Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - July 2016
Director's Message
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
Executive Director
Last month, we launched a new, experimental program. Modeled on similar programs of other state humanities councils, "Ideas on Tap" is designed to foster community dialogues on important issues in a fun, informal atmosphere. We decided to pilot this initiative with a series of three conversations about the Mississippi "brain drain," exploring why so many of our young people choose to leave the state. We partnered with Jake McGraw of the Rethink Mississippi website, who has done a lot of research and writing on this topic. We were hoping for 30 or 40 people, and were overwhelmed when over 100 came. In fact, the room we reserved at Hal & Mal's was too small! Sixty people watched the discussion on Periscope, our first ever use of that live-streaming service. We couldn't be more pleased with how our experiment turned out.

As successful as this first event was, it's not obviously a humanities program. While one speaker quoted William Faulkner, there was very little discussion of the history and literature of our state, let alone the other classic humanities disciplines of philosophy, classics, or archeology. And yet, from another perspective, Ideas on Tap is deeply rooted in the humanities and in the history of the Mississippi Humanities Council. Civil discourse and creating public forums for the free exchange of ideas is a bedrock principle of the humanities. Recently, the National Endowment for the Humanities created its Common Good initiative, offering an array of grants to support programs that foster dialogue about important issues of the day. Actually, this was the founding mission of most state councils, including the Mississippi Committee for the Humanities (our name until 1987). During our early years in the 1970s, we would support public programs across the state that engaged humanities scholars in community discussions about the crucial issues facing Mississippi at the time.

In today's heated political climate, it may be unfashionable to advocate civil discourse, but unless we are able to listen to and understand those who disagree with us, we will not be able to address the problems we face in our state and our country. 

In this sense, "Ideas on Tap" is a return to our roots as an organization. In today's heated political climate, it may be unfashionable to advocate civil discourse, but unless we are able to listen to and understand those who disagree with us, we will not be able to address the problems we face in our state and our country. And the loss of our best and brightest to other states is certainly a problem for Mississippi. Only by listening to each other can we find workable solutions. The MHC aspires to be an honest broker in this conversation, bringing diverse voices to the table. Predictably, our first session on the brain drain occasionally touched on politics and we are working hard to ensure that a range of different perspectives are included. Our goal is to create the forum, not to espouse an agenda. We hope to shed light, not heat, on these important subjects.
The next installment of the "brain drain" series will be Tuesday, July 26 - once again at Hal & Mal's, but this time in the larger Red Room. The final program will be August 16. In the fall, we plan to continue the "Ideas on Tap" program, using the humanities-based tools of civil discourse and informed discussion to address other important contemporary issues. Stay tuned for more details, and please join us July 26 and August 16 at Hal & Mal's.
The second in a three-part series on Mississippi's brain drain will take place on July 26 th at Hal & Mal's in Jackson. The happy hour program will focus on economic factors surrounding the state's wave of outmigration among young peo
Melvin Priester, Jake McGraw and Tim Mask.
ple and will feature several speakers well-versed on the  topic. The program will be moderated by Jake McGraw of Rethink Mississippi, who partnered with the MHC for this inaugural summer series .

July's program follows a wildly successful first program, which took place on June 28. The program featured City of Jackson Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. and Mississippi Brain Drain Commission co-founder Tim Mask, as well as a special cameo appearance by former Governor William Winter, who shared his thoughts to close out the evening. The event drew over 100 people, and more than 60 viewers tuned in on Periscope (@MS_Humanities).

Ideas on Tap is designed to encourage people to come together in a casual environment and talk about relevant issues and current events. The programs are free and all are welcome to join. For more information on the program, please contact Caroline Gillespie at 601-432-6752 or
The 2016 Mississippi book Festival will feature two Pulitzer Prize winners among the 160 authors part
icipating in the August 20, 2016 event. Mississippi native Richard Ford, whose latest novel, Canada , was a New York Times bestseller, will appear. His  collection of stories, Let Me Be Frank With You , was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer while his 1995 novel Independence Day was the Pulitzer winner for fiction that year. Ford's session is co-sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council as part of the Pulitzer Campfires Centennial celebration.

