Focus on the Humanities
Mississippi Humanities Council Newsletter - September 2016
Director's Message
Carol Andersen
Assistant Director
As a journalism student at an upper-Midwest university and then a newspaper editor for many years in my earlier life, I knew some of the history of the black press in America. I knew about the antislavery work of the Freedom's Journal in New York City and the influence of The Chicago Defender on the migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. I did not, however, fully understand the crucial role these publications played in delivering life-sustaining news and information to a population that was virtually ignored by most mainstream, i.e. white, news publications. "If you picked up a white newspaper you as a black person didn't exist," says Craig Flournoy, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and professor of journalism at Southern Methodist University. "There was no record of you being born, no record of you graduating from high school much less college, no record of you getting married, no record of your promotion and no record of you dying," he says.

They provided a black perspective on the issues of the day, and they gave voice to a segment of the American population that was marginalized in almost every way in a white majority society.

The work of the earliest black newspapers was to advocate for abolition, uplift the black community and fight discrimination. But also, they provided a public record of the lives of black Americans, largely omitted from white publications. They provided a black perspective on the issues of the day, and they gave voice to a segment of the American population that was marginalized in almost every way in a white majority society.

When the Mississippi Humanities Council was offered funding to organize programs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, we had plenty of Pulitzer-winning writers and journalists in Mississippi to celebrate, but we particularly wanted to highlight the contributions of the black press, especially here in the American South. With assistance from The Jackson Advocate-one of just two African American newspapers still operating in Mississippi-we reached out to George Curry, legendary columnist, commentator and champion of black journalists, to keynote a symposium exploring the historical and contemporary role of black newspapers in the South. Sadly, Curry, considered "the dean of black columnists" for his riveting weekly commentary in black newspapers across the country, died unexpectedly last month, but his example for using forthright, yet civil, language to challenge lingering inequities in American civic and political life will guide our symposium in his absence.

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016, the Mississippi Humanities Council will host Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Press, a free and open-to-the-public symposium featuring lectures and panel discussions by local leaders in the black press. The symposium is part of a national, year-long commemoration of the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize, featuring public programs across the country focusing on journalism and the humanities, to inspire new generations to consider the values represented by Pulitzer Prize-winning work.

Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Press will include two public panel presentations: one from 2-4 p.m. in the Jackson State University Student Center Theater, 1400 John R. Lynch Street, discussing the historical role of African American newspapers both as sources of life-sustaining information not easily accessible to blacks in mainstream media and as a voice for the African American perspective on political and social issues; and a second from 6-8 p.m. in the Percy W. Watson Lobby at the JSU Downtown Campus, 101 W. Capitol Street, addressing contemporary challenges and trends in black media and the ongoing need for a black press.

A public reception will precede the evening program, from 5-6 p.m. in the art gallery at the JSU Downtown Campus. Parking for the reception and program will be available on the street and in the JSU parking lot across the street from the downtown facility.

"Our republic and its press will rise or fall together," Joseph Pulitzer asserted. "An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery." By founding and nurturing their own newspapers, African Americans ensured their interests would be included in the public discourse on issues that affect all our lives.

Dr. William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will deliver the keynote lecture on October 7th at 2 pm at the upcoming Conference on the Liberal Arts being hosted by Jackson State University. The conference, entitled "[Re]Defining Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century," will feature scholars from around the globe addressing this timely topic from a multitude of perspectives.

The goal of the conference, scheduled for October 6-8, is to explore the reasons liberal arts disciplines are undervalued by students, parents, and others and to examine how we might redefine and articulate their importance to our society and the larger world. Thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, a series of free plenary sessions will be available to the general public on Friday, October 7th, including the keynote address by Chairman Adams, which will be presented in the JSU College of Liberal Arts room 166/266.

According to MHC Executive Director Dr. Stuart Rockoff, "Chairman Adams is perfect keynote speaker for this important conference. Dr. Adams has been a passionate advocate for the importance of the humanities and their relevance to addressing the crucial issues we face today as a society."

To learn more about the conference, including detailed schedule and registration information, visit
This year's Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale, to be held Sept. 30-Oct. 1, will focus on the famous playwright and his most celebrated work. In conjunction with the Pulitzer Campfires Initiative, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious awards in journalism and American literature, the festival will focus on "A Streetcar Named Desire," one of two plays for which Tennessee Williams won the Pulitzer.

Sponsored by Coahoma Community College, the festival will feature scenes 
from Streetcar as its centerpiece on the evening of September 30th. Staging the drama inside the Cutrer Mansion - a setting regarded by many as Streetcar's Belle Reve, the
lost ancestral home of Blanche DuBois - will be the Matt Foss Theatre actors. The group earned standing ovations at Cutrer in 2015 for its innovative performance of "The Glass Menagerie." Beneath paper lanterns reminiscent of the lavish Delta parties and masked balls hosted by J. W. and Blanche Clark Cutrer, guests are encouraged to come as their favorite Tennessee Williams characters.

