Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - October 2015
Director's Message
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director
Earlier this month, I took part in a symposium sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities at Mississippi State University. Dr. William Hay, the director of the institute, organized the event in honor of its 10th anniversary. Though Mississippi State was founded as a land grant agricultural and mechanical institution, its commitment to the liberal arts and the quality of the school's humanities programs are quite impressive. Yet, perhaps it was appropriate for us to contemplate the future of the humanities while at our state's premier science and engineering school.

Our session was entitled "Prospects for the Humanities," though I half-jokingly called it the "doom and gloom" panel. There was much discussion about the "crisis" in the humanities. Dr. Chris Snyder, dean of the Honors College at Mississippi State, shared sobering statistics about the declining popularity of humanities majors at American universities, and the recent decrease in federal funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The panel and the audience shared several examples of humanities departments being cut or even eliminated as universities and their students focus their time and resources on fields of study that seem to be more directly connected to a financially rewarding career. Dr. John Churchill, Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, and former dean and interim president of Hendrix College, argued that the term "crisis" was misleading, since it implied a sudden onset, and suggested that "chronic illness" was a more apt metaphor.

After laying out the challenges, the panel moved on to discuss the path forward. Dr. John Bickle, chair of the Philosophy Department at Mississippi State, made a compelling case for the humanities to engage the sciences, and stressed the benefits of the humanities disciplines for a wide array of professional careers, noting that philosophy majors tend to do better on the LSAT and GMAT exams. Dr. Joseph Ward, the chairman of the history department at the University of Mississippi, emphasized the need for the humanities and its scholars to be relevant to the issues of today and to engage with the larger public. This is the same idea behind the new "Common Good" initiative of the NEH. (include link to common good website). As examples of such public engagement, Dr. Ward referred to three Ole Miss professors, Chuck Ross, Eric Weber, and Jodi Skipper. As it turns out, each of these scholars are currently working with the Mississippi Humanities Council on public programs.

It was extremely exciting to hear humanities scholars talking about the importance of reaching beyond their campuses to connect with a public audience. After all, this was the founding idea behind the Mississippi Humanities Council which still guides our work today. We believe that humanities education and learning are not just crucial for college students but for all of our citizens.

Most of my remarks on the panel were about the need for us to work together in advocating for the value of the humanities to congress, foundations, and private funders. I mentioned an exciting new initiative from the National Humanities Alliance that involves constituting a "humanities community," akin to an "arts community" that regularly makes the case for the importance of the arts. By bringing together museums, public libraries, universities, historical and literary societies, and humanities councils, we can raise the profile of the humanities, articulate and show their impact, and have people to mobilize when the humanities and humanities funding are under attack.

In fact, the NHA is piloting this initiative in south Mississippi, working with the MHC, the University of Southern Mississippi, and public humanities organizations in Hattiesburg. Soon, they will be launching a website that will map the area's humanities organizations, feature compelling, visual accounts of the work they do, and create a digital forum to help these groups work together. Working with the NHA, we will encourage and highlight collaborations between universities and public humanities institutions that make a difference in the larger community.

 Chronic illness is not a death sentence. By working together, we can better make the case for the importance and impact of the humanities, and to ensure its thriving in the future. This is important not just to the budgets of academic departments and humanities councils, but to the very health of our republic.
V eterans from the Hattiesburg/Coast area will soon have a chance to share their stories of military experie nce with their communities. The MHC's second production of the Telling Project, a stage-based veterans program, will take place in Hattiesburg, Poplarville, and Long Beach next month in conjunction with Veterans Day.

The cast ranges in age and military branch, and includes veterans from World War II, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. After sharing their stories with Max Rayneard of the Telling Project, their stories were transcribed and woven together into one script that they will perform together on stage in front of their friends, families, and community members. 

The Telling Project is a national veterans program that aims to help veterans and their family members share their stories of military experience, thus allowing communities a greater understanding of veteran experiences and the challenges in transitioning back into civilian life. The Telling Project has produced 27 original shows and has taken place in 16 states.

