The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute@COFO celebrated Thursday the centennial birthday of its namesake, saluted its five founders and established a $25,000 endowed scholarship – an amount that will be matched by the JSU Development Foundation – to assist deserving students.
The College of Liberal Arts event was held in the Student Center ballroom on the main campus and acknowledged its founding humanitarian award recipients, including Martin Bennett, instructor emeritus of American History at Santa Rosa Junior College in California; and Dr. Michelle D. Deardorff, professor and department head of Political Science and Public Service at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.
Other honorees were Dr. Jeffrey Kolnick, chair of the Department of Social Sciences and professor of history at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn.; Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore, veteran of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and a former City of Jackson councilman and interim JSU president; and Thandekile Ruth Mason Mvusi, founder and CEO of the History Lesson Project in Jacksonville, Fla.
Dr. Rico Chapman, director of the institute, applauded the vision and legacy of the founders because now he’s “standing on the shoulders of giants who are helping me fly.” As well, he credited their efforts spearheading the generous endowment.
Keith Lamont McMillan, the institute’s program manager, said the scholarship was initiated by McLemore and other founders and will be matched by the university to fund the Fannie Lou Hamer Endowed Scholarship Fund. The financial support will be earmarked for deserving students, specifically in the College of Liberal Arts. “The people honored and those in attendance have a vested interest in our history,” he said.
Funded by Title III, the Hamer Institute, from 2013 to 2017, has supported 72 programs; involved 9,705 participants; been visited by 134 groups and community organizations; and conducted 52 tours.
Other funding sources include the Mississippi Humanities Council; National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian; and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. As a result, support over the past four years has totaled nearly a half-million dollars.
Chapman also described the awards luncheon as an opportunity to showcase the achievements and struggles of the past as well as highlight the institute’s new facility.
Named in honor of noted Mississippi civil rights leader Hamer, the institute aims to inspire young people to continue fighting for civil rights and social justice. It also seeks to incorporate history in the institute’s other mission, which involves community engagement. Chapman and McMillan gave an illuminating account of the center’s documentation of past and present events, including reflections on the Gibbs-Green tragedy in 1970. That event involved the unleashing of terror with gunfire by law enforcement on then-Jackson State College. Two people were killed and at least a dozen injured.
Institute visitors also can learn about the fiery assault on Freedom Riders in 1961 aboard a Greyhound bus.
Recently, it celebrated the life and legacy of civil rights icons James Meredith and Malcolm X, with 50th anniversary celebrations. The Malcolm X event brought together the daughters of the martyred leaders Malcolm X and Medgar Evers.
Beyond the past, the institute is making its mark with contemporary history, too.
Recent highlights include curated exhibitions; a public program about the hip-hop culture of HBCUs; and an afro-futurism conference on Planet Deep South.
McMillan said these events and discussions help engage students and the community. “We make connections with local centers and organizations because all of these things connect,” he said.
Given that the institute boasts it provides the most in-depth heritage tour in the country, it will host a three-week summer event, bringing scholars from throughout the U.S. to study the Civil Rights Movement of Mississippi – funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Article shared from Jackson State University