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April 29, 2022

SFC Professor Awarded NEH Grant to Complete Blues Film Project

Blues master Fred McDowell (left) talks to Bobby Ray Watson at the 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival. Photo: Ted Bruehl

On April 13, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that associate professor Augusta Palmer, Ph.D., chair of the Communication Arts department at St. Francis College (SFC), had been awarded a grant in the amount of $291,480 to complete her documentary film “The Blues Society.”

Palmer’s film is among 245 humanities projects nationwide that will receive funding — totaling more than $33 million — as part of the NEH’s latest grant cycle. It is worth noting that the NEH funds only 13% of media grant applicants, such as Palmer. Moreover, the NEH awarded her the full amount she requested to complete her feature-length documentary, which explores the legacy of the Memphis Country Blues Festival. Held annually from 1966 through 1970, the festival drew blues masters and beatniks alike, creating a utopian event in segregated Tennessee that rocked the foundations of a conservative world. Palmer will use the NEH grant for post-production of her film and the development of a related website offering teaching resources.

Said Palmer upon receiving the news: “The best part of the NEH process is that it encouraged me to put together a dream team of scholars and writers to give our team feedback on the film and to help me craft educational materials for its website. I have already learned a tremendous amount from this diverse group of scholars and writers: Dr. William Ferris, Robert Gordon, Dr. Charles Hughes, Dr. Charles McKinney, Dr. Cheryl Keyes, Dr. Kimberly Mack, Dr. Tyina Steptoe and Dr. Elijah Wald. I am thrilled that this NEH grant will allow me to work with them further on this exciting project.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

Editor’s note
: Palmer’s film also has been awarded a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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