By Howard Pousner
The Georgia Humanities Council honored nine individuals and three organizations at the 25th Governor’s Awards in the Humanities luncheon at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot on Tuesday. Those receiving Governor’s Awards included:
Carmen Bernal, Buford, a native of Cuba and teacher of foreign languages.
Deborah Ann Sieg Bowen, Blackshear, leader with the Okefenokee Heritage Center and Okefenokee Arts and Entertainment Alliance.
Mary Ellen Brooks, Athens, director of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia.
Rudolph Byrd, Atlanta, Emory University professor and director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies.
Rita Elliott, Rincon, curator of exhibits and archeology at the Coastal Heritage Society who created the ArchaeoBus, which travels the state with permanent archaeology exhibits.
Robynn Greer Holland, Locust Grove, former social studies coordinator for Clayton County and the Georgia Department of Education, now project coordinator for Teaching American History Grants.
Lucy Cline Huie, Jonesboro, historian who conducted oral history interviews with Clayton County residents from 1989 to 1998 and who helped Historic Jonesboro launch its Native American Heritage Day event.
Tom Key, Atlanta, Theatrical Outfit artistic director who has adapted or produced the works of Georgia and southern authors including Clarence Jordan, Harper Lee, Walker Percy, Truman Capote, Cormac McCarthy, Tennessee Williams and Horton Foote.
Ellie Loudermilk, Perry, now-retired teacher who has written two works of local history, has worked in community historic preservation and helped launch a cemetery tour that has been offered as part of Perry’s Fall Festival.
Davenport House Museum, Savannah. The campaign to save this Federal-style home of a merchant-craftsman inspired the creation of the Historic Savannah Foundation. The historic home stages a variety of programs about life in 19th century Georgia.
The Funk Heritage Center of Reinhardt College, Waleska. Shares stories of native American heritage and Georgia’s Appalachian frontier, and an important resource for educators and students of northwest Georgia.
McIntosh County Shouters, Bolden. For nearly three decades, the group has documented and presented the ring shout, a call-and-response form of song and dance that has been passed down among generations of African-Americans in McIntosh County. Folklorists consider the 250-year-old ring shout to be the oldest living African-American performance tradition.
The awarding of the honors was preceded by a lecture by Jim Leach, who became National Endowment for the Humanities chairman in August 2009 after representing Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. Leach is amid a 50-state “American Civility Tour.”
Leach expressed concern about polarizing rhetoric in American politics and the media, and encouraged open-mindedness in public discourse.
“Citizenship is a hard concept,” he said. ” It’s also hard to do. It takes a commitment to listen, watch, read and think in ways that allow the imagination, in an old-fashioned way, to put one person in the shoes of another.”
His biggest laugh was in response to opening remarks from University of Georgia president Michael Adams, who spoke of the school’s ongoing commitment to humanities curriculum. “One of the goals [of the Civility Tour] is to bring American politics up to the athletic ethic of the University of Georgia,” Leach said to great applause.