Clarksdale, Mississippi

Clarksdale, Mississippi

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Encyclopedia
Clarksdale is a city in Coahoma County
Coahoma County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 30,622 people, 10,553 households, and 7,482 families residing in the county. The population density was 55 people per square mile . There were 11,490 housing units at an average density of 21 per square mile...

, Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The population was 20,645 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Coahoma County
Coahoma County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 30,622 people, 10,553 households, and 7,482 families residing in the county. The population density was 55 people per square mile . There were 11,490 housing units at an average density of 21 per square mile...

.

Clarksdale was named in honor of founder and resident John Clark, brother-in-law of politician James Lusk Alcorn, whose plantation
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 home is nearby.

History



In the early 20th century, Clarksdale was known as the "Golden Buckle in the Cotton Belt" and was home to a multi-cultural mixture of Lebanese, Italian, Chinese and Jewish immigrant merchants along with African-Americans farm laborers and white plantation owners.

Clarksdale figured prominently in the regional agricultural landscape and became pre-eminent when the International Harvester
International Harvester
International Harvester Company was a United States agricultural machinery, construction equipment, vehicle, commercial truck, and household and commercial products manufacturer. In 1902, J.P...

 Company perfected the development of the single row mechanical cotton picking machine at the nearby Hopson Plantation in 1946. This technological advancement quickly revolutionized American agriculture and had far-reaching economic and social implications for the cotton industry worldwide, particularly in the Mississippi Delta.

Whereas previously the area's sprawling plantations were worked largely by an African-American workforce, the rapid mechanization of cotton production made these workers readily expendable. This change, concurrent with the return of many African American GIs from World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, triggered what came to be known as The Great Migration
Second Great Migration (African American)
The Second Great Migration was the migration of more than 5 million African Americans from the South to the North, Midwest and West. It took place from 1941, through World War II, and lasted until 1970. It was much larger and of a different character than the first Great Migration...

 to the north, the largest movement of Americans in U.S. history. The Illinois Central Railroad
Illinois Central Railroad
The Illinois Central Railroad , sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, is a railroad in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois with New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa...

 operated a large depot in Clarksdale, which quickly became the primary departure point for many African-Americans in the area. This rail hub provided a Chicago-bound route for many seeking greater economic opportunities in the north.

Geography


Clarksdale is located at 34°11′52"N 90°34′19"W (34.197888, -90.571941), on the banks of the Sunflower River
Sunflower River
The Sunflower River is one of the main tributaries of the Yazoo River in the U.S. state of Mississippi. It is navigable by barge for 50 miles. It rises in De Soto County, Mississippi near the Tennessee border and flows south for 100 miles to the Yazoo River...

  in the heart of the Mississippi Delta
Mississippi Delta
The Mississippi Delta is the distinctive northwest section of the U.S. state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The region has been called "The Most Southern Place on Earth" because of its unique racial, cultural, and economic history...

.

According to the United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

, the city has a total area of 13.9 square miles (36 km²), of which 13.8 square miles (35.7 km²) is land and 0.07% is water.

Demographics


As of the census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

of 2000, there were 20,645 people, 7,233 households, and 5,070 families residing in the city. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 1,491.8 people per square mile (575.9/km²). There were 7,757 housing units at an average density of 560.5 per square mile (216.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.52% African American, 29.95% White, 0.58% Asian, 0.11% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.65% of the population.

There were 7,233 households out of which 36.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.7% were married couples
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 30.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.38.

In the city, the population was spread out with 32.9% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 81.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 73.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,188, and the median income for a family was $26,592. Males had a median income of $26,881 versus $19,918 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the city was $12,611. About 29.7% of families and 36.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 46.1% of those under age 18 and 31.4% of those age 65 or over.

Public schools


The city of Clarksdale is served by the Clarksdale Municipal School District
Clarksdale Municipal School District
The Clarksdale Municipal School District is a public school district based in Clarksdale, Mississippi .-High School:*Clarksdale High SchoolHigh school students also have the option of attending Coahoma Agricultural High School.-Elementary Schools:...

. The district has nine schools with a total enrollment of 3,600 students.

Coahoma Agricultural High School
Coahoma Agricultural High School
Coahoma Agricultural High School is a public, secondary school in unincorporated Coahoma County, Mississippi . It is located on the campus of Coahoma Community College, approximately north of Clarksdale. It is controlled by the Coahoma Agricultural High School District.The school has its own...

, a non-district public high school in unincorporated
Unincorporated area
In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not a part of any municipality.To "incorporate" in this context means to form a municipal corporation, a city, town, or village with its own government. An unincorporated community is usually not subject to or taxed by a municipal government...

 Coahoma County
Coahoma County, Mississippi
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 30,622 people, 10,553 households, and 7,482 families residing in the county. The population density was 55 people per square mile . There were 11,490 housing units at an average density of 21 per square mile...

