Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - August 2016
Director's Message
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director
Last year, the Mississippi Humanities Council was excited to be part of the planning committee that created the first ever Mississippi Book Festival. We were also among the earliest sponsors for the event. We believed in the vision for the festival: that a state with such a rich literary heritage should have a major festival that celebrates writers and their books. With panels on a wide array of subjects, we were optimistic that the event would have general appeal. We nervously hoped people would turn out on a hot August Saturday. Boy, did they! The crowd last year overwhelmed us, figuratively and literally. The biggest problem was not having enough seats in all of the rooms. Every panel was filled to capacity with a line of people waiting outside for a seat to open up.

On August 20 th, the second annual Mississippi Book Festival will take place in and around the state capitol building. This year, we've increased the number of panels and seats and are hoping to be able to manage the demand. The lineup is star-studded, with Pulitzer-winning writers like Richard Ford, Jon Meacham, and Robert Olen Butler, National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, and celebrated children's book authors Kate DiCamillo and Jacqueline Woodson. Those are just a few of the more than 140 writers and historians who will take part in the program. While the MHC is once again a major sponsor of the event, the credit for the book festival goes to its leadership and staff: Jere Nash, Holly Lange, and Emily Gatlin, who have done an incredible job of building the festival into the marquee literary event in the state in only its second year.

Audience members may not agree with everything they hear, but that's okay. Freedom of speech and a civil exchange of ideas are central to the humanities and crucial to our republic.

This year's lineup is especially impressive, given our concerns this summer that the national backlash against the Religious Freedom Bill, HB 1523, would hurt the book festival. We worried that some authors would cancel or turn down invitations out of protest over the bill. After all, the event takes place in the same building where the bill was passed. The Mississippi Book Festival is a non-partisan event, but is committed to freedom of expression. No author or speaker will be censored or given a list of topics to avoid. Last year, several authors expressed their opinion about our state flag. This year, instead of boycotting, national authors have chosen to engage with our citizens. Such outside engagement helped transform Mississippi fifty years ago. Audience members may not agree with everything they hear, but that's okay. Freedom of speech and a civil exchange of ideas are central to the humanities and crucial to our republic.

Perhaps this is one reason for the popularity of the festival. It gives us all an opportunity to get away from our computers, phones, and televisions, and interact directly with people and ideas. The large crowds who turned out last year show that there is a hunger for such opportunities in Mississippi. It is this hunger that the Humanities Council is committed to serving through our support of the Book Festival and many other public programs all across the state.
The MHC is partnering with public libraries to bring a new speaker series to the Tupelo, Indianola, Brookhaven and Pascagoula communities. The First Tuesdays spea ker series will take place on the first Tuesday evening of the month from September-December and will provide each of these public libraries with monthly programs from the Mississippi Humanities Council's Speakers Bureau. All programs are free and open to the 

The First Tuesdays series is designed to highlight speakers from the MHC's Spea kers Bureau and to expand the MHC's reach throughout the state by providing library
audiences high-quality humanities programming each month.

September's First Tuesdays programs include William "Brother" Rogers's program John C. Stennis: Legacy of a Legend in Mississippi Politics in Tupelo at 6 p.m., Dr. Charles Westmoreland's program Archie Who and Why? The Story and Significance of a Mississippi Icon in Indianola at 5 p.m., Diane Williams's program The Historic Journey of African American Quilters in Brookhaven at 6 p.m. and Richard Grant's program Dispatches From Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta in Pascagoula at 6 p.m.

For more information on the First Tuesdays program, contact Caroline Gillespie at 601-432-6752 or

