Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - November/December 2017
Stuart Rockoff
MHC executive director
Director's Message
Retelling Mississippi's Story

This is a big week for our state. On Saturday, December 9th, we will be celebrating our bicentennial with the opening of two new state history museums: The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. While the 2 Museums are not an initiative of the Mississippi Humanities Council, I have had a close relationship with the project, working with the dedicated and talented staff of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Four years ago after starting my tenure as executive director of the MHC, among the first public events that I attended was the groundbreaking for the museums. It was amazing to see former governors, elected officials, and civil rights veterans standing side by side with ceremonial shovels to mark the start of construction. I've had the honor to serve on the community advisory board for the Museum of Mississippi History and on the scholarly review panels for both museums. By virtue of my position, I've been able to attend several sneak previews of the museums and can attest to their power. You will want to see them. While tickets to the opening weekend are long since sold out, the museums will be here for years to come.

They are not just two new buildings with artifacts and interactive displays --they are landmarks in the retelling of Mississippi's story.

Having read drafts of all of the text and seeing the visual exhibits, I understand the significance of these new institutions. They are not just two new buildings with artifacts and interactive displays - they are landmarks in the retelling of Mississippi's story. For a long time, the narrative of Mississippi history has been lacking, offering a version of the past that was at best incomplete, and too often based on myth. In our public discussion of Confederate monuments last month, Dr. Anne Marshall of Mississippi State University made the salient point that these monuments only tell a part of our state's history and asked us to consider whose stories have been excluded. In building the Museum of Mississippi History, MDAH has worked tirelessly to include the diverse stories of Mississippi. And when those stories are not easy to face, the museum doesn't turn away or hide them.

The history of racism and the civil rights movement in Mississippi is both a difficult and inspiring story. For a state-funded institution to tackle this complicated history is noteworthy; to do it in a way that is bracingly honest and insightful is nothing short of extraordinary. Instead of a triumphalist narrative, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will present a story of redemption, examining how we can face the worst of our past, honor and celebrate those who devoted and sacrificed their lives to move our state out of the darkness of racial oppression, and contemplate how best we can honor this legacy in facing the challenges of today. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum tells a story that belongs to all of us.

We will be devoting our next "Ideas on Tap" in Jackson to the significance of these museums in retelling our state's history. Please join us at Hal & Mal's December 12th at 5:30 p.m. for a discussion of the future of Mississippi's history.

Perhaps it's the historian in me, but I've long felt Mississippi will not truly thrive as a united community until we have a unified story of who we are and where we've been. For too long Mississippi has had two versions of its history. In recent decades, scholars, MDAH, the MHC, and other institutions have worked to present a more accurate version of our history. These two new museums give us a remarkable opportunity to come to terms with our past and chart a better future for all Mississippians.
Ideas on Tap Celebrates Bicentennial, Museum Openings

On December 12, the MHC will host the last Ideas on Tap of the 2017 calendar. Titled "What is the Future of Mississippi's History?," the program will offer an insightful look back on Mississippi history, commemorate the state's bicentennial, and celebrate the opening of the two new museums in downtown Jackson.
The conversation will feature Katie Blount and Dr. Jeanne Middleton-Hairston, who each have unique perspectives on the subjects at hand. Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, will discuss the creation of the two museums and their role 
in presenting Mississippi history. Middleton-Hairston will offer thoughts from her career as an educator and her role as contributing author for the then-controversial publication of "Mississ
ippi: Conflict and Change" in 1974. MHC Executive Director Dr. Stuart Rockoff will moderate the conversation.
The program will take place in the Red Room of Hal & Mal's in Jackson December 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Entry is free and open to the public. Please join us for this celebratory event as we finish out 2017 and celebrate the bicentennial!

For more information on Ideas on Tap, contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us.

Help Support the MHC!

In 2017, the Mississippi Humanities Council has culturally enriched c ommunities across our state.
  • Working with Visit Mississippi, we administered a statewide bicentennial grant programthat funded 88 projects celebrating and exploring Mississippi's history and culture. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we funded 24 projects that examined the legacy of racism in Mississippi.
  • We presented 14 "Ideas on Tap" conversations in four different communities, helping foster civil discussion about important issues facing us today.
  • We supported several special initiatives, including humanities-based education programs at Parchman Penitentiary and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.
  • We brought the National Archives' "pop-up" exhibit about our Bill of Rights to 75 public libraries in the state.
  • We offered 146 different humanities topics to organizations for free through our Speakers Bureau, which features our state's finest scholars, writers, and storytellers.
  • We made reading come alive for underserved families through our family reading program.
We invite you to help us expand this important work by donating to the MHC.
Field Notes
Racial Equity Grant Fund

By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator
Communities all across our state are working toward reducing racial divides that hinder progress. Facing our uncomfortable truth allows us to identify the core problems that make us believe we are completely different. We have more in common than we actually think and once we move outside of our comfortable zones we can begin to genuinely participate in the change. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the MHC has supported nearly 40 projects since the launch of our racial equity program in 2016, ranging from community dialogue, lecture series, film screening, conferences, book talks, and panel discussions. We have witnessed how people can use the humanities learn and heal through our racial equity program. 

