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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002

Southern Culture Center to compile encylopedia of Mississippi

January 28, 2002

By Deidre Jackson
University News Services, University of Mississippi

UNIVERSITY, Miss. — The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture has received a $50,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to compose the Mississippi Encyclopedia, an exhaustive historical reference book.

“Mississippi is a place with a strong sense of the past to our present and future,” said Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, center director. “Mississippi Encyclopedia will not only provide authoritative information on our state’s history and culture, but will help enrich our appreciation for the diversity of our experience.”

Featuring listings from Adams County and Alcorn State University to author Stark Young and the town of Zion Hill, the one-volume hardback edition will include some 2,500 entries contained within 800 pages.

The project will total some $400,000, with additional funding from outside sources disbursed over four years. Mississippi Encyclopedia is set to be published in late 2005 or 2006.

In 2000, the center began the joint project with the Mississippi Humanities Council, the University Press of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Distinguished as the first regional studies center to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Southern studies, the UM center this fiscal year (2002) is the recipient of one of 363 NEH grants totaling $21.6 million.

“This is truly a collaborative effort project that will require our working with institutions and individuals throughout the state and nation,” said Wilson, also professor of history on the Oxford campus.

Among an impressive list of achievements of the center, which has been studying the South since its founding in 1977, is the publication of the award-winning The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, (University of North Carolina Press, 1989), which Wilson co-edited. Seetha Srinivasan, director of the Mississippi Press, asked the center to lead the project based on its successful experience with The Encyclopedia, Wilson said.

“Those of us at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture are excited at the opportunity to work in developing the Mississippi Encyclopedia,” Wilson said. “This encyclopedia will not only provide authoritative information on our state’s history and culture, but help enrich our appreciation for the diversity of our experience.”

In addition to text, images and excerpts from primary sources, Mississippi Encyclopedia will feature entries from more than 400 authors. An online component of the resource will offer interactive digital media formats, including text, still images, audio and video.

Twenty-eight consulting editors will suggest topics and contributors to the volume. The major areas to be featured include geography, archaeology, fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction, music, visual arts, architecture, folklife, food, sports, women, religion, law, politics and political history, Native Americans, social and economic history, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, environment, education, ethnic diversity, business and industry, agriculture, the press, and Mississippi’s myths and representations.

The NEH was created in 1965 as an independent federal agency to support learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the classroom. The largest funder of humanities programs in the United States, NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, museum exhibitions and programs in libraries and other community places.

NEH’s past chair, William R. Ferris, is the former director of the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture and UM professor of anthropology.

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