Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - February 2016
Director's Message
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director
"This prize does not belong to us, it belongs to you, the people of south Mississippi." After that pronouncement, Stan Tiner, the recently retired editor-in-chief of the Sun Herald, opened up the case, took out the gold medallion, and proceeded to pass it around the room. Everyone there got a chance to hold the newspaper's 2006 Pulitzer Prize which it won for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. When we started planning our events for the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, I didn't anticipate such a "goosebump" moment. But sitting in a beautiful ballroom in the recently restored Hardy Hall, which had itself been nearly destroyed in Katrina, the stories Tiner shared about his staff's efforts to report after the storm hit home for many in the audience. The Sun Herald's Pulitzer was for public service, and here was that public getting a chance to hold the object that symbolizes the highest excellence in journalism.

There were three other Pulitzer winners on the program that night at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus for the panel discussion "The Pulitzer Prize in Mississippi: Responding to Natural Disasters." Natasha Trethewey, winner of the Pulitzer for her poetry, spoke eloquently about her personal connection to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Charlie Mitchell representing the Vicksburg Post, which he edited for many years, spoke about that newspaper's Pulitzer-winning coverage of a tornado that devastated the city in 1953. Charles Overby, who oversaw the Jackson Clarion-Ledger's prize-winning coverage of education reform in 1983, moderated the discussion.

This event last month was just the first in a series of programs being sponsored by the MHC in conjunction with the Pulitzer Centennial. When the Pulitzer Board wanted to hold events around the country to commemorate this milestone, they had the very good idea of partnering with the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Each humanities council was invited to develop their own program ideas and apply for funding that had been raised by the Pulitzer Board and a host of major foundations. By outsourcing the programming to the state councils, the Pulitzers unleashed a torrent of creativity, and there will be a diverse series of Pulitzer Centennial events in almost all fifty states. See for a listing of events being organized by the MHC and our fellow state councils.

This grassroots partnership approach will lead to far more attention and national reach for the Pulitzer Centennial than a standalone event or symposium in one location. Indeed, the state councils are a tremendous resource for national institutions and foundations seeking to have an impact across the country.

Of course, partnership has always been a central part of the MHC's philosophy, and our Pulitzer programs are no different. The MHC has partnered with the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi to sponsor a series of three programs exploring the state's journalism winners. In addition to the program on the Gulf Coast, on March 22 at Ole Miss, we will be presenting the panel "Mississippi's Editorial Pulitzer Winners: Voices of Reason in an Unreasonable Age," which will examine the small-town newspaper editors who won the prize by criticizing Mississippi's opposition to civil rights. Then, on April 8th, we will be sponsoring a Friday Forum at Millsaps College entitled "Prize Winning Journalism & Social Change," which will explore the Pulitzer won by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in 1983 for its coverage of education reform and the important role national journalists played during the Civil Rights Movement. We are also working with several partners to support programs related to Mississippi's rich legacy of literary Pulitzer winners. Finally, in the fall, we will be co-hosting a symposium with Jackson State University on the history and future of the black press in America.

See the Pulitzer Centennial schedule in this newsletter for more details on these programs. We would love for you to attend one of these events to celebrate literary and journalistic excellence in Mississippi. While I can't promise you will get to hold a genuine Pulitzer Prize, you will gain a new appreciation for the impact of outstanding journalism and literature on our state and country.
On Friday, March 18th, the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit "Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America" will premiere at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. The exhibit's opening will feature a pep rally with bands and cheerleading groups from local high schools as well as a preview of the exhibit. Community leaders and local sports heroes will also be on hand to help celebrate the Hometown Teams exhibit's opening. The event will begin at 5pm and will be free and open to the public.

The exhibit, which will travel throughout Mississippi during 2016, is part of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit program that seeks to bring Smithsonian-quality exhibits to rural communities throughout the U.S. Hometown Teams explores the importance of sports in America and how they have influenced our lives and culture-from hometowns to major cities and pick-up games to organized leagues.

The MHC will bring Hometown Teams to six towns throughout the state during 2016, and the exhibit will be free and open for the public to visit and explore. Each host site will also offer free programs and events in connection with the exhibit. For more information about the exhibit, contact Caroline Gillespie at or visit our website for a full listing of the exhibit's sites and programs.
Kourtnee Harris has joined the Mississippi Humanities Council as the new executive assistant. She is originally from Pensacola, FL, where she began her career in the banking world. After five years of building relationships in the business community of northwest Florida, she relocated to Salt Lake City, UT, with her husband where she transitioned into the public education sector. 

"The banking industry was interesting and challenging, but I felt there was a significant void in that line of work," Harris says. "I knew I really wanted to be a part of something that helped others and effected lives on an individual level. I also wanted to be more involved with our community and the organizations that directly influenced my children. The Utah Public School System was a great place to start."

