Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - December 2015
Director's Message
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director
Each October and November, I spend a lot of time driving around the state. That's usually when the staff at the rental car company begin to recognize me as I walk in the door. "Are you planning on driving to other states?" they always ask. "No. Just Mississippi," I respond. They then usually ask me where I'm going. This past month, my answers have included Wesson, Perkinston, Moorhead, Starkville, Cleveland, and Summit. MHC board and staff members together have traveled to 30 different communities over the last several weeks.

The purpose for all this travel is what we call "HTAs" or humanities teacher awards. Every year, we ask each of the 32 colleges and universities in Mississippi to name an outstanding teacher in a humanities field, to be publicly recognized at their institutions and celebrated statewide by the Mississippi Humanities Council. The winners are expected to present a public lecture on the subject of their choice sometime in October or November. We try to have an MHC representative at most all of these presentations (we came pretty close this year-Blue Mountain College and MUW, we promise to be there next year) to say a few words about the council and present the award to the winner.

This fall was my second time attending the Humanities Teacher Award presentations as the MHC's executive director, and I have really enjoyed the opportunity to visit different campuses around the state and meet students, faculty, and administrators. Driving back to Jackson after the programs, even late at night, I always feel energized by the quality of the humanities teaching at our institutions of higher learning. Admittedly, much focus has been placed on the importance of math and science and disciplines that are perceived to be more directly tied to remunerative careers. Yet if my HTA travels are any indication, the humanities remain strong in Mississippi colleges. Indeed, one of the central goals of our Humanities Teacher Awards is to highlight the importance of the humanities within these institutions.

I usually feel energized by the quality of the humanities teaching at our institutions of higher learning. Admittedly, much focus has been placed on the importance of math and science and disciplines that are perceived to be more directly tied to remunerative careers. Yet if my HTA travels are any indication, the humanities remain strong in Mississippi colleges. Indeed, one of the central goals of our Humanities Teacher Awards is to highlight the importance of the humanities within these institutions.

I also enjoy the wide array of topics I get to learn about: from the religion and culture of India, Shakespeare's sonnets, and African American quilting traditions, to the philosophical underpinnings of beliefs, the evolution of the English language, and the modern art of Edward Ruscha. As an academically trained historian, I especially enjoy engaging with other humanities disciplines, most of which I haven't studied since college. What ties these diverse subjects together is they all teach us something about the human condition. As Dr. Robert Thompson, this year's HTA winner at Mississippi State University, taught me, the humanities are a form of "mindreading," in which we learn to understand others by putting ourselves in their place. Ultimately, such empathy helps us to better understand ourselves and our place in the world.

On a more mundane level, the HTA program connects our small office of five employees to every college and university in the state. The strong relationships we have built through this program with our state's institutions of higher learning are the envy of other state humanities councils. The MHC has always worked best through partnerships, and the HTA program is a wonderful example of this.

Those partnerships extend to the citizens of our state. The HTA program and everything else we do would not be possible without your support. As 2015 draws to a close, I urge you to become a partner by donating to the MHC. There is a donate button on the top of our webpage. Together, we can ensure the humanities remain strong on the college campuses and main streets of Mississippi.

The Pulitzer Prize Board has awarded $20,000 to the Mississippi Humanities Council for a series of public programs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Prizes in 2016 through Pulitzer's Campfires Initiative. Partnering with the Overby Center for Southern Journalism
and Politics at the University of Mississippi, the MHC will present a series of panel discussions exploring the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism in the state. The MHC will also collaborate with several literary festivals and institutions to highlight Mississippi's Pulitzer-winning writers. In the fall, MHC will hold a joint conference with Jackson State University focusing on the history and future of the black press. 
"We are very excited to honor the centennial of the most prestigious awards in American literature and journalism. Mississippi writers
 have won more than their fair share of Pulitzer Prizes, and we are so grateful for the Pulitzer Board for giving us the opportunity to examine and celebrate them," said Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the MHC.


Mississippi Humanities Council board member, Scott Colom, was recently featured inSlate online magazine after winning Mississippi's 16th Judicial District attorney post last month, defeating the district's longest-serv ing prosecutor. Slat
e asked Colom to discuss why he thinks he was able to beat his opponent, Forrest Allgood, ho w he'll do the job differently and what his victory says about how public opinion on criminal justi ce has shifted. Read the full article  here .

