Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - January 2017
Director's Message

Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director

Last year, our board went on a tour of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Our board member, Dr. Ralph Didlake, who heads UMC's Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, gave the tour, showing us various historic sites on the campus. He showed us where Dr. James Hardy performed the first human lung transplant, and where Medgar Evers was pronounced dead after he was shot outside his home. By a strange twist of fate, these events took place on the exact same day. In fact, as Dr. Hardy was finishing the transplant surgery, he was called to the emergency room to treat the state's preeminent civil rights leader.

That date, June 12, 1963, reflected one of our state's brightest achievements and one of its darkest stains. It symbolizes what songwriter Patterson Hood calls "the duality of the Southern thing." A place so rich in culture and generosity could also be a place of unspeakable cruelty and oppression. The South is a place that defies easy categorization and is often misunderstood by outsiders. This duality means that coming to terms with our history can be a difficult, challenging enterprise.

Our state's 200
th  anniversary offers a unique opportunity to look back, understand, and celebrate our history. But what do we do about those parts of our past that should not be celebrated?  ... We will not come together to build a stronger, more unified Mississippi until we come to terms with our past.

These ideas have been much on my mind as we have worked on the Mississippi Bicentennial grant initiative. Our state's 200 th anniversary offers a unique opportunity to look back, understand, and celebrate our history. But what do we do about those parts of our past that should not be celebrated? Should we omit them and focus solely on our great achievements? To do that would be to perpetuate a false picture of our history, one that continues to divide Mississippians today. We will not come together to build a stronger, more unified Mississippi until we come to terms with our past.

This is not always easy, but to achieve this we need to accept the truth in all its complexity. A few months ago, I was at Monticello for an incredible public program that explored the experiences of the slaves owned by Thomas Jefferson. In celebrating this great founding father, the man who enshrined the idea that "all men are created equal," we must not overlook the irony of his involvement in enslavement, our country's original sin. These founding fathers were flawed and were shaped by the ideas and practices of their time. The staff at Monticello has worked hard over the last several years to paint a fuller, more accurate picture of Jefferson. We must do the same in Mississippi.

The bicentennial gives us an opportunity to reckon with our complicated legacy and strengthen our community. Since our founding in 1972, the Mississippi Humanities Council has supported programs that address the complexity of our state's history. We are currently offering a special grant program, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to fund programs that examine the legacy of racism in our state. Our Ideas on Tap series uses the humanities to explore how the problems we face today are rooted in our state's past. We are very excited to kick off the bicentennial year with a series of forums about where we are as a state, and how we can do better. The "Mississippi 50 th " series will look at those economic and social measures in which we trail the rest of the country. We will try to answer the questions "how did we get here?" and "how can we do better?" Just as we can't ignore our past, we can't ignore the problems we currently face. As we enter our state's bicentennial year, we need to both look back and look ahead, clear-eyed, proud, and dedicated to improving our state. The Mississippi Humanities Council is committed to furthering these important conversations.
Humanities Awards Gala February 10 in Jackson
The Mississippi Humanities Council will celebrate the contributions of five outstanding humanities scholars, educators and institutions at its  2017 Public Humanities Awards gala  Friday, February 10, 2017, at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. The Public Humanities Awards recognize exemplary work by Mississippians related to the study and understanding of the humanities. These recipients will be honored at a public ceremony and reception, and will each receive a piece of original art designed by Jackson artist Laurin Stennis.

The 2017 award recipients are:

Cora Norman Award
Dr. Peggy Prenshaw
Former board chair, Mississippi Humanities Council
Jackson, MS

Preserver of Mississippi Culture
Richard Grant
Author, Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta
Jackson, MS

Humanities Partner Award
Museum of the Mississippi Delta
Greenwood, MS

Humanities Scholar Award
Dr. Jodi Skipper
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Mississippi
Oxford, MS

Humanities Educator Award
David Morgan
Retired Staff, Mississippi Humanities Council
Bay St. Louis, MS

Twenty-nine recipients of the 2016 Humanities Teacher Awards, which pay tribute to outstanding faculty in traditional humanities fields, will also be honored at the event.  
"This work of this year's winners reflect the power of the humanities to understand who we are as Mississippians and human beings," said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Council. "In their own way, they have all helped to move Mississippi forward through thoughtful examination of our state's history and culture." 