, is located on the campus of Coahoma Community College
Coahoma Community College
Coahoma Community College is a community college and HBCU located in Coahoma County, Mississippi, approximately four miles north of the city of Clarksdale...

, approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north of Clarksdale.

Private schools


The city is home to four private schools
  • Lee Academy
  • Presbyterian Day School
  • St. Elizabeth's Elementary School
  • St. George's Episcopal Day School (Closed in May 2011)

Music history



Clarksdale has been historically significant in the history of the blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

. The Mississippi Blues Trail
Mississippi Blues Trail
The Mississippi Blues Trail, created by the Mississippi Blues Commission, is a project to place interpretive markers at the most notable historical sites related to the growth of the blues throughout the state of Mississippi. The trail extends from the border of Louisiana in southern Mississippi...

, now being implemented, is dedicating markers for historic sites such as Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel
Riverside Hotel (Clarksdale)
Riverside Hotel is a hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi in operation since 1944. It was the fourth marker place on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Famed for providing lodging for such blues artists as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, and Robert Nighthawk. It was previously the G.T. Thomas Hospital...

, where Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer.Sometimes referred to as The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s...

 died following an auto accident on Highway 61
U.S. Route 61
U.S. Route 61 is the official designation for a United States highway that runs from New Orleans, Louisiana, to the city of Wyoming, Minnesota. The highway generally follows the course of the Mississippi River, and is designated the Great River Road for much of its route. As of 2004, the highway's...

. The Riverside Hotel
Riverside Hotel (Clarksdale)
Riverside Hotel is a hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi in operation since 1944. It was the fourth marker place on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Famed for providing lodging for such blues artists as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, and Robert Nighthawk. It was previously the G.T. Thomas Hospital...

 is just one of many historical blues sites in Clarksdale.
Over the past fifteen years, members of Clarksdale's white community have finally come to see its unique African American blues heritage as a viable tourism attraction worth controlling. Early supporters of the effort to preserve Clarksdale's musical legacy included the award-winning photographer and journalist Panny Mayfield, Living Blues
Living Blues
Living Blues is a bi-monthly magazine focused on covering the African American blues tradition, and America's oldest blues periodical. The magazine was founded as a quarterly in Chicago in 1970 by Jim O'Neal and Amy van Singel. Alligator Records owner and founder Bruce Iglauer was also one of the...

 magazine founder Jim O'Neal
Jim O'Neal
Jim O'Neal is an American blues expert, writer, record producer and record company executive. He co-founded America's first blues magazine, Living Blues, in Chicago in 1970. Since that time the magazine has set standards for blues history, culture, and journalism worldwide...

, and attorney Walter Thompson, father of sports journalist Wright Thompson
Wright Thompson
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He formerly worked at The Kansas City Star and Times-Picayune in New Orleans.-Professional life:...

. In 1995, Mt. Zion Memorial Fund
Mt. Zion Memorial Fund
The Mt. Zion Memorial Fund is a Mississippi non-profit corporation formed in 1989 and named after the 101 year old Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Morgan City, Mississippi...

 founder Skip Henderson, a vintage guitar dealer from New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

 and friend of Delta Blues Museum founder Sid Graves, purchased the Illinois Central Railroad
Illinois Central Railroad
The Illinois Central Railroad , sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, is a railroad in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois with New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa...

 passenger depot to save it from planned demolition. With the help of local businessman Jon Levingston and the Delta Council, Henderson received a $1.279 million dollar grant from the federal government to restore the passenger depot. These redevelopment funds were then transferred on the advice of Clarksdale's City attorney, Hunter Twiford, to Coahoma County, in order to establish a tourism locale termed "Blues Alley", after a phrase coined by then Mayor, Henry Espy. The popularity of the Delta Blues Museum
Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale exists to collect, preserve, and provide public access to and awareness of the blues. Along with holdings of significant blues-related memorabilia, the museum also exhibits and collects art portraying the blues tradition, including works by sculptor Floyd...

 and the growth of the Sunflower River Blues Festival and Juke Joint Festivals has provided an economic boost to the city.

Delta Blues Museum


In late 1979 Carnegie Public Library Director Sid Graves began a nascent display series which later became the nucleus of the Delta Blues Museum
Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale exists to collect, preserve, and provide public access to and awareness of the blues. Along with holdings of significant blues-related memorabilia, the museum also exhibits and collects art portraying the blues tradition, including works by sculptor Floyd...

