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Willson Center receives $1M Mellon Foundation grant

Alan Flurry

The UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts has received a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to partner with Penn Center, one of the nation’s most important institutions of African American culture. The partnership will support education and sharing among communities in the Sea Islands region of the Southeastern United States and students from UGA and its partner institutions.

Located on St. Helena Island, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, Penn Center is a nonprofit organization committed to African American education, community development and social justice. It also serves as a gathering place for meetings, educational institutions and planning activities within the Sea Island Gullah Geechee communities.

Penn Center is situated within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a National Heritage Area established by the U.S. Congress to recognize the unique culture of the Gullah Geechee people — descendants of formerly enslaved West and Central Africans who have traditionally resided in the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Barbara McCaskill, professor of English and associate academic director of the Willson Center, and Nicholas Allen, who holds an endowed chair in humanities and directs the Willson Center, will lead the project, “Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District.” Its range of programs will include community-based artist residencies, in-place studies for students at UGA and partner institutions, and a series of public conversations.


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