Founded in 1997, the mission of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy is to promote positive social change by examining and teaching the tools and experiences of those who struggle to create, expand, and sustain civil rights, social justice, and citizenship. A coalition of academics who partner with social institutions in the local community, the Hamer Institute advocates civic engagement and popular sovereignty through the study of the struggle for civil rights in the United States. As a part of Jackson State University, we work with local school boards and colleges, national funding organizations, state agencies, and local civil rights organizations to encourage local communities to embrace political engagement and agency.
The Hamer Institute has annually offered a summer workshop for area students on local civil rights history, while simultaneously exposing them not only to community leaders, but a university campus. We have partnered with Jackson Public Schools—not only offering regular development opportunities for teachers, classroom visits, and summer workshops on civil rights, but through the five-year U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History grant regular professional development programming and a two-week summer workshop providing both cutting-edge content and pedagogy for teachers of American History. Via the Medgar Evers/ Ella Baker lecture series, co-sponsored with the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center, monthly panels on topics of interest to the community are offered in locations throughout the metropolitan area and into the Delta.
Under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and through a partnership with Rhodes College (Memphis) and the National Civil Rights Museum, a workshop for community college faculty on landmarks of the civil rights movement exposes faculty from Mississippi and the nation to the benefits of engaging students using such resources as local landmarks, oral history panels, music, and primary documents.
Our attempts to improve economic development in the Delta and central Jackson has led to collaborations with and grants from the Mississippi Development Authority and the NEH to work on recording and preserving local civil rights sites and developing driving trails for such Mississippi communities as Greenwood, Indianola, and Ruleville and the development of a Civil Rights Corridor adjacent to Jackson State’s campus on Lynch Street.
Other partnerships have led to: a year-long celebration of the Jackson Civil Rights Movement (Tougaloo College and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History); a yearly symposia for college faculty, students, community activists, and teachers on the impact of recent civil rights and education scholarship (Mississippi Humanities Council); the training of teachers state-wide in the content of the new civil rights curriculum (William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, Mississippi Department of Education, and Teaching for Change); and many other programs.
Here at the Hamer Institute, we are generous in our willingness to share our expertise with the community, constant in our commitment to local public education, and increasingly prominent in the national debate on civic engagement and citizenship education.