Dr. Stephanie Rolph of Millsaps College, left, and Dr. Otis Pickett, right, of Mississippi College, present certificates to participants in the first for-credit course conducted at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. Nineteen women completed the history and writing course, sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council entitled "Turning Oppression into Opportunity."
The Mississippi Humanities Council is happy to announce three news speakers to its Speakers Bureau. The Speaker's Bureau features our state's finest historians, writers and storytellers talking about a wide variety of subjects related to Mississippi and beyond. Any nonprofit organization within the state of Mississippi may apply to host a Speaker's Bureau member. Click the link below the story to learn more.
Ellen Ruffin, associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and curator  of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, offers a lecture entitled Margret and H.A. Rey: A Partnership that Created an Icon. For 75 years, children have been captivated by "Curious George." Much is known about "George," but little is known about his creators. The lives of Margret and H. A. Rey are as interesting as the little monkey they created, if not more so. This presentation will examine their lives, telling of their time in Hamburg, Germany, as well as the journeys that brought them to the United States.
Dr. Rebecca Tuuri, associate professor of African American and American history at the University of Southern Mississippi, lectures on Behind Every Good Man is a Civil Rights Heroine: Women in the Movement. This presentation will help answer questions, who were the people who became most involved in the Civil Rights Movement? Who were its leaders and foot soldiers? How and why do we even define such roles? This lecture will explore the multitude of ways women became involved in the pursuit of racial equality in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. It will also examine the great odds that they faced, not only as African Americans, but also as women, focusing especially on women's roles in providing the informal leadership, infrastructure and commitment necessary to maintain the stamina of the postwar civil rights struggles.
Dr. Luis Almeida, interim department chair (philosophy of leadership) and associate pro fessor of emergent strategic communications at Jackson State University, lectures on Rethinking Technology in Mississippi: The Call for TechnoModeration. Dr. Almeida takes you through the steps of his newly developed theory of human communication and offers the audience his views on why Mississippi parents are witnessing more children texting and driving, sexting and tweeting while in school, and how they are being conditioned to use the machine for too many hours every day.

The third and final program in a happy hour series on Mississippi's brain drain will take place  August 16 at Hal & Mal's in Jackson. This program will focus not on out-migration as the last two programs have, but instead on young people who have come into the state. Included in the discussion are Melia Dicker, communications director at the Mississippi Arts Commission; Liz Broussard, food justice project coordinator at the National Center for Appropriate Technology; R.L. Nave, reporter at 
Ideas on Tap panel and crowd from July 26 program. Photo courtesy of Amile Wilson.
Mississippi Today; and David Miller, director of community engagement at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. The program will be moderated by Jake McGraw of Rethink Mississippi, which has partnered with the MHC for this inaugural summer series.

August's program follows earlier successes in June and July, which looked at why young Mississippians leave the state and how we can keep them here by focusing on the political and economic factors involved. Large crowds turned out for the June and July programs, with nearly 175 attendees and more than 60 viewers who tuned in on Periscope (@MS_Humanities). The August program is expected to continue the momentum established during the earlier programs.

Ideas on Tap is designed to encourage people to come together in a casual environment and talk about relevant issues and current events. The program, which will take place August 16 at 5:30 in the Red Room at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, is free and all are welcome to join. Food will be provided by the MHC and attendees are welcome to purchase their own drinks. We look forward to additional Ideas on Tap programs on different topics this fall. For more information, please contact Caroline Gillespie at 601-432-6752 or  
Following up on a conversation initiated in 2014 between MHC and El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services in Biloxi, a bi-lingual Spanish/English reading program is now under way. Beginning in early August, seven once-weekly sessions will continue through August 15. Program participants include parents and their lower elementary age children (as well as several older and younger ones). Themes such as caring for the environment, fairness, courage and heritage are discussed by a humanities scholar/discussion leader each week following a storyteller's presentation of related books which are loaned to our families. It is hoped that this program in Biloxi will be the first in a series of programs for the Hispanic community along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Prentiss County Historical and Genealogical Society will host The Old Tishomingo County Genealogy Fair August 19 and 20 at the Old Booneville Hardware Building in Boonville, MS. With support from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the fair is free and open to the public and will feature two presentations by cultural historian Frances Robb of Huntsville, AL, on dating photographs by technology and clothing. Dr. Sarah Liljegren of the University of Mississippi will discuss understanding DNA results and family heritage and Joyce Dixon-Lawson of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History will present a program on African American resources and heritage. For full details and registration information, contact Diane Garvin at 662-416-3741 or
Hometown Teams, a traveling Smithsonian exhibit celebrating the history of sports in America, opened Saturday at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport where the public will have numerous opportunities to visit the exhibit through September 24. For more information, clic k here .
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