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CCRI awarded grant to promote
Civil War discussions
June 17, 2011
The Community College of Rhode Island has been awarded a grant to host public reading and discussion programs about the Civil War in commemoration of the war’s 150th anniversary this year.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA) have awarded grants to 65 libraries throughout the country for “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War,” a series that will engage participants in discussion of a set of common texts that probe the meanings of the country’s deadliest war.
CCRI will receive 25 copies of “March” by Geraldine Brooks and “Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam” by James McPherson and 50 copies of “America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries,” a new Civil War anthology of historical fiction, speeches, diaries, memoirs, biography and short stories edited by historian Edward L. Ayers and co-published by NEH and ALA.
Associate Professors Jack Every and Kathy Blessing applied for the grant this spring. Every, who teaches in the college’s Social Sciences Department, holds a doctorate in Civil War history and Blessing, a reference librarian at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln, has been conducting research in Civil War resources. This spring, the two gave a presentation titled “American Civil War Sesquicentennial: CCRI Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Civil War” on April 12, which is the date the war began. They also presented “Remembering the American Civil War” later that week at the college’s Professional Development Day.
A cohort of up to 50 people will participate in five discussions – three on selections from the anthology and one each on “March” and “Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam” – beginning next spring.
More information about how to participate will be forthcoming. Every said they soon will begin recruiting participants including professors, students, teachers and members of the public. He is excited to partner with Morgan Grefe, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Society, to get the word out to the society’s many contacts, particularly the state’s secondary history teachers – some of whom are his former students. Grefe and Every both serve on the Rhode Island Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
“Our hope is that by including teachers in the discussion, they will then go back and share this knowledge with their students and colleagues,” Every said. “Teachers are one of the target groups for the discussions, but all are welcome to participate.”
Every said he thought the college’s application was strong, but initially only 50 grants were to be awarded. “Based on numbers alone, I wondered about our chances so I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the news,” he said. “I was hoping we would get this one.”
Ruth Sullivan, dean of learning resources at CCRI, said news of the grant award has built enthusiasm for the project. “It’s hard not to be excited. This not only promotes reading, but it makes a connection to the Civil War and its anniversary. Everything comes together nicely.”
Sullivan said the grant award speaks to the quality of the work Every and Blessing put into the application. “There were 175 applicants, so it was far more competitive than we originally anticipated,” she said. “It is a real feather in our cap to get this.”
In addition to the books, the college also will receive a $3,000 grant from the NEH to support program-related expenses, promotional materials and training for Blessing and Every at a national orientation workshop in Chicago this October.