Our framework for racial equity aligns closely with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which prioritizes narrative change, separation, law, economy, racial healing and relationship building. We would love to work with you to develop a racial equity project in your community. Funding is available to provide your organization a mini-grant up to $2,000 for your initiative.

Please contact me via email  tlampkin@mhc.state.ms.us   to discuss your project idea.
How a Season of Church Kneel-ins Attempted to Integrate Jackson's  'Sanctuaries of Segregation'

With support from a Mississippi Humanities Council racial equity grant, the Jackson Interfaith Civil Rights Committee is hosting a series of free events entitled The Kneel-Ins: The Voices and the Vision Forward to commemorate the church visit campaign of 1963 and 1964.

The Jackson Kneel-In
 movement was an attempt by an interracial group of students, parishioners, and civil rights activists to integrate Protestant and Catholic churches in downtown Jackson. Organizers used direct-action protest to urge the church-goers and ministers at segregated churches to open their sanctuaries to African-American worshipers.

"Studying the Jackson Kneel-In movement and honoring the lessons of its legacy offers a powerful opportunity to ask questions about the systemic ways that our community and culture still support inequality today," said St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral member and producer of the documentary "Eyes on Mississippi," Ellen Ann Fentress. "The goal of this programming is to foster a dialogue about the continuing legacy of racism, informed by this important chapter of the Mississippi civil rights movement."

Events included public discussions about the impact of the kneel-ins and about what citizens can do today to encourage inclusivity. The events were inspired by Carter Dalton Lyon's book,  Sanctuaries of Segregation , published in July by the Mississippi University Press, presenting the first comprehensive analysis of the Jackson, Mississippi, church visit campaign of 1963-1964 and the efforts by segregationists to protect one of their last refuges.
National Museum of African American History Sends Traveling Exhibit to MS Prison

When administrators of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., learned of the efforts of a group of Mississippi history professors to offer college-level Southern history courses for women imprisoned at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, they packed up and  had delivered a traveling exhibit entitled "A Place for All People." The commemorative poster exhibition was created to celebrate the grand opening of the NMAAHC on September 24, 2017. Based on the inaugural exhibitions of the museum, the posters highlight key artifacts that tell the rich and diverse story of the African American experience. With a small grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the posters will be framed and mounted for exhibit at the CMCF, opening Dec. 7 with remarks by    Deborah Mack, associate director of the NMAAHC, and  Jon Peede, acting chairman of the Council's chief funder, the National Endowment for the Humanities. A Mississippi native, Peede's father once served as staff physician at the CMCF .

The Council is a financial sponsor of the Prison-to-College Pipeline at the CMCF, a college-level course for prisoners who hold high school diplomas or GEDs, with course content designed around inmates' interests. Prisoners who participate in the course have the opportunity to earn college credit. Professor Patrick Alexander launched the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in June 2014 with a grant from the University of Mississippi's College of Liberal Arts. After two successful summers at Parchman, history professors Otis Pickett (Mississippi College) and Stephanie Rolph (Millsaps College) brought the program to women incarcerated at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl with support from the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi College.

"The Mississippi Humanities Council is pleased to support this exhibit, which relates perfectly to the material taught in several of the courses offered through the Prison-to-College Pipeline program," said Carol Andersen, assistant director of the Mississippi Humanities Council.

The exhibit will be on display at the CMFC for two weeks, and will then travel to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman and then to the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University where it will be made available to any public library, museum, cultural institution, college campus and prison in the state of Mississippi.

Learn more
MHC Hosts Smithsonian Exhibit "Water/Ways" Training

Earlier this month, the MHC welcomed representatives from six sites throughout the state who will be hosting the upcoming Smithsonian traveling exhibit "Water/Ways" in their communities in 2018 and 2019. The training, which also included a Smithsonian representative and the exhibit's state scholar, Dr. James Giesen from Mississippi State University, sought to teach each of the exhibit host sites how to prepare for and host the Smithsonian exhibit.

