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Cotton Culture in The South From The Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

“Cotton Culture in the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement” is a five-week school teacher institute for twenty-five participants on the South's cotton culture from the close of the Civil War to the rise of the civil rights movement. The institute presents a multi-dimensional view of the South’s cotton culture, explaining how cotton, a once-dominant crop based on slave labor, continued to influence the South for a hundred years after emancipation. It broadens teachers’ knowledge about a racial system of labor and exploitation that pervaded the post-Civil War period until emerging as a fountainhead of civil rights activities and artistic expression in literature, blues, jazz, country music, film, folk arts, and architecture. Three central themes are examined: Cotton from Plant to Product (week 1); Politics of Race, Class and Cotton Labor (weeks 2-3); and Cultural Production of Cotton (weeks 4-5). Before arriving, participants read All God’s Dangers, the oral history of sharecropper Ned Cobb. Additional readings are drawn from works by the Southern Agrarians, Richard Wright, James Agee, Flannery O’Connor, Edward Royce, Edward Ayers, C. Vann Woodward, and Taylor Branch, among others. In addition to the project director, a social and cultural historian of the South, lecturers include geographer Charles Aiken, agricultural historian James Giesen, economic historian David Carlton, political historian Joseph Crespino, religious historian Doug Thompson, intellectual historian Bobby Donaldson, literary scholars Andrew Silver and David Davis, social historian Fitz Brundage, civil rights scholar Houston Roberson, film scholar Robert Jackson, and anthropologist John Vlach.  Site visits to the Jarell Plantation and a weekend trip to Savannah are included in the program.

Dates: June 25--July 27 (5 weeks)
Grantee Institutions: Mercer University
Location: Macon, GA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.