Dear Colleague,

We invite you to participate in Cotton Culture in the U.S. South, 1865-1965, a five-week summer institute on teaching the history and culture of the South to be held from June 24 to July 27, 2012 at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

From the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, cotton was the primary economic product of several southern states. As cotton production increased in the first half of the nineteenth century, Native Americans were displaced from their ancestral lands, plantations and farms expanded across the South, and slaves performed much manual labor. balesThe cotton culture of the Old South led inexorably to the Civil War. Almost all American students learn about the antebellum history of cotton, but not as many know what happened to the South’s cotton economy after the war. The South continued to be a racially segregated cotton-based society for another hundred years. This institute will focus attention on the culture of cotton in the South from 1865 to 1965, and you will learn what happened in the South economically, politically, and intellectually during this period. As a participant in this institute you will study agricultural methods, textile production, politics, labor, ideology, class structure, religion, literature, music, film, art, and architecture all through the lens of the South's cotton culture.

By focusing on cotton as a common point of reference, this institute will give you a comprehensive multidisciplinary understanding of southern history and culture. We will come to see the connections between economic, social, and cultural systems.

During the institute:

  • you will learn from experts on southern history and culture
  • you will visit important sites in cotton culture, such as a plantation, a working farm, and a textile mill
  • you will generate new ideas for teaching about cotton culture
  • you will share ideas with a community of scholars and friends both in person during the institute and online after the institute

We have designed the sequence of workshops in three units. The first unit examines the tangible aspects of cotton cultivation and processing, the second unit analyzes the political and social system based on the crop, and the third unit explores the cultural aspects of the cotton-based society. Progressing in this manner will allow participants to understand and interpret the different aspects of southern culture and to make connections between the different disciplinary perspectives.

The institute will feature many expert instructors in southern studies. The program directors, Sarah Gardner, David A. Davis, and Doug Thompson will attend workshops, providing continuity for the entire institute. Visiting experts on geography, history, politics, literature, music, art, and architecture will present workshops on cotton's role in southern history and culture. You will be expected to attend all workshops and events and to complete all readings and projects assigned by workshop leaders.

The five-week institute will accommodate twenty-five teachers. You will receive a $3900 stipend to help offset travel and living expenses, and you may stay on campus. You will also have access the Mercer University library, workout facilities, pool, dining hall, and other facilities.

Macon, Georgia, is hot in the summer. Daytime temperatures often move into the nineties and sometimes above, so plan to dress comfortably. Since Sherman’s troops did not burn Macon, it boasts one of the finest collections of antebellum homes in Georgia, including the Hay House and the Cannonball House. And the Middle Georgia area has many cultural and educational resources related to the culture of cotton.

For actively participating in and completing the institute, you will receive professional development points (PDPs or CEUs) according to your school district's guidelines. Typically, we will provide you with a letter to take to your superintendent who will then award credit.

To apply to attend the institute, please complete the online cover sheet located at You should then print out the form and mail three copies of it, along with three copies of your resume and application essay. For more information, see the application information page of this website. Please send applications to:

Carmen Hicks
1400 Coleman Ave.
Mercer University
Macon, GA 31207

We also require two letters of recommendation in support of your application. Please note that all applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2012 to guarantee consideration. Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on April 2, 2012, and they will have until April 6 to accept or decline the offer.

Please consult other pages on this website for more detailed information about the schedule of events, our faculty, accommodations, and travel. You can direct any additional questions by email to

We look forward to meeting you and to studying southern history and culture with you.


Sarah Gardner
David A. Davis
Doug Thompson