Wellesley College Africana Studies Expert to Discuss Mississippi Founders, Black Resistance
Reconstruction is an often-overlooked period of U.S. history, but its importance to America – and the significant role African-American citizens played in establishing modern democracy – cannot be overemphasized.
The passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution redefined U.S. citizenship, altered the relationship between the federal and state governments, and underscored the differences between political and economic democracy. The period was not without its costs, however – particularly to the nation’s Black community.
“Because of their agency from these amendments, they were faced with enormous pushback,” said Christian Pinnen, professor of history and political science and co-director of MC’s African American Studies Program. “They were faced with violence as they tried to claim the rights under these amendments.”
The plight of these outstanding citizens will be the focus of a lecture on the Mississippi College campus by a nationally recognized historian, author, educator, and speaker.
Kellie Carter Jackson, the Michael and Denise Kellen Associate Professor of Africana Studies and a former Newhouse Faculty Fellow for the Center of the Humanities at Wellesley College, will discuss “Mississippi Founders and Black Resistance” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Jean Pittman Williams Recital Hall in Aven Hall.
Carter Jackson, who earned her B.A. at Howard University and obtained her Ph.D. from Columbia University, studies the lived experiences of Black people with a focus on slavery, abolitionism, the Civil War, political violence, Black women’s history, and film. She is the author of “Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence,” which won the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic’s James H. Broussard Best First Book Prize. The book served as the text for MC’s African American Studies Book Club in January and February.
The presentation, sponsored by the MC African American Studies Program, is free to the public, thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. It will be preceded by a performance of gospel music by the Utica Concert Choir under the direction of Harry Watson, an MC alum. A question-and-answer session with the audience will follow the lecture.
The presentation coincides with MC’s celebration of Black History Month. Throughout February, Mississippi College’s African American Studies Program and the Mississippi Humanities Council will present the Mississippi Founder Exhibit, which highlights 12 Mississippians who challenged America to be a “more perfect union” in the Discovery Room of the Leland Speed Library. The exhibit’s subjects range from the Reconstruction Era to the modern Civil Rights Movement, and include Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore, Annie Devine, Medgar Evers, Lawrence Guyot, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Clarie Collins Harvey, Aaron Henry, John R. Lynch, Thomas W. Stringer, Unita Blackwell, and Vernon Dahmer.
According to the MHC, “The effort and sacrifices made by these individuals helped ensure democracy for all Mississippians. These individuals challenged the status quo, urging that the phrase, ‘We the People,’ should include all people.”
The free exhibit will be open for viewing in advance of the lecture. The events are also sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the MC Multicultural Student Association.
Keith Elder, provost and executive vice president at MC, will introduce Carter Jackson. He said her lecture and the exhibit are representatives of MC’s vision.
“Mississippi College is committed to the cause of Christ, which is demonstrating care and concern for all,” Elder said. “MC’s support of Black History Month and educational programs shows that we are sincere about this University being a place that welcomes and values diversity. Particularly, this shows that we acknowledge the role African Americans had and continue to have in shaping our country.
“This collective of diversity and experiences is an invaluable tapestry for this institution.”
Pat Bennett, former dean of the MC School of Law and an African American Studies board member, said the presentation and exhibit are perfect accompaniments to the University’s program.
“As we strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion, MC’s African American Studies Program is a step in the right direction,” Bennett said. “The program will engage students in presentations, research, conversations with national speakers, and professional networking. African Americans have made significant contributions to American culture. We want students to learn and educate others about African-American culture.
“We have a vision for the unity of all cultures in our future. Our students will be future leaders to make our vision a reality. We must do what we can to prepare them.”
Housed in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the African American Studies Program is a new minor that Mississippi College began offering this academic year. By hosting this lecture and exhibit, the University is helping to provide an avenue for further discussion and dialogue about the Black experience in America, said Kristi Richard Melancon, professor of English and philosophy and co-director of the program.
“It’s a new program, and our hope is that by offering such programs within the larger institution, inviting community members in, and partnering with other institutions such as Hinds Community College-Utica, we can start to make our campus a more welcoming space for academics of color.
“By opening these discussions, we can become an inviting space for conversations about racial justice and anti-racist pedagogy.”
Pinnen said MC’s African American Studies faculty are subject-matter experts who understand the needs of students who elect to pursue the minor.
“We would like students to see that there are people who look like them engaged in doing important research,” he said. “We’re bringing Black experts onto campus to model what can be done in academia so that students can see themselves in their research opportunities.”
Although Carter Jackson’s lecture and the Mississippi Founder Exhibit are presented as Black History Month programming, Melancon said the African American Studies faculty are seeking to host additional presentations on various subjects related to the Black experience in America.
“Presentations like these should not be limited to February,” she said. “The African American Studies Program is interdisciplinary in nature, so we would like to bring scholars of color to campus to talk about their areas of expertise – not just history – throughout the year.
“When it comes to the topic of African American studies at MC, we have the academic expertise, but we don’t have the holistic experience. Bringing scholars of color to campus allows our students to hear lived experiences and have conversations they can include in their research.”
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