. Graves single-handedly nurtured the beginnings of the museum in the face of an indifferent community and an often recalcitrant Library Board, at times resorting to storing displays in the trunk of his car when denied space in the library. When the fledgling museum was accidentally discovered by Billy Gibbons
Billy Gibbons
William Frederick "Billy" Gibbons is an American musician, actor and car customizer, best known as the guitarist of the Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top. He is also the lead singer and composer for many of the band's songs. Gibbons is known for playing his Gretsch Billy Bo guitar and his famous 1959...

 of the rock band ZZ Top
ZZ Top
ZZ Top is an American rock band, sometimes referred to as "That Little Ol' Band from Texas". Their style, which is rooted in blues-based boogie rock, has come to incorporate elements of arena, southern, and boogie rock. The band, from Houston Texas, formed in 1969...

 through contact with Howard Stovall Jr., the Delta Blues Museum
Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale exists to collect, preserve, and provide public access to and awareness of the blues. Along with holdings of significant blues-related memorabilia, the museum also exhibits and collects art portraying the blues tradition, including works by sculptor Floyd...

 became the subject of national attention as a pet project of the band, and the Museum began to enjoy national recognition.

In 1995 the museum, at that time Clarksdale's only attraction, grew to include a large section of the newly renovated library building, but remained under the tight control of the Carnegie Library Board, who subsequently fired Sid Graves, at the time seriously ill. Graves passed away in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in January, 2005. In an interim move from the renovated Library building, the Museum spent most of 1996 in a converted retail storefront on Delta Avenue under the direction of a politically-connected former Wisconsin native, the late Ron Gorsegner. In 1997-1998 Coahoma County would finally provide funds to form a separate Museum Board of Directors composed mainly of socially prominent, local white blues fans, and to renovate the adjoining Illinois Central Railroad
Illinois Central Railroad
The Illinois Central Railroad , sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, is a railroad in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois with New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa...

 freight depot, providing a permanent home for the Delta Blues Museum.

Mississippi Blues Trail marker


Clarksdale has received a historic marker as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail
Mississippi Blues Trail
The Mississippi Blues Trail, created by the Mississippi Blues Commission, is a project to place interpretive markers at the most notable historical sites related to the growth of the blues throughout the state of Mississippi. The trail extends from the border of Louisiana in southern Mississippi...

 by the Mississippi Blues Commission in recognition of its importance in the development of the blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 in Mississippi. The marker is on Stovall Road at the alleged cabin site of famed bluesman McKinley Morganfield a/k/a Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
McKinley Morganfield , known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician, generally considered the "father of modern Chicago blues"...

 a fact that has never been conslusively verified. Morganfield supposedly lived there from 1915 until 1943 while he worked on the large Stovall cotton Plantation before moving to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 after mistreatment at the hands of a Stovall overseer as documented by author Peter Guralnick
Peter Guralnick
Peter Guralnick is an American music critic, writer on music, and historian of US American popular music, who is also active as an author and screenwriter. He has been married for over 45 years to Alexandra...

 in his book "Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues, Country, and Rock 'n' Roll".
A second Mississippi Blues Trail historic marker is placed at the Riverside Hotel
Riverside Hotel (Clarksdale)
Riverside Hotel is a hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi in operation since 1944. It was the fourth marker place on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Famed for providing lodging for such blues artists as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, and Robert Nighthawk. It was previously the G.T. Thomas Hospital...

 that provided lodging for blues entertainers passing through the delta.
In August 2009 a marker devoted to Clarksdale native Sam Cooke was unveiled, just in front of the New Roxy Theatre.

Notable residents

  • James L. Alcorn
    James L. Alcorn
    James Lusk Alcorn was a prominent American political figure in Mississippi during the 19th century. He was a leading southern white Republican or "scalawag" during Reconstruction in Mississippi, where he served as governor and U.S. Senator...

  • Earl Barron
    Earl Barron
    Earl Daniel Barron, Jr. is an American professional basketball player who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers in the National Basketball Association.-Career:...

  • Eddie "Bongo" Brown
  • Willie Brown
    Willie Brown (musician)
    Willie Brown was an American delta blues guitarist and singer.- Life and career :Born Willie Lee Brown in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Brown played with such notables as Charley Patton, and Robert Johnson. He was not known to be a self-promoting frontman, preferring to "second" other musicians...

  • Earl L. Brewer
    Earl L. Brewer
    Earl Leroy Brewer was the Governor of Mississippi from 1912 to 1916. Elected as a Democrat, he was unopposed in the primary and won the governorship without ever making a single public campaign speech.-Biography:...

  • Charlie Conerly
    Charlie Conerly
    Charles Albert Conerly, Jr. was an American football quarterback in the National Football League for the New York Giants from 1948 through 1961. Conerly was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966.-College career:Conerly attended and played college football at the University of...

  • Sam Cooke
    Sam Cooke
    Samuel Cook, , better known under the stage name Sam Cooke, was an American gospel, R&B, soul, and pop singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He is considered to be one of the pioneers and founders of soul music. He is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocal abilities and...