Harris first worked as a special needs para instructor but quickly moved to a role supporting school administration at Grantsville High School. She has spent the last seven years working with public and private education administrations. In her most recent role, Harris served the Rankin County School District where she supported the public relations office as well as coordinated several school district activities such as the Rankin County School District Reading Fair, District Spelling Bee and the District Academic Competition. She also recently served on the Rankin County Chamber Education Committee.

"Kourtnee's background in public education, leadership and management skills, as well as a commitment to serve make her an excellent choice for this position", says Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council. "We look forward to tapping into her experience and enthusiasm as she starts a new chapter in her career." 

Harris resides in the Flowood, MS, area with her husband and three children.
Dr. Willis Lott and
Dr. Barbara Carpenter
Two hundred Mississippians helped celebrate outstanding scholars, teachers and organizations who have made significant contributions to the public humanities in Mississippi, at the 2016 Public Humanities Awards Gala Feb. 12 in the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. Award recipients included Dr. Max Grivno of the University of Mississippi, who received the Humanities Scholar Award; Louis Bourgeois, director of the Mississippi Prison Writes Initiative, who received the Humanities Educator Award; Alysia Burton Steel of the University of Mississippi, who received the Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award; and New Stage Theatre, which was recognized with the Humanities Partner Award.

Dr. Willis Lott, president emeritus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and a former chair of the Mississippi Humanities Council, was honored with the Cora Norman Award, which celebrates Mississippians who have made significant lifetime contributions to the public humanities in Mississippi.

Immediate past director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, Dr. Barbara Carpenter, presented the Cora Norman Award to Dr. Lott. Carpenter noted Lott's quick grasp of the Mississippi Humanities Council's enduring goal to provide education and programming in the traditional liberal arts to all people in Mississippi, from all walks of life, all backgrounds and interests, to widen their horizons, enrich their lives and broaden their understanding of their own roles and responsibilities in our society. "Under his leadership, the Mississippi Humanities Council's visibility was greatly enhanced at the state and national levels, thanks to his extensive connections and the respect in which he was held in the Mississippi Legislature and the U.S. Congress."

Dr. Esther Mackintosh, president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, applauded Lott's selection for the Cora Norman Award, noting he approached his work "with a perfect combination of seriousness, humility and humor," who was always ready to roll up his sleeves to get the job done, seldom claiming credit for his notable achievements and never failing to recognize when to lighten the atmosphere with a well-timed joke.

Thirty-one recipients of the 2015 Humanities Teacher Awards, which pay tribute to outstanding faculty in traditional humanities fields, were also honored at the awards gala.

"This year's winners embody our philosophy that the humanities are for everyone," said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Council. "Their outstanding work shows the impact the humanities can have on individuals and our communities. We are pleased to honor their commitment to reaching the diverse population of our state."
As part of the celebration of the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, the MHC is partnering with the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics a
t the University of Mississippi to present a series of panel discussions exploring th e legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism in the state.

In January, the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus hosted "The Pulitzer Prize in Mississippi: Responding to 
Natural Disasters." On March 22, we will present "Mississippi's Editorial Pulitzer Winners: Voices of Reason in an Unreasonable Age" at the Overby Center at Ole Miss. This panel discussi on explore the careers of small-town Mississippi newspaper editors Hodding Carter, Jr., Hazel Brannon Smith, and Ira Harkey, who all won Pulitzers for their progressive editorials during the civil rights era. Participants will include Curtis Wilkie of the Overby Center; Hodding Carter III, son of Hodding Carter Jr., and himself the editor of the Delta Democrat Times newspaper during the 1960s; the son of Ira Harkey; and Dr. Jan Whitt, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado and the author of Burning Crosses and Activist Journalism: Hazel Brannon Smith and the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. This program will take place in the Overby Center Auditorium at 5:30 pm. 

The final program entitled "Prize-winning Journalism and Social Change," will take place at Millsaps College at noon on April 8 and will focus on the efforts of national journalists to cover the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and the crusading reporting in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger about education reform that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Panelists will include Hank Klibanoff, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation; Fred Anklam, a former reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger; Dr. Leslie McLemore, former director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute; and Charles Overby, who was editor of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger at the time of its Pulitzer Prize.

As part of its fifth annual Black History Month commemoration, the New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson will host Keith Beauchamp, filmmaker and producer of the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, who will deliver a public lecture Thursday, Feb. 25, about his film and the nation's still unresolved racial conflicts. Beauchamp's address caps off a month of programs designed to celebrate the past, present and future accomplishments of black trailblazers, supported with a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Beauchamp, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, investigated the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a mischievous 14-year-old black boy from Chicago who was murdered after whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi, while visiting relatives. Beauchamp began researching Till's story in 1996, and found microfilm of articles listing witness who had not been questioned by police and references to uncharged participants in the murder. The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, which took nine years to complete, features a number of witness who had never before been interviewed. The interviews reveal new details about the story, moving from the viewpoint of Till's mother to the perspective of his Southern cousins to actual film of Till's uncle, who had the astonishing courage to accuse the two killers in court. Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, addressed the entire country in news footage, begging that something be done so that her son did not die in vain.