The Mississippi Humanities Council is delighted to announce recipients for its 2016 Public Humanities Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities. These recipients will be honored at a public ceremony and reception Friday, February 12, 2016, at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. Read the full list of recipients here, and further details about the awards gala in February.
The Telling Project's South Mississippi production began on Veterans Day in Hattiesburg on USM's Campus and opened with a full house. Tickets 
were sold out for the first performance and hopeful attendees were encouraged to return
for a different showing. After its debut in Hattiesburg, the show traveled to Poplarville and Long Beach before its return to Hattiesburg for two final shows this weekend .
The show features seven veterans on stage, with three more whose stories are included through the use of pre-recorded interview clips. Experiences ranges from WWII to the Afghanistan War, and each story offers extremely moving accounts of life in the military.
The M.R. Dye Public Library in Horn Lake has just completed an unprecedented sixth Luciérnagas (bilingual Spanish/English) Family Reading Program. A total of 16 families, including 17 adults, 34 lower elementary children and 13 preschoolers, attended the weekly sessions for seven consecutive weeks. School report cards came out shortly after the program ended and, as communicated by children's librarian and program coordinator Carson Culver, "I am happy to report that the lowest score in reading was an 86 or B. We had two perfect scores of 100. I asked each parent what made the difference in their children's test scores. Each family said that the Luciérnagas program clearly defined their responsibility to work with their children for their success. Prioritizing reading together and getting back to basics (shared family time) was central to making the children feel supported and encouraged." Congratulations, Team Horn Lake. It doesn't get any better than this!

The  Mississippi Humanities Council, the  Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Library Commission and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, in partnership with panel members representing the University Press of Mississippi, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women and others, are now seeking nominations to submit to the Governor to make an appointment for the next state Poet Laureate. Please follow the  link below for official nomination criteria and application form. The application deadline is December 11, 2015. All applications must be POST-MARKED by December 11, 2015!
December 11, 2015
UM Organizes Philosophical Meeting, Organization Chapter
The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) will host a symposium and interest meeting titled "The Nature and Challenges of Community" on December 11 at 4pm. The meeting will serve as a gathering to participate in philosophical conversation as well as a planning period to establish one of SOPHIA's first chapters in Oxford.
  Learn More 

December 19, 2015
Scott Ford House House Hosts Program on African American Midwifery
"A Day of Sharing Stories on African American Midwifery for the Scott Ford House: Sources & Methods" will be held at the Smith Robertson Museum on December 19. During this program, the public will be invited to listen and share their stories, photographs, and artifacts about their midwife experiences.
February 19, 2016
Oxford Film Festival Leads Discussion on Craft Industry in Mississippi
As part of its annual program, the Oxford Film Festival will host a panel discussion on the history of craft and artisan products and the reemergence of the culture throughout the state. Panelists will explore the parallels between several local craft businesses and how their history, traditions, and stories shaped their paths.
  Learn More 

February 25, 2016
New Hope Baptist Church Celebrates Black History Month
New Hope Baptist Church will host "Back in the Day," an annual program that celebrates Black History Month. This year's program will feature filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, producer of the documentary film The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. In addition a talk by Beauchamp, the program will also include the viewing of a condensed version of the film.

February 26-27, 2016
27th Annual Natchez Literary & Cinema Celebration

The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is a time honored tradition in the Mississippi, with a well-deserved reputation as one of the state's "most significant annual conference[s] devoted to literature, history, film, and culture." The theme, "Natchez at 300: A River Runs By It," serves in conjunction with the city's year-long Tricentennial celebration and will celebrate the literary, historical, and cultural heritage of Natchez and the Mississippi River through scholarly and popular lectures and discussions.

February 29-March 5, 2016
MSU Hosts Writer in Residence Dorothy Allison
The College of Arts & Sciences Institute for the Humanities at Mississippi State University will host a week-long writer in residence program with critically-acclaimed author Dorothy Allison. During her visit, Allison will read from her works and interact with members of the university and surrounding community. Events will include a public reading, as well as open office hours to discuss the craft of fiction with students and aspiring local writers.

Mississippi Humanities Council programs are engaging, inspiring and free of charge. Your gift makes a big difference to our mission of cultivating an understanding of our history and culture throughout the state. You help us enrich peoples' lives through programs incorporating history, literature, music, politics, philosophy and other humanities-based disciplines that illuminate the human condition. Thanks to your support, we are able to serve all Mississippians: all ages, all geographic areas of the state, all walks of life.
A small gift of $25 will purchase two books for children participating in the Mississippi Humanities Council's Family Literacy Project.
A larger gift of $250 will fund a lecture in a school classroom, local library or civic club, by a member of the Mississippi Humanities Council Speakers Bureau.
A $2,500 contribution will underwrite a six-week reading and discussion series in the Mississippi Humanities Council's Family Literacy Project.

A gift of any amount can support any one of our ongoing programs (click on the program titles for more information):  
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Thanks again for making a difference!


Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director