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Mississippi is the State Most Interested in Black History Month

Students share a moment after the Black History Month Keynote Address with Eunique Jones. (Photo/Ariyl Onstott)

There’s more to February than Valentine’s Day and Mardis Gras celebrations. For many, it is a time to reconnect with their history and to learn about the forces that shaped them. February is national Black History Month.
According to Google Trends data, out of all the states in the Union, Mississippi is the one with the most searches for “Black History Month.” Following Mississippi are Alabama, South Carolina and Maryland.

Dr. Jennifer Stollman, academic director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on campus, has an idea why.
“I think that Mississippi’s well-known history of racism and activism encourages this response.  Over the past several years, there have been monumental anniversaries commemorating civil rights events that have happened in our state,” she said.
While Mississippi’s history likely informs its present interest in black history, recent events have also shaped this interest as well. Stollman says that in addition to Mississippi’s tenuous history with race, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the subsequent presidential election, and President Trump’s approach to civil rights have promoted an upsurge in grassroots activism. This activism, in turn, has encouraged a heightened interest in Black history in Mississippi.
For many students, this history is personal. Brittany Brown, a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, said, “It’s [Black History Month] a recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of black folks. Our history is so easily overlooked and this month gives us an opportunity to take pride in being who we are. Growing up, Black History Month was always big in school with speakers and celebrations, but coming to Ole Miss, I think Black History Month can be seen as an opportunity to share culture and educate others.”
Due to its past as well as its wealth of cultural richness and diversity, Mississippi is uniquely poised to educate others on Black history. Authors, journalists and activists alike have called Mississippi home while producing consciousness-raising work from Jerry Mitchell to James Meredith.
Stollman said, “I also think that our university serves as a model for creating excellent Black History Month programming. Because we are UM, many people are interested in coming to the University and interacting with our campus community members and seeing the history and the present.  I believe that we have such an important Black History Month because of our historical legacy with race and we have moral and educational responsibility to educate and empower people with history.”
Story contributed by Ariyl Onstott (ariylceleste@outlook.com).

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