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Kansas African Studies Center receives NEH grant

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

LAWRENCE — The Kansas African Studies Center at the University of Kansas has received $140,000 in funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to launch public discussions, community programming and the creation of educational resources in local communities to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding recent demographic changes in the region. With close to 10,000 African immigrants living today in the heartland metropolitan centers of Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Wichita and Garden City, a new project will facilitate the sharing of migration stories about Africans within Midwestern communities. 

Following a public forum and teleconference in spring 2016 on migration stories in the Midwest, community programming will include humanities workshops in storytelling, poetry, theatre and visual art. The center will work with two community partners, the Kansas Humanities Council and the Kansas City public radio station KCUR, to sponsor radio shows, film and book discussions, and webinar research talks. Three KU units, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center and the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, will also contribute their expertise to the yearlong project.

“The U.S. celebrates itself as a nation of immigrants, and this project gives voice to the recent experiences of African families while also asking local residents of host communities to share their narratives about receiving new African immigrants into their cities and towns,” said Elizabeth MacGonagle, director of the Kansas African Studies Center and associate professor of history and African-American studies. “By harnessing the power of compelling stories, we aim to increase understanding across civic and cultural divides in heartland spaces to build healthy communities for the common good.”  

This grant comes from a new program of the National Endowment for the Humanities called “Humanities in the Public Square.” The initiative puts humanities scholars in direct dialogue with the public about some of the most pressing issues of today.

“The humanities are one of the best ways of engaging people in conversations about the demographic and cultural shifts taking place in our communities,” said Byron Caminero-Santangelo, professor of English and environmental studies and interim director of the center. “Social science research on migration has documented the ebbs and flows of movement, but this project emphasizes the widespread significance of the humanities to current national conversations about immigrants and migration.”        

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