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Mississippi Humanities Awards Lift Up Democracy and Black History Across State

Experiencing the loss of a sibling for the first time after his sister—one of nine siblings—recently passed away following a heart attack, Roscoe Barnes III prayed to his Lord for some good news, anything to lift his spirits. On Nov. 17, 2022, he checked his email and came across a message from Dr. Stuart Rockoff with the Mississippi Humanities Council. 

“Roscoe, I am very excited to inform you that the Council has chosen you to receive our 2023 Humanities Partner Award!” the email began. “You will be recognized at our 2023 Public Humanities Awards Gala, to be held Friday, March 24th, at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson.”

Barnes had to reread the email before the news finally registered with his brain. Immediately, surprise and gratitude overwhelmed him so much that he burst into healing, joyful tears.

“I had no idea that that type of recognition would be given to me,” Barnes told the Mississippi Free Press. “I just felt so grateful because somebody appreciates the work that I’m doing.”

Dr. Williams Reynolds Ferris accepted the Cora Norman Award for his distinguished career as a scholar and national leader in the field of humanities. Photo courtesy Mississippi Humanities Council

The Humanities Partner Award honors a person or organization that has worked with the council to broaden its scope and reach new audiences. Barnes, a cultural heritage tourism manager for Visit Natchez, will receive the 2023 award for his work in helping the Mississippi Humanities Council reach new organizations in Natchez and in supporting efforts to preserve Natchez’s Black history. 

“It’s a bit of encouragement. It lets you know that you are not forgotten, that the work you’re doing matters, that somewhere, somehow the work you’re doing is having an impact,” Barnes said. “People see it, people recognize it, and that hit me like a revelation.”

‘Reclaiming and Highlighting’

Since the 1990s, the Mississippi Humanities Council has recognized outstanding achievements with the Public Humanities Award, calling for nominations in their newsletters and website before convening and discussing the submitted names. Afterward, the council narrows down the list to a selection of

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