During our 50th Anniversary Celebration, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage will continue to dig deep into our collection to bring you significant stories of Mississippians from all walks of life.
On the 25th Anniversary of the Mississippi Humanities Council’s founding, Dr. Cora Ellen Norman made this observation on being selected as the group’s first Executive Director. “If I were being interviewed for [the] job today, there is no one in the humanities in the nation that would hire me. I had no background in the humanities.”
Indeed, someone with a master’s in chemistry and physics seems an unlikely choice to champion the humanities in our state, but it turned out to be the right choice. Norman brought a passion and commitment to the task of developing programs for the betterment of all our citizens that far outsized her slight stature. In this interview from 1997, recorded soon after her twenty-four-year tenure ended, she pulls no punches in recounting the challenges they faced.
1997 – In 1972, Cora Norman was working in Continuing Education at the University of Mississippi. In this episode, she recounts being hired as director of a new statewide Public Humanities program. Early Mississippi Humanities Council programs focused on improving education. Norman recalls the reluctance of school superintendents to host these public forums.
Convincing civic groups to host Humanities Council events required spending a lot of time in the field. Norman explains how limited staffing made being out of the office even more difficult.
The Mississippi Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau “features our state’s finest historians, writers and storytellers talking about a wide variety of subjects related to Mississippi and beyond.” Norman reflects with pride on the positive impact the program had during her tenure as director.
Dr. Cora Ellen Norman, 94, passed away on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.