Jon Meacham, executive editor and executive vice president at  Random House , and former editor-in-chief of  Newsweek , won the 2009  Pulitzer Prize for Biography for  Ame rican Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House . Meacham will join former U.S. Senator Trent Lott and writer and consultant Stuart Stevens on a panel discussing their most recent books as well as the 2016 presidential election.

Holly Lange, executive director of the Festival, said, "Thanks to hundreds of authors and volunteers and many generous contributors and supporters, the 2016 Mississippi Book Festival will host exciting author panels and interviews and special events for all readers and every member of the family.  August 20 will be a day full of celebrating our literary history and the sheer joy of reading a good book!"

The Mississippi Humanities Council will be sponsoring several different panels during the festival and will be presenting a demonstration of its family reading program for elementary-age children. The Book Festival promises a day of fun and learning for the entire family. To learn more about the exciting activities planned for the festival, please visit
Free workshop for nonprofit groups who conduct humanities-based programs in northeast Mississippi

TUPELO - The Mississippi Humanities Council invites representatives of nonprofit organizations to attend its grants workshop at the Link Centre, 1800 Main St, on Wednesday, August 17, from 10:00 AM to approximately 2:00 PM. The workshop is designed for those affiliated with libraries, museums, historical societies, arts councils, tourism bureaus or other groups that administer humanities-related programs and events in northeast Mississippi. Teachers and school administrators and city and county officials are also welcome to attend.

Admission is free of charge. The Mississippi Humanities Council advises anyone who wishes to participate to register in advance by sending a message to the Link Centre, co-sponsor of the workshop, at, or by calling (662) 690-4011.
Members of the staff of the Mississippi Humanities Council will provide information about the organization's grants program, which supports nonprofit organizations in developing and conducting cultural programs for public audiences. During the workshop, staff members will offer advice about the MHC grant application process and will be available to discuss potential projects for which participants might wish to seek funding.

The workshop will also include discussion of several other Mississippi Humanities Council programs, including the following:
  • Mississippi Oral History Program, a joint venture by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Humanities Council to document and preserve the history and culture of our state;
  • Racial Equity Grant Fund, a new grant initiative, in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to support public programs exploring the legacy of race in Mississippi;
  • The Mississippi Humanities Council Speakers Bureau, which enables local cultural organizations to host compelling, free-admission humanities presentations at little cost to them;
  • Family Literacy Project, offering two family-based reading programs, one conducted in English and one in Spanish, for literacy-challenged adult readers and their lower elementary school age children; and
  • Museum on Main Street, a partnership between the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Smithsonian Institutions that offers organizations in small communities opportunities to present Smithsonian-designed exhibits on major themes in American culture.
Additionally, the workshop will be an opportunity for representatives of local and regional cultural organizations to make contacts with the Mississippi Humanities Council and with one another and to discuss potential opportunities to collaborate.
Frank "Yankie" Bahranovich. Photo courtesy of The Slavonian Lodge, Biloxi, MS.
The city of Biloxi, in partnership with the Croatian Cultural Center, will host a community tribute August 5, 2016, at 5:30 p.m. to Frank "Yankie" Barhanovich Sr. on the 50 th anniversary of his landmark presentation at the Municipal Stadium featuring James Brown, "The King of Soul." This watershed event was the first real appearance of a headlining African American performer to a truly desegregated audience in the city of Biloxi, says Bill Raymond, historical administrator for the city.

The tribute will begin with an overview of Barhanovich's work as a concert promoter, talent manager and recording studio executive. A successful insurance executive, Barhanovich became involved in the music recording and promoting industry while promoting his daughter Martha Ann Barhanovich (Ebberman,) who for a few years performed and recorded under the name Ann Raye. Among the acts he helped promote on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was a young Elvis Presley, who was just beginning his music career with a trio called the Louisiana Hayride. Elvis at one time reportedly asked "Yankie" to be his manager, but was declined.

