More than one year ago, the faculty in Southern Studies at Mercer University submitted a Challenge Grant to the National Endowment of the Humanities for $500,000 that would help create a $2 million endowment for a Center of Southern Studies. As with most grant applications, we felt good about our narrative but never imagined we would receive the grant in our first application. In early December 2014, we received word that we had indeed won the award. The university is in fundraising mode to raise the matching money, which occurs over a five year period.
Last August, I submitted a manuscript to a university press for possible publication. After some delays, in January they announced that the press was ready to send the manuscript to outside readers. The book examines how religious leaders in Richmond, Virginia, navigated the 1950s and the prompts for changes in the the segregated city. Richmond was full of priests and prophets who nudged white churches to embrace the changing social landscape as well as those who urged believers to remain steadfast in the cultural segregation. The prompts to change might have meant that the spectacles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s could have been avoided, but they also show why those public moments were necessary. There is no easy narrative to explain how white congregations engaged the CRM.
In February, a film crew with C-SPAN American History TV taped a lecture for the American survey course I taught this past semester on the Bible in American History. Since I cannot watch myself on television, I am uncomfortable sharing this. The problem for me is that the segment on the Bible and Slavery (under the title Religion and Slavery) is available online. The crew filmed a bridge lecture between the way slaveowners interpreted the Bible in light of slavery and how the enslaved interpreted those same scriptures. The writing of the lecture was satisfying even as the presence of the film crew was disconcerting. The crew, however, was wonder and the students did a fantastic job.
As editor of the Journal of Southern Religion, I also spent the past year moving the journal to a new dynamic server with a dedicated url (jsreligion.org) and worked to create a rolling release system. The journal will post content as it becomes available over the course of the volume year. JSR looks forward to producing book reviews within the calendar year of the book’s publication. In the future the journal is also exploring the use of dynamic content within articles to heighten the reader’s experience. All of these things are new and exciting for the journal.
In a year when so many good things are happening, it is sometimes difficult to stop and share the news. I suppose that I wonder whether folks would really care. Or I worry that folks will think I am pandering to my ego. At the end of the academic year, however, I thought it would be a good idea to share how my intellectual world has expanded and the ways that I am engaged in the profession.