NEH funds Delta Center’s “Most Southern” workshops for ninth year

June 2017 NEH “Most Southern Place on Earth” scholars and Delta Center staff members Lee Aylward and Dr. Rolando Herts visit the 1927 Flood Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Scott, Mississippi.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country. Among the projects funded is The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s “Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, Culture, and History of the Mississippi Delta.” These week-long professional development workshops attract K-12 educators from across the U.S. to Delta State University and the broader region.

NEH will award nearly $190,000 to Delta State to support the summer 2018 “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. Since 2009, NEH has awarded approximately $1.5 million to Delta State to fund the workshops.

“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said Jon Parrish Peede, NEH acting chairman. “From traveling exhibitions and teacher workshops to efforts to preserve local history, these projects demonstrate the power of the humanities to build connections, stimulate discovery and contribute to vibrant communities.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said he was thrilled to receive additional NEH support.

“We are honored and grateful to receive funding from NEH for our ‘Most Southern’ workshops,” said Herts. “The workshops have developed national ambassadors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which The Delta Center manages. Our workshop participants take what they learn about the Delta’s culture and history back to their school communities. Many of them return to the Delta as educational and cultural heritage tourists, bringing family members, friends, students and colleagues with them.”

The summer of 2018 will be the ninth year that the workshops have been offered to K-12 educators, and Herts said they are in high demand among K-12 educators nationally. The workshops have produced an active alumni network boasting over 500 members.

“Our workshops yield hundreds of applications annually for just 72 slots,” said Lee Aylward, workshop co-director. “We are so very pleased that NEH continues to support these workshops. Once again, we can provide a unique professional development opportunity for master teachers who will educate students all over the country using Mississippi Delta music, culture and history. Through these workshops, we all are making a difference in the lives of these teachers and their students.”

Herts said this was an especially competitive funding year for the workshops. The NEH suspended the Landmarks of American History funding category for the summer of 2018, and all existing Landmarks workshops, if they chose to do so, had to apply under NEH’s Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers funding category. This meant more programs across the country were competing for the same grant funds.

This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for fiscal year 2017, will support vital research, education and public programs in the humanities. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $46.1 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and local humanities councils during fiscal year 2017, including the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Mississippi Humanities Council congratulates The Delta Center and Delta State University on this achievement,” said executive director Stuart Rockoff. “The ‘Most Southern Place on Earth’ workshops help to raise the national profile not only of the Delta region but of the entire state of Mississippi.”

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

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