 "Telling: South Mississippi" is the second Telling Project production in Mississippi this year. The first took place in August in Jackson and Meridian, and was extremely well-received. The MHC has sponsored both Telling Project productions as part of the National Endowment  for the Humanities' "Standing Together" veterans initiative.

For a full schedule of the "Telling: South Mississippi" schedule, check out our website.

The Mississippi Humanities Council invites nominations for its 2016 Public Hu manities Achievement Awards, which honor outstanding contributions in the arena of public humanities. Nominations will be accepted for Humanities Scholar Award, Humanities Partner Award, Humanities Educator Award, and Preserver of Mississippi Culture.
The Council began giving Achievement Awards in 1993 to recognize people and organizations who have supported the Council's work through public programs across the state or who have made a significant contribution to the public humanities in Mississippi. All Mississippians are invited to make nominations for these awards.
All winners will be recognized at the annual Public Humanities Awards event to be held Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. Nomination forms for Public Humanities Achievement Awards are available on the Mississippi Humanities Council website.  For more information call 601-432-6752.

As the month of October continues, the MHC's annual Humanities Teacher Award prog
Sunita Sharma, with MHC Director Stuart Rockoff, receives teh 2015 Humanities Teacher Award for Mississippi Delta Community College.
ram is just getting started. Every year, the MHC celebrates outstanding humanities teachers at each of the state's colleges and universities during the months of October (National Arts & Humanities Month) and November. In return for their honor, the award recipients are asked to give a lecture on a humanities subject during October or November. These programs-totaling more than 30 in all-take place throughout the state and offer Mississippians a unique experience to hear free lectures on a wide range of humanities subjects. All of the programs are free and open to the public.
For a full list of award winners and program dates, find them on our website. And for updates from many of the lectures, check out our Facebook page, where we try to post a photo from as many of the lectures as our staff and board members can attend!
The two final family reading programs for 2015 were completed during October. The first of these, a Prime Time Family Reading Time program, was held in partnershi
MHC Speakers Bureau presenter Jerry Jenkins uses tribal drums to enhance a storytelling session at the Commonwealth Village Apartments.
p with Springboard to Opportunities at the Commonwealth Village Apartments in Jackson, with give-away books provided by a grant to the MHC from the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson and support from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities via a Shell Oil grant. Our storyteller/drummer, Jerry Jenkins, was paid for by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

The second program was a LuciƩrnagas (bilingual, Spanish/English) Family Reading Program, held at the M.R. Dye Public Library in Horn Lake. Due to the program's perennial popularity, this is the sixth consecutive year for "Lucie'" in this location. The latest spinoff appears to be the makings of a first annual DeSoto County Latin American Heritage Festival schedule September 2016.
Reprinted from
For Shirley Hanshaw, Starkville's civil rights movement may have lacked the turmoil and violence iconic of other Southern communities in the 1960s, but the struggle toward racial equality still left emotional and psychological scars.

Now an associate professor of English at Mississippi State University, the Oktibbeha County native and 1965 graduate of then-segregated Henderson High School remembers using tattered, cast-off textbooks, looking out the window as she passed several white campuses during long bus rides to her own school, and being relegated to enter local businesses through the back door.

"It was demoralizing," Hanshaw said. "Everything was second- or third-best. When I was an elementary school student, it didn't really dawn on me; but as time wore on, it became apparent that I was being treated like a second-class citizen."

Hanshaw is one of five panelists who will speak as part of a community forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Hilton Garden Inn. The event will recount the civil rights era in Mississippi, specifically Starkville. Funded by the Mississippi Humanities Council, the forum, "A Shaky Truce: Civil Rights Struggles in Starkville, MS, 1960-1980," is a collaboration between the university's history department and MSU Libraries. The public is invited to attend the free event.

Other panelists will include Michael Vinson Williams, dean of social sciences at Tougaloo College in Jackson; Stephanie Rolph, a professor at Millsaps College in Jackson; Chris Taylor, president of the Oktibbeha County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and project staff member Nick Timmerman, a graduate student in history at MSU.

