Historical Society Awards Prizes at Annual Meeting

The Mississippi Historical Society named the best Mississippi history book of 2007, honored the history teacher of the year, and presented other awards at its annual meeting, held this year in Starkville March 6-8.

"Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Civil War in Mississippi" was the meeting's theme, chosen as part of a national observance of the bicentennials of the two men's births, Davis's on June 3, 2008, and Lincoln's on February 12, 2009. Presentations examined, among other things, progress on repair to Beauvoir, U.S. Colored Troops, Civil War campaigns in the state, and similarities between post-WWII Japan and the South following the Civil War. George Buss, nationally renowned Lincoln impersonator, presented "So You Think You're Coming South, Mr. Lincoln?" Frank J. Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, gave the keynote address, "Abraham Lincoln's Importance to the Twenty-First Century South."

In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution, by Emory University assistant professor of history Joseph Crespino, was awarded the McLemore Prize for best Mississippi history book of 2007. The book examines how American politics has been shaped by white Mississippians' reaction against modern liberalism.

Thomas Parrish Watts, Madison Middle School received the John K. Bettersworth Award, presented annually to an outstanding history teacher. Watts, an eighth-grade American history with twelve years in the classroom, served in the U.S. Army for twenty-eight years. Using a $15,000 grant from the National Geographic Society to study the Natchez Trace Parkway, Watts guided more than 450 students through several projects, including the production of a 48-page booklet, a video, a Web site, and a young person's map and guide to the parkway.

Christopher Alan Danielson received the 2008 Franklin L. Riley Prize for his dissertation "The Voting Rights Act and the Creation of Black Politics in Mississippi, 1965-1986." Danielson presented his dissertation toward a Ph.D. in history at the University of Mississippi. William Sturkey won the Glover Moore Prize for best master's thesis in Mississippi history. Sturkey presented his thesis "Houses of Liberty: The Impact of Freedom Schools During SNCC's 1964 Freedom Summer" for his master of arts degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Jack D. Elliott, Jr., historical archaeologist for the Department of Archives and History, won the Willie D. Halsell Prize for the best article published in the Journal of Mississippi History the previous year. His article "Paving the Trace" was published in the fall 2007 issue. J. Michael Bunn and Clay Williams won the Mississippi History Now award for their article "A Failed Enterprise: The French Colonial Period in Mississippi." Bunn is curator at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia, and Williams is curator at the Museum of Mississippi History.

The Tishomingo County Historical and Genealogical Society received the Frank E. Everett, Jr. Award for outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Mississippi history. The society acquired and preserved Tishomingo's historic old courthouse and has opened the building as a museum housing historical artifacts and civil and circuit court case records dating back to the early 1900s.

The Northeast Mississippi Women's History Project was the winner of the Elbert R. Hilliard Oral History Award. It is the third year in a row a project produced at the University of Mississippi has won the award.

Awards of Merit were presented to Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art, for the museum's outstanding exhibit The Mississippi Story; Marcia Weaver, for her work in coordinating the Bach to Blues series of monthly concerts featuring Mississippi musicians; and Carolyn Vance Smith, for the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration's contributions to the study of literature, history, and culture.

Newly elected officers of the Mississippi Historical Society are Gail Tomlinson, Senatobia, president; Westley F. Busbee, Jr., Belhaven College, vice-president; and Elbert R. Hilliard, MDAH, secretary-treasurer.

New members of the society's board of directors are Robert G. Evans, Raleigh; Jennifer Ford, University of Mississippi; Billy Glasco, MDAH; Willis H. Lott, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; Deanne Nuwer, University of Southern Mississippi; Teri Tillman, Natchez; and Charles Weissinger, Rolling Fork. New members of the board of publications are Jeanne Luckett, Jackson, and Dennis Mitchell, Mississippi State University-Meridian.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching, and preserving Mississippi History. It provides annual grants to support programs of the Junior Historical Society and publishes books, maps, and other materials aimed toward the education of the general public. Membership is open to anyone; benefits include receiving the quarterly Journal of Mississippi History, the monthly Mississippi History Newsletter, and discounts at the Mississippi History Store. For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6849 or see the MHS Web site.

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