In 2004 the Center, with support from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian, Mississippi, began new efforts to explore connections between the humanities, economic development, and public policy in the South with the Endowment for the Future of the South. The first event, entitled “The American South: Then and Now,” has been followed by symposia on community-building in the South, the humanities and Hurricane Katrina, the one-year anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill, the future of Southern Studies as a field, and events that featured individuals such as journalist Cynthia Tucker and Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman.

Today, those ideas have become the Future of the South initiative, which focuses on the contemporary region and shapes conversations about how it will evolve using innovative approaches to studying the South within the context of the nation, hemisphere, and the globe. Programming in this designation has three elements: the topic has a presence in the curriculum, it figures prominently in the scholarship of at least one Southern Studies faculty member, and it extends itself to a form of community engagement for a broader audience.

We will designate three to four projects a year as Future of the South initiatives. Thus far we have explored: Movement and Migration proposed by Simone Delerme; the Invisible Histories Project which focuses on the lives of LGBTQ Mississippians, proposed by Jessica Wilkerson; and Floodgates, focuses on climate change in the South, which was proposed by Andy Harper and Rex Jones.

The Future of the South initiative is based on a generous grant provided to the Center by the Hardin Foundation, which shares the Center’s deep investment in the future of Mississippi and the education of all Mississippians.