The forum also will debut a digital history website on Starkville's civil rights movement, with interviews compiled by a team led by associate professor of history Judy Ridner, and assistant professors Hillary Richardson and Nickoal Eichmann with MSU's Mitchell Memorial Library. So far, Richardson said, the project team has compiled interviews with 16 participants - including forum panelists Hanshaw and Taylor - with hopes to grow that number over time. Dr. Richard Holmes, the first African American to enroll at MSU, also provided an interview for the project.

At this week's forum, Richardson added, others who lived in Starkville during that era can record their stories for publication on the project's website.

With Starkville's NAACP chapter forming in 1969 and public school desegregation following in 1971, Richardson said the project tells Starkville's story of persistence.

"It was successful in terms of it being 'peaceful,' in a sense, but it was very slow to happen," she added. "Starkville's civil rights movement is sort of defined by its lack of physical violence, but there's a more nuanced and personal story to tell."

As the website develops, Ridner said she hopes it becomes a prominent teaching tool in high school and college classrooms across Mississippi as they study the civil rights era, as well as by scholars researching the movement.

"We'd like to make Starkville's story better known because we believe it's important," Ridner said. "From what we're seeing so far in our research, Starkville seems to offer an alternative model to that of the Delta, the region most civil rights scholars study when they look at Mississippi's movement."

Hanshaw left Starkville after graduating high school in 1965 and returned 40 years later to join MSU's faculty. While she acknowledges the progress made toward racial equality in Starkville over those four decades, she hopes the civil rights project helps "explode the myth" that Starkville's progress came smoothly and without cost. She also hopes it reveals that the struggle isn't necessarily finished.

"I see a great deal of potential for the future," she said. "There's more progress to be made."

On November 5, the University of Southern Mississippi will host a special program in conjunction with the art exhibit featuring photographs from photographer Ed Wheeler during his time spent on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The program, titled "The Photographer as Participant Observer: Ed Wheeler and the Gulf Oil Rigs, 1981-1985" will more closely examine Wheeler's photographs and stories during his time on oil rigs photographing the workers and capturing a look at Southern oil rig culture.

The program will include Dr. Joe Millichap, Professor Emeritus of English at Western Kentucky University, who will begin the discussion by introducing several of Wh eeler's photographs as both documents and works of art and will discuss the importance of photography to Southern culture in historical and literary terms. Chuck Cook, News Content Advisor at USM's School of Mass Communication and Journalism and a former student of Ed Wheeler, will give a multimedia presentation on Wheeler's works and situate the oil rig photography within Wheeler's overall photography career. The accompanying exhibit will be on display from October 1-December 15.

There is no cost for the public to attend. The program will take place at Cook Library Exhibit Gallery, USM Campus, Hattiesburg beginning at 4 p.m. For more information, please contact Denise DeCesare Ross, 601-266-5087 or

October 27, 2015
UM to Host Judge Carlton Reeves for Public Forum
The University of Mississippi will host an open forum discussion beginning at 3 p.m. featuring Judge Reeves that will discuss this particular court decision while looking at the broader context of race and moral leadership in the U.S. judicial system.
Learn More 

October 29, 2015
Hispanic Heritage Series: Dr. Enrique Cotelo
The Hispanic Heritage Series is a fall series hosted by the University of Mississippi that will feature speakers on topic of Spanish American importance, especially those that are related to Hispanics in the United States.
November 10, 2015
USM Gulf Park to Host "Wednesdays in Mississippi"
The Wednesdays in Mississippi documentary has been selected to be a part of the University of Southern Mississippi' Gulf Park Campus Diversity Week celebration. A new 25-minute edit of Wednesdays in Mississippi will be screened, followed by a panel discussion.
Learn More 

November 12, 2015
Hispanic Heritage Series: Dr. Gregory Love
Dr. Gregory Love, associate professor of political science at the University of Mississippi, will lead the final program in the University of Mississippi Hispanic Heritage Series, titled "Radical Political Movements, International Interventions, and Victims." Participants will view the film Operation E, followed by a discussion moderated by Karma Sanchez, instructor of Spanish at the University of Mississippi, focusing on collateral violence in countries with rebel movements, especially Colombia.
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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Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director