As a Pulitzer presentation, the Friday night drama will be introduced by Dr. Kenneth Holditch, who delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Williams portrait unveiling in Mississippi's Hall of Fame ceremony in April. The production is funded in part by the MHC and the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Earlier that day, three panels of Tennessee Williams specialists will evoke excitement, dialogue, questions and even arguments from the audience. Tennessee's heroines will be dissected by a trio including Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English at the University of Mississippi; Karen Kohlhaas, a filmmaker and theatre professional; and actor/director Susan McPhail. Scholars Kenneth Holditch, Colby Kullman, and Ralph Voss will then discuss Tennessee's two Pulitzer Prize winning plays: "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." A final panel will explore the Mississippi Delta's influences on Tennessee Williams and his work.

After the always compelling student drama contest Saturday morning, the festival moves downtown to Clarksdale's historic district for tours of the former St. George's Church rectory, former childhood home of Tennessee Williams, and porch plays featuring scenes from "Baby Doll," "A Streetcar Named Desire," and "The Glass Menagerie."

The festival is free and open to all with the exception of food events that require advance reservations. For reservations, contact Coahoma Tourism, P.O. 1770, Clarksdale, MS 38614 or telephone: 662-627-6149.
MHC Speakers Bureau member Brother Rogers presents his program "John C. Stennis: Legacy of a Legend in Mississippi Politics" in Tupelo during the September First Tuesdays program. 
On Tuesday, October 4, public libraries across the state will offer the second in the MHC's four-part "First Tuesdays" speaker series. The MHC has partnered with public libraries in Tupelo, Indianola, Brookhaven and Pascagoula to offer free monthly programs from the MHC's Speakers Bureau throughout Fall 2016.

October's First Tuesdays programs include Carla Falkner's program "The Hillbilly Cat: The Local Roots and National Impact of Elvis Presley's Music" in Tupelo at 6 p.m.

Anne Webster's program "People, Not Property: Tracing Your African American Roots" in Indianola at 5 p.m., Dr. Ralph Didlake's program "Food From a Bioethics Perspective" in Brookhaven at 6 p.m. and Shelby Harriel's program "Forbidden, Hidden and Forgotten: Women Soldiers of the Civil War" in Pascagoula at 6 p.m.

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

For more information on the First Tuesdays program, contact Caroline Gillespie at 601-432-6752 or
On September 7, the M.R. Dye Public Library in Horn Lake welcomed back the MHC's popular Luciérnagas family reading program for the seventh year in a row. The library has hosted Luciérnagas each year since 2010, and the program continues to grow larger and more popular every year. Twenty-four families--the maximum
Families read along with humanities scholar Laura Mendoza and storyteller Lucia Hernandez during the Luciérnagas program in Horn Lake.
number for the MHC's  Luciérnagas curriculum--participated, with nearly 60 children and 40 parents in attendance.

Carson Culver, who coordinates the Luciérnagas program at the 
Horn Lake library, was thrilled with the turnout for the programs's opening night. In 
addition to storytelling, discussion and meals provided at each of the sessions, Culver has also worked with the community to incorporate other activities into the weekly Luciérnagas programs. Some of these extra aspects include artwork, Hispanic dancing groups and a mariachi band.

The Luciérnagas family reading program is a seven-week bilingual, English/Spanish program offered through the MHC's Family Literacy Project. If you would like to learn more about Luciérnagas or host a Luciérnagas program, contact Caroline Gillespie at
Every October the Mississippi Humanities Council, in conjunction with National Arts and Humanities Month, honors outstanding humanities instructors at our state institutions for higher learning. These instructors may only be selected by their college president or academic dean, based on the excellence of their humanities work in the classroom. Each nominee receives a cash award from the Mississippi Humanities Council and is asked to prepare and deliver a public lecture on a humanities subject during the month of October and November. All programs are free and open to the public. A full listing of programs, titles and dates will be available on the MHC website soon.
Delta State fans gear up to host Smithsonian Traveling exhibit Hometown Teams this fall.
The MHC-sponsored Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit: Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America will open at the Chadwick-Dickson Field House at Delta State University at 5:00 PM on Thursday, September 29. Following a President's reception, State and local dignitaries, exhibit personnel and local sports heroes will be officially recognized and thanked on-field at that evening's DSU Heritage Bell football game. Exhibit-related programming will include weekly presentations including one on "African Americans in Sport from Mississippi" by the exhibit scholar, Dr. Charles Ross, History professor at the University of Mississippi and another by Donny Whitehead on "Greenwood Baseball Legends." The national exhibit is complimented by a local one, which opened on September 15 at the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives and Museum's main gallery. For more information, please call 662-846-4781 or e-mail
September 29, 2016
Classical Week 2016:"Another Look at Seneca's Phaedra"
Shackouls Honors College (SHC) at Mississippi State University will again sponsor "Classical Week," which seeks to enhance the classics between and among departments, colleges and communities, through lectures, films, art displays and theatre performances. This year, SHC will produce the rarely directed Roman tragedy, Phaedra. The performance will not only be presented as entertainment but also serve as catalyst for an afternoon of lectures by noted scholars. Entitled, "Another Look at Seneca's Phaedra," this program will feature four humanities scholars who will provide learning opportunities for our local colleges, universities, and communities. Mississippi State University, Griffis Hall, Forum Room, 2 p.m.
Learn More

