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William Winter Scholars Represent UM at Natchez Celebration

Staff Report

University of Mississippi

A University of Mississippi professor and student will be recognized and another professor will give a presentation during the 34th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

Latrice Johnson, a master’s student in English and gender studies from Oklahoma City, and Eva Payne, an assistant professor of history, will be named 2023 William Winter scholars during the event, which takes place Feb. 23-24. Jodi Skipper, associate professor of anthropology and Southern studies, will take part in a panel discussion on “Changing the Narrative and Telling a More Complete Story.” 

Organized by Copiah-Lincoln Community College, the celebration is known as “Mississippi’s most significant annual conference devoted to literature, history, film and culture.” Each year, one student and one faculty member from each university is recognized as a William Winter scholar, in honor of the former governor known for his contributions to education. 

A John Smartt Summer Scholar for the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions, Johnson wrote an entry on the murder of James Craig Anderson for UM’s award-winning Mississippi Encyclopedia and is writing the book chapter “Depictions of the (Black) Southern Belle on Reality Television” for “The Living Legacy of African American Studies: Its Past, Present, and Future(s)” at University of Georgia Press. In 2022, she presented “#BlackInTheIvory: On Being Black in Higher Education” at the UM Forum on Race and Ethnicity. 

“I look forward to learning from and networking with outstanding humanities scholars from across the state,” Johnson said. 

Payne, a historian of the 19th- and 20th-century United States with a focus on gender and sexuality, co-directs Invisible Histories Project Mississippi, a Mellon Foundation-funded project documenting and preserving the state’s LGBTQ+ history through oral histories and archival collecting. 

Payne acknowledged the honor of being selected. 

“The program is full of fascinating scholars, writers and filmmakers, and I’m particularly excited to attend my UM colleague Dr. Jodi Skipper’s panel,” she said.

Skipper is the author of “Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race and Heritage in the U.S. South” (University of Iowa Press, 2022). Joining her on the panel discussion is Elizabeth Brownyn Boyd, author of “Southern Beauty, Race, Ritual and Memory in the Modern South” (University of Georgia Press, 2022).

Together, they will discuss Mississippi’s cultural heritage tourism and the difficulties and possibilities of presenting the history of slavery. 

Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs for the College of Liberal Arts and distinguished professor of modern languages, encourages faculty, staff and alumni to join the university’s representatives at the event. 

“This year’s Natchez Celebration looks to be, once again, an exciting and important gathering of students, faculty and scholars interested in literature, history and film,” Dyer said. “The College of Liberal Arts is proud to send Dr. Payne and Ms. Johnson as representatives from our university. They were selected enthusiastically by a committee of faculty and staff to participate in the conference.”

Free and open to the public, the two-day event is slated at the Natchez Convention Center. Joining Copiah-Lincoln Community College as co-sponsors are the city of Natchez, Adams County Board of Supervisors, Visit Natchez, Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Mississippi Humanities Council and National Park Service.


Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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