Barhanovich promoted and produced regional and national performing artists at any venue he could get his hands on. The Brown performance, though not originally planned as an outdoor event, was only the third large-scale open air stadium concert in Biloxi. The concert was staged in the Municipal Stadium due to a ban on mixed-race performances at the local USO, Raymond says.

"This was August 1966, two full years after the July 1964 Civil Rights Act was enacted. While Biloxi theaters, restaurants and hotels had been desegregated without significant incident for some time, the music scene in Biloxi and on the Coast remained segregated by race."

The August 5 tribute will explore the legacy of the Brown concert in desegregating live musical performances in Biloxi and along the Gulf Coast, while also delving into the overall Coast music scene. Local historian and journalist Kat Bergeron, who has done extensive research on the Coast music scene in the mid-twentieth century, will discuss historical highlights including visits by Hank Williams Sr. and Elvis Presley, the impact of World War II on the music industry, concerts for locals and airmen at Keesler Airforce Base and the Slavonian (now Croatian) Lodge and the talent recorded at Biloxi-based Fine Records studio, culminating with a Dick Clark production of "Where the Action Is" and the "James Brown Review," both of which brought young blacks and whites together to enjoy music in a segregated South.

Musicologist and publisher Jim O'Neil, who is the research director for the Mississippi Blues Trail and the founding co-editor of Living Blues Magazine, will discuss the recording history of Biloxi, and Barhanovich's daughter, who recorded under the name Ann Raye in the mid-1950s, will also speak.

"(Our goal) is to explore how a mostly forgotten and seemingly insignificant event in history can be a catalyst for great change in society," says Raymond. "Through this program, participants will understand how far society has come in only fifty years when 'whites only' drinking fountains-and in this case, performance venues-were the norm."

The August 5 tribute is being supported with a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 228-435-6244.
Dr. Charles Ross
Dr. Charles Ross, Chair of the African American Studies Program and Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, will speak at the Amory Regional Museum in conjunction with the Hometown Teams traveling exhibit on July 28 th . His program will discuss the integration of college sports, with a particular focus on the University of Mississippi.

Ross serves as the exhibit scholar for the MHC's Hometown Teams traveling exhibit, which was created by the Smithsonian Institution and will be touring the state throughout 2016. Ross has worked with the MHC and the six host sites throughout the state to develop programming surrounding the exhibit. As exhibit scholar, Ross will speak at each of the six Mississippi host sites on topics dealing with sports in the state.

In addition to Ross's talk, the Amory Regional Museum will also host several other speaker programs during the exhibit's stay in Amory before it travels to Gulfport in early August. For a full list of programs and locations of the exhibit, visit our online calendar.
By Timothy Lampkin, Outreach Coordinator

The last couple of weeks I have been meeting with amazing organizations around our state. Our new racial equity grant fund has allowed me to connect with new partners who are committed to change. One of our potential partners recently invited me to attend their program in Indianola. I had the pleasure of meeting over 15 young males of color who completed a week-long program related to race, education and community engagement. It was powerful to hear them talk with our key stakeholders about the racial discrimination in their community.

We truly believe we can help move the conversation regarding racial equity forward. It is our goal to actively support organizations who want to change the narrative of Mississippi. The racial equity grant program is new and we will continue to review our grant making process, evaluation tools, and most importantly the ways we can increase our support to grantees. If you are interested in learning more about our racial equity grant program, please contact me at

Timothy Lampkin, front, third from right, recently spent a day with youths in the SHINE project, led by Story for All in partnership with the Sunflower County Systems Change.

The Luciernagas Family Reading program, the MHC's bilingual Spanish/English project, kicked off in Biloxi on Tuesday, July 5 and will continue for the next 6 weeks. The program is hosted by El Pueblo, a non-profit organization assisting the local Hispanic community with everything from immigration issues to translating to family literacy.  This is the MHC's first bi-lingual program on the coast with, hopefully, many more to follow. The MHC has been running the bilingual Luciernagas Family Reading program since 2002, and has reached seven different Mississippi communities in the last three years.
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