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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Penny Sisson

St. Peter's Episcopal Church

Penny Sisson is a retired Spanish instructor at the University of Mississippi, and a vocational deacon that coordinates the Spanish language services and Sunday dinner hosted by the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Sisson grew up in Grenada, Mississippi and moved to Oxford in 1979. The first time she noticed an influx of Hispanics was in the early 1990s, at which time she started thinking about Hispanic ministry. Her goal was to reach out to the growing population of newcomers and help them become incorporated into the community. In 1999, with the help of a local priest and his wife, a new ESL teacher, began a Spanish language ministry in Oxford. They began with a worship service, English class, and a coffee and dessert hour after the service with support from other local churches. Penny Sisson describes the history of Oxford’s Hispanic community, the activists and community members that have supported the population and enabled their incorporation into the community—from providing legal assistance to medical services for the migrants. Additionally, Sisson discusses the challenges facing the Hispanic population, and the churches and organizations that have worked with the migrants over the years.


Penny es una instructora jubilada de español de la Universidad de Mississippi, y diácona vocacional que coordina los servicios en español y una cena albergada por la Iglesia Episcopal St. Peter’s en Oxford, Mississippi. Sisson se crió en Grenada, Mississippi y se mudó a Oxford en el año 1979. La primera vez que se dio cuenta que empezaron a llegar hispanos fue a principios de los años 90 cuando ella empezó a pensar en un ministerio hispano. Su meta era contactar a la creciente población de recién llegados, y ayudarlos a integrarse a la comunidad. Hace dieciocho años, con la ayuda del cura local y su esposa, una profesora de Inglés como Segunda Idioma, y con el apoyo de otras iglesias locales empezaron una clase de inglés y una hora de café y postre después del servicio en español. Penny Sisson describe la historia de la comunidad hispana en Oxford y a los activistas y miembros de la comunidad que apoyaron a la población hispana y que facilitaron su integración a la comunidad—proveyendo ayuda legal y servicios médicos para los inmigrantes. Adicionalmente, Sisson discute los retos que enfrenta la población hispana, y las iglesias y organizaciones que han trabajado con los inmigrantes durante los últimos años.

Date of interview:

Katherine Aberle

Katherine Aberle

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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