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Teachers from Around the Nation Begin Study of South’s Cotton Culture at Mercer

June 30, 2010

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Mark Vanderhoek
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MACON — Twenty-four high school teachers from around the nation have arrived at Mercer University for a summer institute, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The institute began Monday and will continue for the next five weeks, covering the South’s history with cotton, titled “Cotton Culture in the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.” The group of teachers hails from states as far away as California and Rhode Island.

The institute will include classroom instruction on Mercer’s Macon campus and field trips to sites throughout Georgia.

The institute is 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 draws on Mercer’s expertise in Southern studies, as well as Macon’s history. 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 examine the connections between history, economics, labor, literature, religion and art. The institute will enhance the way the teachers understand and explain Southern history and culture to their students, who will then better understand the complicated legacy of the cotton economy.

The grant is part of the NEH’s Institutes for School Teachers program. 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. Mercer’s 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.”
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