The Council invites all Mississippians to join us at our2017 Public Humanities Awards ceremony and reception February 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson. A silent auction featuring Mississippi Miscellany will once again be featured.  Tickets for the Mississippi Humanities Council Public Humanities Awards ceremony and reception are $50 each and may be purchased by sending a check to the Mississippi Humanities Council, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Room 317, Jackson, MS 39211 or online.
To support local celebrations honoring Mississippi's bicentennial, the Mississippi Humanities Council is partnering with the Mississippi Development Authority's Visit Mississippi to oversee the Bicentennial Grants Program. To date, the review committee has met twice and awarded more than $96,000 for 15 different projects throughout the state. These include:
Mississippi Heritage Trust
What Makes Us Mississippi: Historic Places Saved, Lost and Endangered
Year-long educational program for five schools in Mississippi, which includes curriculum, teacher training, field trips and a culminating event with an exhibit featuring various works produced by participating students. The goal of the project is to explore the state's 200 years of history through its historic structures.
Mississippi Chambre Music Guild
Mississippi Bicentennial Fanfare Festival
Three-day music event featuring a commissioned piece, "Bi-Centennial Fanfare," being performed in the Old Capitol Rotunda. Other public activities include a high school honor choir singing Mississippi songs, a readers' theater performing a selection from the writings of Eudora Welty and a "Civil War" piece performed by a New Stage Theatre troupe. Feb. 9-11.
Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #265
Mississippi Bicentennial Civil War Show
Two-day event featuring Mississippi artists, authors, musicians, historical reenactors, experts in historical artifacts and Civil War scholars. June 17-18.
Canton Convention and Visitors Center
Thea's Turn: A Bicentennial Celebration of Cultural Learning
Theatrical production about the life of an African American nun raised in Canton. The play traces Sister Thea's life, which ultimately gained attention on the world stage. April 22.
City of D'Iberville
Discover D'Iberville-A Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration
Various projects related to local history, including a staged reenactment of D'Iberville's landing in 1699 and a "Discover D'Iberville" booklet with highlights of the city's history through the present day. Feb. 10-11.
Greenville History Museum
Plantations to the Grave
Project to develop a website and various display exhibits on local Greenville history. The exhibits will consist of historical photographs and captions to be displayed at various sites around Greenville.
Delta Film Institute
Holt Collier Featurette
Production of a short film about Holt Collier, former slave and expert bear hunter, who led Theodore Roosevelt on his famous Delta bear hunt.
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
A Celebration of Mississippi Heroes Film Festival
Student film competition around the theme "Mississippi Heroes," culminating in a public film festival with prizes for top films. April 8.
Hattiesburg Civic Chorus and Concert Association
FestivalSouth 2017
A special series of cultural and educational programs that will be part of the annual FestivalSouth event. Funded programs will include a new display exhibit about Muppets creator Jim Henson and various puppetry arts performances. June 1-17.
New Hope Baptist Church
Back in the Day Black History Celebration
A month-long series of programs honoring African American history in Mississippi, culminating in the concert event "Celebrating Our History and Culture Through Music," which will explore the important role of gospel music in the Civil Rights Movement. Feb. 23.
Mississippi Light Collaborative
Mississippi Light Festival
A two-day event featuring illuminated art installations, sculptures, projections, interactive technologies and light shows. Will also feature a hands-on scientific art lab for children. Feb. 24-25.
Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration
From Statehood to Civil War to Civil Rights and More - The Events that Shaped the History and Culture of Mississippi
Annual three-day literary and cinema festival which will feature a bicentennial theme, showcasing the history and culture of Mississippi through literature. Mississippi authors will speak on a range of topics and events that have shaped the state. Feb. 23-25.
Yoknapatawpha Arts Council
Mississippi Visions: Works by Contemporary Mississippi Artists
A month-long art exhibit highlighting the diverse work of our state's contemporary artists. Will also include a series of free hands-on workshops where the public can learn about the artistic process. June 2017.
Pearl River Community College
Pearl River Community College Celebrates Mississippi's Bicentennial
Special Bicentennial concert at the Brownstone Center for the Arts showcasing the state's rich musical heritage, especially the blues. The program will feature presentations by two noted blues scholars and a performance by Grammy-nominated blues artist Vasti Jackson. August 29.
Friends of Stone County Libraries
Celebrating Mississippi's Bicentennial
A series of programs, including a bicentennial book club, school programs featuring a celebrated children's book author, a special program telling the remarkable story of Stone County residents the Stapp Sisters and the commissioning of a bicentennial mural.

The goal of the Bicentennial Grant Program is to inspire and empower local organizations throughout Mississippi to develop public programs documenting, interpreting and exploring community culture. Applications will be accepted on a monthly basis, with grant deadlines falling on the first of each month, continuing through Nov. 1, 2017, or until all grant funds are expended.
For more information, including grant guidelines and how to apply, please visit
The Bicentennial Year Grant Program is made possible through the Mississippi Legislature in partnership with the Mississippi Development Authority/Visit Mississippi.
Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine, 2016 McArthur Fellow and Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, will present a lecture on the campus of Millsaps College on Friday, February 10, 2017, at 12 p.m. The lecture will take place in the Recital Hall of the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex.

Rankine will read from her acclaimed work Citizen, which was the 2016 summer reading assignment for first-year Millsaps students. She will also reflect on the implications of her work, and the humanities, in general, for civic life.

Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don't Let Me Be Lonely; two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the Forward Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award's history to be a double nominee), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award. A finalist for the National Book Award, Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Rankine's lecture will be the culmination of a two-day conference titled "This Is How You Are a Citizen: Humanities and Civic Life." Hosted on the Millsaps campus, the conference is presented by Millsaps in partnership with Tougaloo College, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Hope Enterprise Corporation, Jackson 2000, the Margaret Walker Center, Jackson State University, the Eudora Welty Foundation, Parents for Public Schools of Jackson, and the Jackson Association of Black Journalists. Learn more about the schedule of conference activities.

This project was made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
The Mississippi Humanities Council will begin a new series of its popular Ideas on Tap happy hour program in February. The series, titled Mississippi 50th, will address issues on which Mississippi sits at the bottom of the list. Topics include technology and innovation, education, female representation in elective office, and public health issues.

The series will begin on Feb. 7 with a program focused on the low percentage of women who hold elected offices in the state. The issue of female representatives in elective office is a national issue, with low levels persistent throughout the U.S., but it is especially evident in Mississippi. 

In addition to the Mississippi 50th series in Jackson, the MHC is continuing to develop Ideas on Tap programs around the state. Oxford will host an Ideas on Tap program March 2, and Cleveland is scheduled to host a second program later this spring. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more details or contact Caroline Gillespie at
By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator
The Mississippi Humanities Council began funding racial equity projects in May 2016 and has been able to support several organizations across our state as they foster dialogue around race. The impact of these conversations can transform an entire community. We recently awarded the Link Centre in Tupelo a $5,000 grant to host a series of community forums discussing race relations featuring scholars and local leaders. Asia Rainey and Melanie Deas have been working hard to inform the public about this project. I am excited to work with the Tupelo community to implement this program. We believe the humanities can bring people together and help all of us understand who we are. The Tupelo project will kick off on January 30 at 5:30 p.m. RSVP here.

We would love to partner with you to develop a racial equity program in your community. Please contact me at to discuss your project and funding opportunities. The Racial Equity Fund is supported by a two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 
2016 was a big year for the MHC's partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit program. Throughout the year, Hometown Teams traveled the state, covering hundreds of miles and welcoming thousands of Mississippians. The Hometown Teams exhibit highlights the importance of sports in small towns and the community that sports of all sizes and sorts create.

In March, Hometown Teams kicked off its Mississippi tour at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson with a lively pep rally featuring cheer squads and mascots from area high schools. While there, programs included former governors Haley Barbour, Ronnie Musgrove, and William Winter, as well as ESPN sportswriter Wright Thompson. After leaving Jackson, the exhibit then traveled to Natchez, where it was hosted by the Historic Natchez Foundation, then to the Amory Regional Museum in Amory, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Museum in Gulfport, Delta State University in Cleveland, and wrapped up at its final stop in Corinth at the Crossroads Museum on December 31.

Because sports play such an important and unique role in Mississippi, the MHC was thrilled to have Hometown Teams tour the state. Each of the sites did a fantastic job highlighting their creativity to make Hometown Teams a part of their community. Thank you to all who supported the exhibit and turned out to see it. The MHC will be hosting another Smithsonian traveling exhibit in 2018 called Water/Ways. Stay tuned for more information!

January 23-27, 2017
The Library of Hattiesburg Petal and Forrest County will sponsor a week of BeatleMania. Through book discussions, scholarly lectures on the social and musical importance of the Beatles.
January 31, 2017
Freedom to Vote-Perspectives from 1900-2017. Freedom to Vote is a three-part lecture series examining voting in the United States for women and African Americans and the current trends in voting. The second lecture, Tuesday, January 31, at 6:30 p.m., will feature a discussion following the showing of the film Iron-Jawed Angels.

February 3, 2017
Philosophical Fridays-A lecture series featuring respected philosophers giving presentations on a variety of issues in non-technical and readily accessible language for students, faculty and community members. On Feb. 3, Danielle Wylie of Mississippi State University, will discuss "A Puzzle About Risk and Responsibility."

February 9, 2017
Discussing the Impact of Mississippi's State Flag. The University of Southern Mississippi will host a discussion panel on the impact of Mississippi's state flag. Panelists will examine the different perspectives that Mississippians bring to the issue of the flag, namely civil rights, economic development, education, history and religion. The panel will be moderated by a history professor. Following the panelists' discussion, the audience will be given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

February 9-March 3, 2017
Understanding & Preserving History & Culture in MS Lebanese-American Community. Join Southern Cultural Heritage Center as they host a month-long traveling exhibit of The Lebanese in America project in Vicksburg, and a weekend oral history/archiving workshop. The project will provide a multi-faceted forum for the public to gain a deeper understanding of the shared history and experiences of the Lebanese-Americans in Mississippi and elsewhere. This will also give an opportunity to learn practical, ethical techniques to preserve the stories, photographs, and documents that make up the history of their communities. SCHC will host the traveling exhibit February 9 - March 3. The weekend workshop will be held February 11-12.
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Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director