Prison-to-College Pipeline Program

University of Mississippi

PTCPP at Parchman, Part 4

In Summer 2018, the PTCPP offered a new interdisciplinary literature and history course at Parchman. The course, entitled “Mississippi: Then and Now,” was team-taught by Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi, and Dr. Otis W. Pickett, Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi College. In the course, students examined, from literary and historical perspectives, the evolution of civil rights struggle in Mississippi and its relationship to the pursuit of democratic life in Mississippi and the United States at large.

Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander (back left), Dr. Otis W. Pickett (back right), PTCPP Teaching Assistant Allison Serraes (front left) and PTCPP Intern Julia James (front right) and the 17 graduates from the Summer 2018 PTCPP course at Parchman, “Mississippi: Then and Now.”
(Photo Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Corrections)

Of particular emphasis in the course was how and why Mississippi-born orators, activists, and writers have exposed the presence of hypocrisy in the practice of U.S. democracy—whether in Mississippi, in the South, or elsewhere in the nation. Participants traced the development of this (counter-)history of U.S. democracy and opposition to it through the literature of Ida B. Wells, Richard Wright, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ralph Eubanks, Jesmyn Ward, and Kiese Laymon, and through historical texts about Mississippi. In Summer 2019, an enhanced version of this course has been offered at Parchman. The enhanced course, entitled “Mississippi: Then and Now 2.0,” affords course participants engagement with more Mississippi authors and activists—including Anne Moody and Winson Hudson, and the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders—as well as more comparative contexts, and more writing assignments.