical context, community relations, and cultural tourism. Now that Seaberry is gone, the uncertainty of the future of his juke joint highlights the need for a historical record.