Hamer Humanitarian Award Luncheon

The 2017 Fannie Lou Hamer Humanitarian Awards Luncheon

Press Release

The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO

Will Honor Five (5) Founding Members and Commemorate 20 Years of Service


The Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy will recognize the founders of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute during the 2017 Fannie Lou Hamer Humanitarian Awards Luncheon to be held Thursday, April 20, 2017. The honorees will receive the Fannie Lou Hamer Humanitarian Award in an 11:30 a.m. ceremony held in Ballrooms A & B of the New Student Union on the campus of Jackson State University.

The founding members of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy are a coalition of academics who promote civic engagement and popular sovereignty through the study of the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

To be honored are  Mr. Martin Bennett, Instructor Emeritus of American history at Santa Rosa Junior College where he has taught for twenty-five years. He is Co-Chair of North Bay Jobs with Justice affiliated with the national Jobs with Justice network. Bennett is also a Research and Policy Analyst for UNITE HERE 2850, a union representing restaurant, hotel, and food service workers in the North and East Bay. He is one of the founders of the North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP), a faith community based organizing project in the North Bay affiliated with the Gamaliel Foundation and he served on the NBOP Leadership Council. In 2015, he was honored as the "Sonoma County Democrat of the Year" by the Sonoma County Democratic Party and in 2016, he was presented the "Peace and Justice" annual award by the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County. 

The Hamer Institute will also honor Dr. Michelle D. Deardorff, Professor and Department Head, Political Science & Public Service at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Deardorff’s teaching and research has focused on the constitutional and statutory protections surrounding gender, race, and religion, as well as explored the insights provided by political theory. Her most recent publication is entitled Pregnancy and the American Worker (Palgrave MacMillan 2016), which examines the lower federal courts’ interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in relationship to pregnancy protections in employment. The book was coauthored with James Dahl, University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana.

Professor of History at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, Dr. Jeffrey Kolnick, will also be recognized. Kolnick is a modern U.S. historian who is also a scholar of the American Civil Rights Movement. He has served as a core faculty member in several of the Hamer Institute’s Landmark grants. Kolnick is co-author of a book on the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, Freedom Summer: A Brief History with Documents, published by Bedford St Martin’s Press in 2016

The Hamer Institute is also recognizing Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore. McLemore is a veteran of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. As a Rust College student, Dr. McLemore was the founding President of the College Chapter of the NAACP. He organized and led several demonstrations and voter registration drives during his tenure at Rust. Dr. McLemore was a founding member and elected vice-chair of the MFDP in 1964. He was also founding chair of the Department of Political Science, as well as former dean of the Graduate School and founding director of the Office of Research Administration at Jackson State University. He is a past chair of the Mississippi Humanities Council and past vice-chair of the Board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. In addition, Dr. McLemore was the founding Director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy at Jackson State University. 

Dr. Thandekile Ruth Mason Mvusi, founder and CEO of the History Lesson Project, will also be recognized.  Dr. Mvusi has more than 25 years of experience teaching, studying, and researching the history and cultures of Africa, African Americans, and the Diaspora.  Her areas of expertise in African History are 20th century Zambia, Apartheid South Africa, and Swaziland.  She has a long-held interest in the 19th Century South and its legacies for 21st Century America.  Gender and race construction in each of the above, as well as the Diaspora constitute her current interests, as well as the civil rights and labor Movements in the USA.  She uses disciplines within the Humanities, along with those of the Social Sciences, to reach audiences both within the walls of the academy and in the community.  

In recognition of 20 years of service, The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute will also be recognized. Founded in 1997, the mission of the Hamer Institute is to promote positive social change by examining the tools and experiences of those who struggle to create, expand, and sustain civil rights, social justice, and citizenship. Named in honor of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi civil rights leader who was instrumental in forming the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Institute’s vision is to nurture a generation of young people engaged in and committed to discourse on civil rights, social justice, and citizenship.

Come let us recognize our fellow citizens and commemorate 20 years of service for the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute, Thursday, April 20, 2017, on the campus of Jackson State University.  For more information, please contact the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO at 601-979-1563 or 601-979-4348 or email: COFO.Center@jsums.edu


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