NEH Awards Grant to Mercer for Institute on Southern History

MACON — The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $215,000 to Mercer for an institute for high school teachers in summer 2010. The institute will be a five-week course on Southern history, titled “Cotton Culture in the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement,” and will be open to 22 high school teachers from across the country.

The institute begins in June 2010 and will be directed by Dr. Sarah E. Gardner, associate professor and chair of history and director of Mercer’s Southern Studies Program. Dr. Douglas Thompson, associate professor of interdisciplinary studies and Southern studies, and Dr. David A. Davis, assistant professor of English, will serve as the institute’s faculty. The institute will also include a number of guest faculty who are experts in Southern history and culture.

“The institute will create an engaged learning community of high school teachers, Mercer faculty and visiting experts who will share ideas about an extremely complex and often poorly understood aspect of Southern history and culture,” Dr. Davis said.

The NEH announced the grant on Aug. 20 as part of its Institutes for School Teachers program. The project was also selected for recognition as part of the NEH’s “We the People” Initiative, which funds programs “designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study and understanding of American history, culture and democratic principles.”

“It was extremely rewarding to earn this grant with our first submission. Dr. Davis and Dr. Thompson did a wonderful job to create a curriculum that not only met the institute standards, but also earned recognition as a ‘We the People’ project,” Dr. Gardner said. “The NEH sees its ‘We the People’ initiative as a leader in ‘bringing about a renaissance in knowledge about American history and principles among all our citizens,’ so its recognition of our summer institute as playing a vital role in that mission is quite an honor.”

Dr. Thompson said that Mercer has long been a leading program for Southern studies at the undergraduate level, and bringing high school teachers to campus to experience the rigors of the program will be an excellent showcase for the program.

“This NEH grant will provide us a way to reach out to teachers to provide quality continuing education in the areas of history and literature and to highlight what Southern studies at Mercer has to offer their high school students,” Dr. Thompson said.

The institute is a natural for Mercer because of its history with Southern studies and because of Macon’s history, said Dr. Davis. 

“The teachers participating in the institute will study the South’s history and culture during the crucial hundred years between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of cotton, and they will see the connections between history, economics, labor, literature, religion and art,” Dr. Davis said. “We hope the institute will enhance the way high school teachers understand and explain Southern history and culture to their students, who will then better understand the complicated legacy of the cotton economy.”

The NEH grant is part of its Landmarks of American History and Culture: Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers, which supports national faculty development programs in the humanities for school teachers. The seminars and institutes range from two to six weeks each and focus on significant humanities topics, texts and issues.

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