About the Spencer B. King, Jr., Center for Southern Studies

The mission of the Spencer B. King, Jr. Center for Southern Studies is to promote critical interdisciplinary examination of the southern region of the United States. We follow the propositions that the South means different things to different people and that the region is and has always been constantly changing. We cultivate open, engaging dialogue that The center is named in honor of Dr. Spencer B. King, Jr., late Professor of Southern History at Mercer Universityrepresents multiple perspectives and experiences, and we strive to make this dialogue accessible to scholars, students, and members of the community. As a center situated in a liberal arts college, our primary focus is teaching, and the southern studies major is the core of the center’s work.

The major in southern studies includes courses in southern history, literature, religion, politics, and African American studies, which leads to a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the region. Southern studies students take courses on the South and slavery, the Civil War, the New South, African American History, southern literature, and African American literature. They may also take unique topical courses such as Southern Jesus, Black Film History, Southern Foodways, or Flannery O’Connor. Southern Studies majors complete a thesis that culminates their investigation into the region and demonstrates their mastery of research methods. The center also offers Southern Semester, a program that attracts visiting international students to take southern studies courses alongside Mercer students. Students who have completed the major have gone on to graduate school in history and in English, to law school, to medical school, and to careers in historic preservation, journalism, education, business, and many other fields.

The center hosts several lecture series and programs that bring important scholars and writers to Mercer to share their work with students and the Macon community. Since 1957, Mercer has held the Lamar Memorial Lectures on Southern History and Culture, the nation’s premier scholarly lectures about the South. The Center awards the Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature, which is presented to writers who have made significant contributions to writing about the South over the course of their careers. Recently, the center added the Laurie Byington Lecture on the Contemporary South, which brings a scholar to Mercer to discuss a major issue affecting the South. The center also publishes the Journal of Southern Religion and hosts visiting lecturers, book talks, and movie screenings. For each of these events, our students have an opportunity to interact with some of the most important scholars and writers who think and write about the South.

In 2014, the center earned a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant to create a $2 million endowment for center activities. We will complete the challenge in the 2018-2019 academic year. This endowment will allow the King Center to expand its programming and incorporate undergraduate research travel. While a relatively new center in regional studies, the center draws on a rich institutional legacy of southern studies at Mercer.

For more information, please contact Doug Thompson, the Director of the Spencer B. King, Jr., Center for Southern Studies, at thompson_d@mercer.edu or (478) 301-2017.