Combining archival photos and footage with deeply felt interviews, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till articulates the madness of racism in the South of the 1950s.

Excerpts from the documentary will be shown and a special theatrical performance will be presented by MADDRAMA. Members of the Emmett Till family will be honored guests at the Feb. 25 program, which will be held in the New Hope Baptist Church Family Life Center, Robert B. Cooper Gymnasium, 5202 Watkins Drive, Jackson, MS. This program is free and open to the public. For additional information, please contact Ms. Flonzie Brown Wright, Black History coordinator for New Hope Baptist Church, at 601-981-8696 or New Hope Baptist Church at 601-366-7002.
Walking in Their Footsteps, a one-act play celebrating the lives of five African American female pioneers from Mississippi, will be presented at no charge for public audiences Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. at Tougaloo College in Jackson. This free, public presentation is made possible with grant support from the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Using instrumental music, song and dance with historical storytelling and spoken word, Walking in Their Footsteps will convey the struggles associated with slavery. It will examine the historic connection of the lives of five African American heroines from the state of Mississippi-Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, Ida Bell Wells Barnett, Eliza Farish Pillars, Annie Bell Robinson Devine and Gladys Noel Bates-to traditional West African culture from the Maafa, to the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, there will be a panel discussion on the purpose of traditional West African music and its influences on more modern music.

For more information, please contact Ms. Judy Bain-Sudduth with Mississippi Talent Education at 601-832-6901.
February 27 - Natchez Literary & Cinema Celebration, "Finding Creative Inspiration in Past Pulitzer Winners," panel discussion featuring Dr. Suzanne Marrs and David Sheffield. 1 pm.
March 4 - Oxford Conference for the Book, Pulitzer winners Sheri Fink, author of Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital and Edward J. Larson, author of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. Lafayette County Courthouse, 1:15 pm.
March 22 - Overby Center, "Mississippi's Editorial Pulitzer Winners: Voices of Reason in an Unreasonable Age." Panel discussion featuring Hodding Carter III, Dr. Jan Whitt, Judge Dale Harkey, and Curtis Wilkie. 5:30 pm.
April 8 - Millsaps College, "Prize Winning Journalism & Social Change." Panel discussion featuring Charles Overby, Fred Anklam, Hank Klibanoff, and Leslie McLemore. Noon. Co-sponsored by the Overby Center.
May - Eudora Welty Foundation, a series of events, including special tours of the Eudora Welty House and lectures related to her Pulitzer-winning novel The Optimist's Daughter.
August 20 - Mississippi Book Festival. Special session featuring a Mississippi-born Pulitzer-winning writer. State Capitol.
September 30 - Tennessee Williams Festival. Special program related to the author's Pulitzer-winning work. Clarksdale.
October 18 - "Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Press," a symposium in partnership with Jackson State University.

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 26-27, 2016
DSU Screens "Finding Cleveland" Documentary
Delta State University will offer a special screening of the documentary  Finding Cleveland, which  explores the journey of Charles Chiu and his family to Cleveland, Mississippi to visit the gravesite of Charles's father, KC Lou. In less than 48 hours, Charles has many surprising encounters with the local townspeople, who help fill in some blanks about the father he never knew. He also learns of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a discriminatory law against Chinese immigrants and the struggles his father faced in a pre-civil rights era. This public  program will also include a conversation with the Chius, who will discuss their story in more detail and describe how the film's process, and the publicity it has received.  Bologna Performing Arts Center, DSU Campus, Cleveland, 2 p.m.

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.
March 2-4, 2016
Oxford Conference for the Book Returns for 23rd Year
The 2016 Oxford Conference for the Book will be the 23nd annual event to celebrate books, reading, and writing, while also examining the practical concerns on which the literary arts and the humanities depend, including the process of finding publication, writing methods, and the state of publishing. The conference convenes fiction and non-fiction writers, journalists, poets, publishers, teachers, students, librarians, and literacy advocates for three days of readings, lectures, panels, workshops, and social events celebrating the written word.

March 16, 2016
"Walking in Their Footsteps" Musical performs at Touagloo College
Walking in Their Footsteps is a one-act play celebrating the lives of five African American women pioneers from Mississippi using instrumental music, song and dance. Along with music, historical storytelling and spoken word performances will convey the struggles associated with slavery, the African American diaspora and the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with a portrayal of West African life before slave ships arrived. Audiences will learn the connection between West African musical traditions and the uniquely American musical genre, the Blues, while gaining an understanding for how music and dance have preserved and carried forward the histories of the first Africans to arrive on American soil. Touagloo College, 500 West County Line Road, Jackson.

March 29, 2016
Philosophical Fridays: Tim Wise
USM's Philosophical Fridays program will continue this spring with a new roster of speakers and topics.
The March 29 program will feature Tim Wise of His program is titled "Race & the Criminal Justice System."
The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
Gonzales Auditorium, USM Campus, Hattiesburg - 2pm
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