"This is a great way for host sites to get to know each other and to learn all the ins and outs of hosting an exhibit like this. We're excited to see how each community makes the exhibit their own. It's a really fun process, and this is only the beginning," said MHC Program Officer Caroline Gillespie, who led the training.

The traveling exhibit, which is part of the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit division, will arrive in Mississippi in May 2018 and visit six sites during its nine-month stay. Sites include Columbus (Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum), Clarksdale (Lower Mississippi River Foundation), Jackson (Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum), Meridian (Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum), Ocean Springs (Ocean Springs Municipal Library), and Moss Point (Pascagoula River Audubon Center).

For more information on the exhibit, contact Caroline Gillespie at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us.
What a Year!
Looking Back on 200 Years of Statehood
through the Bicentennial Grants Program

To support local celebrations honoring our state's past two centuries, the Mississippi Humanities Council partnered with the Mississippi Development Authority's Visit Mississippi to oversee the Bicentennial Grants Program. The goal of the program was to inspire and empower local organizations throughout Mississippi to develop public programs documenting, interpreting and exploring community culture, history, music, food and more.  In total, we awarded $450,000 to 88 projects around the state. To highlight a few of these outstanding projects:

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Gulfport A Celebration of Mississippi Heroes Film Festival: Student film competition around the theme of "Mississippi Heroes," culminating in a public film festival with prizes for top films.

Unveiling of the Mississippi Literary Map at the 2017 Mississippi Book Festival. Pictured, Gov. Phil Bryant and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
Mississippi Library Commission - Mississippi Literary Map : Creation of a visual map of Mississippi a uth o rs, which will be made available in public libraries and at welcome centers. The map will be the subject of the public programs at three public libraries at the end of the year.

JSU Center for University-Based Development, Jackson -The COFO Mural and Mt. Olive Cemetery Project: "Celebrating the Legacy of West Jackson's Pioneers": Historical reenactments, and printing of a booklet related to civil rights history and the historic Mt. Olive cemetery.

DeSoto County Museum/Historic DeSoto Foundation  Taking Our History to the People, Creation of a New Traveling History Exhibit for the DeSoto County Museum : Traveling exhibit featuring interchangeable parts that will be transported to five cities in DeSoto County, highlighting each community's unique heritage and notable citizens. Because the panels are interchangeable, they can be updated in future years as needed.

Write for Mississippi  What Can We Do for Our Country?: Book publication project featuring writing by Mississippi students, addressing challenges they see facing the state on its bicentennial anniversary.

Philadelphia-Neshoba County Public Library  - Neshoba County Red Clay Hills Bicentennial Celebration Series: Eight-month series of community activities celebrating local, county and state history, including six primary events: art contest, two film screenings, music contest, bicentennial picnic, time capsule and an unveiling of a self-guided podcast tour of local historic sites.
Still Time to Catch an MHC-Sponsored Bicentennial Event

Dec. 7: Conversation about Civil Rights, Jackson-- Panel discussion ahead of the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, exploring the impact of civil rights activities in Mississippi on the movement nationally.

Dec. 9: 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi, Jackson--Saturday, December 9, downtown Jackson will be the scene of the Mississippi Mile Bicentennial Celebration. As part of the celebration, the Mississippi Heritage Trust will be hosting an exhibit featuring the 10 Most Endangered Places in Mississippi at the MSU School of Architecture, 509 East Capitol Street. The exhibit will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and feature artwork and preservation project by students from around the state, including drawings and paintings of this year's 10 Most.

Dec. 10: Itawamba County-Wide Christmas Open House--The Itawamba County Bicentennial Committee will be hosting Christmas Open Houses throughout the county, and specifically, along the part of the Underground Railroad that ran through the county. Each home along the route will represent a different historical Mississippian and have a one-of-a-kind Christmas Tree.

Dec. 10: Time Capsule Ceremony: The Finale of the Neshoba County Red Clay Hills Bicentennial Celebration--Come join the Neshoba County Red Clay Hills Bicentennial Celebration Series for the conclusion of their Bicentennial celebration series with a fitting capstone by dedicating a time capsule to be opened in 200 years. Yes, 200 years. The capsule will contain written memories, art contest-winning creations, stories, and explanations of life in our era for distant future Neshoba County and Red Clay Hills area residents. The capsule is a stainless-steel cylinder which will be sealed to remain airtight and water tight. Contents will be copied and stored on several media formats to ensure preservation.

For a full list of bicentennial events and program details, visit our website for an online calendar of events  http://mshumanities.org/events/

Learn more