  • Harper Davis
    Harper Davis
    Julius Harper Davis, Jr. is a former American football player and coach. He played professionally as a defensive back in the All-America Football Conference and the NFL...

  • Nate Dogg
    Nate Dogg
    Nathaniel Dwayne Hale , better known by his stage name Nate Dogg, was an American musician. He is noted for his membership of rap trio 213 and his solo career in which he collaborated with Dr. Dre, Warren G, Tupac and Snoop Dogg on many hit releases. Nate Dogg released three solo albums, G-Funk...

  • Blac Elvis
    Blac Elvis
    Elvis Williams, better known as Blac Elvis, is an award-winning American record producer, musician and song writer. He rose to fame in 1999 co-producing alongside Polow da Don. Producing hits for Ludacris, Ciara, Kelly Rowland, Fergie, Rich Boy, Kelis, Nelly, Pussycat Dolls and Mario. Recently he...

  • Mario Haggan
    Mario Haggan
    Mario Marcell Haggan is an American football linebacker for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He played college football at Mississippi State.-Early years:Haggan grew up in a poverty-stricken area of...

  • Aaron Henry
    Aaron Henry
    Aaron Henry was an American civil rights leader, politician, and head of the Mississippi branch of the NAACP. He was one of the founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which tried to seat their delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.-Early life:Henry was born in Dublin,...

  • Earl Hooker
    Earl Hooker
    Earl Hooker was an American Chicago blues guitarist, perhaps best known for his slide guitar playing. Considered a "musician's musician", Hooker performed with blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Junior Wells, and John Lee Hooker as well as fronting his own bands...

  • John Lee Hooker
    John Lee Hooker
    John Lee Hooker was an American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist.Hooker began his life as the son of a sharecropper, William Hooker, and rose to prominence performing his own unique style of what was originally closest to Delta blues. He developed a 'talking blues' style that was his trademark...

  • Son House
    Son House
    Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. was an American blues singer and guitarist. House pioneered an innovative style featuring strong, repetitive rhythms, often played with the aid of slide guitar, and his singing often incorporated elements of southern gospel and spiritual music...

  • Big Jack Johnson
    Big Jack Johnson
    Big Jack Johnson was an American electric blues musician.One commentator noted that Johnson, along with R. L...

  • Robert Johnson
  • Trumaine McBride
    Trumaine McBride
    Trumaine McBride is an American football cornerback he is currently a free agent in the National Football League. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He played college football at Mississippi.-Early years:McBride attended Clarksdale High School in...

  • Terrence Metcalf
    Terrence Metcalf
    Terrence Orlando Metcalf is an American football guard who is currently a free agent. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft...

  • Johnny B. Moore
    Johnny B. Moore
    Johnny B. Moore is an American Chicago blues and electric blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was a member of Koko Taylor's backing band in the mid 1970s, but has recorded nine solo albums since 1987...

  • Jim O'Neal
    Jim O'Neal
    Jim O'Neal is an American blues expert, writer, record producer and record company executive. He co-founded America's first blues magazine, Living Blues, in Chicago in 1970. Since that time the magazine has set standards for blues history, culture, and journalism worldwide...

  • Charles L. Sullivan
    Charles L. Sullivan
    Charles L. Sullivan was an American politician, attorney and military pilot. He was the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi from 1968 to 1972 and a General in the United States Air National Guard...

  • Super Chikan
    Super Chikan
    James "Super Chikan" Johnson is an American blues musician, based in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He is the nephew of fellow blues musician Big Jack Johnson....

  • Wright Thompson
    Wright Thompson
    Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He formerly worked at The Kansas City Star and Times-Picayune in New Orleans.-Professional life:...

  • Ike Turner
    Ike Turner
    Isaac Wister Turner was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. In a career that lasted more than half a century, his repertoire included blues, soul, rock, and funk...

  • Muddy Waters
    Muddy Waters
    McKinley Morganfield , known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician, generally considered the "father of modern Chicago blues"...

  • Tennessee Williams
    Tennessee Williams
    Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

  • James (Jimbo) Mathus
  • Larry A. Thompson
    Larry A. Thompson
    Larry A. Thompson is a Hollywood film producer, personal manager, book packager, author, and motivational speaker. He is founder and President of the Larry Thompson Organization, a Los Angeles based Talent Management, Motion Picture, Television, and New Media Production Studio.Having managed the...

  • Lerone Bennett, Jr.
    Lerone Bennett, Jr.
    Lerone Bennett, Jr. is an African-American scholar, author and social historian, known for his revisionist analysis of race relations in the United States. His works include "When the Wind Blows" and "History of Us".-Biography:...


See also

  • For a list of all the musicians (bluesmen) born in the State of Mississippi: Mississippi Musicians and Performers

External links