October 1-31 2016
Mississippi Archaeology Month
The Mississippi Archaeology Association (MAA) organizes free educational events throughout the state during Archaeology Month held every October, to provide a comprehensive program that integrates the interest of the general public with that of the state's archaeology community. Events include lectures at universities/historic properties, guided mound tours and K-12 school programs. The Archaeology Expo will be held in Natchez at the Grand Village. The Expo showcases numerous educational activities for all ages. Members of the Natchez Tribe will perform traditional dances, crafts and music. Statewide locations.
October 2-3, 2016
Icons of Statehood
On December 10, 1817, Mississippi became the nation's twentieth state. A new traveling exhibit featuring Mississippi's first constitution and the first U.S. flag to include a star for the new state will tour the state to celebrate the approaching bicentennial. The project will partner with nine local institutions across the state to host these artifacts and develop relate programming, which will be open to the public and include interpretive displays, presentations, and children's activities over a two-day period at each site. In October, Mississippians can visit the constitution and the flag at the James M.Trotter Convention Center in Columbus. Viewing times are Oct. 2, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Oct. 3, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Learn More

October 8-November 12, 2016
National History Day in Mississippi Workshop
The University of Southern Mississippi will host four workshops to boost interest and participation in the state competition and National History Day. National History Day in Mississippi is an event that teaches students how to conduct historical research and then utilize that research to create original, informative, and engaging projects. Teachers can use the program as a way to have their students engage in tangible projects that help fulfill their learning objectives for their classes. Parents with children who participate will also become more connected to the historical organizations and institutions around the state. All of the USM undergraduate social studies teachers licensure majors judge at the state competition. Workshops and state contest are free and open to the public. The workshops will make the public more aware of the wealth of resources for those interested in learning more about our state's history. Tentative dates: Gulfport-October 8, 10-11:30 a.m. ;Hattiesburg-October 20; Jackson-October 22, 10-11:30 a.m.; Columbus-November 12, 10-11:30 a.m.
Learn More

October 10, 2016
Faure Lecture Recital
This program will offer a humanities lecture on French musical culture in the 19th century using an influential song cycle set to poems by a famous poet of that time. Dr. Benjamin Wadsworth (Kennesaw State University) will deliver a lecture on music and aesthetics of French composer, Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) his librettist, the symbolist poet, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) and the women who inspired the creation of this song cycle, the soprano Emma Bardac (1862-1934). Prof. Wadsworth will circulate a very accessible handout that traces important motives which recur throughout the song cycle. The talk is heavy on semantics and light on technical music theory. Dr. Wadsworth's approach will afford a broad discussion of cultural and aesthetics issues, intertextuality in this music, and the historic consequences of this composition-which was regarded as revolutionary in its time. University of Southern Mississippi, USM Marsh Auditorium, Hattiesburg
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October 14, 2016
Jane Austen Film Festival Continues at Welty Garden
The Eudora Welty House and Garden and the Mississippi Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America have teamed up, with financial support from the Mississippi Humanities Council, to host a mini Jane Austen film festival. The outdoor film series takes place in the Welty Garden in Jackson, MS, featuring film versions of Jane Austen novels.  The series concludes October 14 with a Bollywood take on Pride and Prejudice, entitled Bride and Prejudice Outdoor movie enthusiasts are invited to bring their blankets and picnics.  Programs begin at 7 p.m. with the screenings beginning at dark, about 7:30 p.m. No reservations are necessary. In the event of inclement weather, the films will be shown across the street at Belhaven University.
  Learn More

October 20-21, 2016
Claiming Histories: Engaging the Past through Memorialization of Slave Past
On the heels of the Sesquicentennial of America's Civil War, Rust College, the oldest black college in Mississippi, is celebrating its own 150th anniversary. Among the commemorative events planned is a community-wide discussion around the topics of slavery and racism. Rust will partner with Gracing the Table, a discussion group that promotes community healing through monthly dialogue, to host a libation ceremony and discussion, honoring enslaved ancestors. This free event will take place at Heard Auditorium, Rust College.
Learn More
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