NEH Grant Supports Local History

Marlboro College is pleased to be part of a local consortium that was awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to share the Brattleboro area’s rich literary history. The three-year, Creating Humanities Communities grant will be used to illuminate the local history of authors, stories, literature, publishing, and printing, to cultivate a greater sense of place for those who live here as well as attract and inform visitors to the area.

“The project really builds on this concept of place-based learning by linking physical places to their history,” said William Edelglass, Marlboro professor of philosophy who spearheaded the grant submission with Lissa Weinmann , co-owner of 118 Elliot. “We will bring scholars to classrooms who will engage students in exploring the places from a variety of humanities lenses—philosophy, history, art, sociology—and raise questions about the meaning of the history of these places.”

“Peoples, Places, and History of Words in Brattleboro, Vermont,” known as the Words Project, plans to build community through collaborative activities including creating audio tours linked to key places in and around Brattleboro, exhibitions, and a book on local printing and publishing history. Five core institutions—Marlboro College, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Brattleboro Historical Society, Brooks Memorial Library, and Write Action—submitted the grant and must raise the matching $150,000 in the next three years. These institutions are currently joined in support of the project by Brooks Memorial Library, the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU), the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, and The Commons newspaper, among others.

“Working toward the Creating Humanities Communities grant inspired an ambitious vision among groups who hadn’t engaged in such mutually beneficial cooperation and planning before,” said Lissa Weinmann, project director . “ The NEH match is an important vote of confidence; it gives us a leg-up to raise the additional funds needed to ensure everyone can share the sense of pride and connection to Brattleboro this project aims to cultivate.”

The project was kicked off at this year’s Brattleboro Literary Festival in October, with a new MILES (Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space) traveling museum featuring an exhibit about the nation’s first known African American poet, Lucy Terry Prince, a freed slave who lived in Guilford, Vermont. The exhibit was inspired by Marlboro alumna Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina ’72, the Paul Murray Kendall Chair in Biography, University of Massachusetts, and author of Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary 18th-Century Family Moved out of Slavery and into Legend, who also spoke at the festival. Marlboro’s new visual arts professor Amy Beecher curated and designed the exhibit with a team of collaborators, and Marlboro students presented a spoken word and movement performance based on the poet’s life.

“Celebrating the life of Lucy Terry Prince through dance was a phenomenal experience,” said Moon Livingston (pictured right, with Marlboro faculty Amy Beecher, Meg Mott, and William Edelglass), a sophomore studying dance, ritual, and culture, who choreographed and performed a piece for the project. “Once I clarified to myself how I intended to embody her and why, there was no stopping us. Us? Yes! Lucy was alive when I danced. She had somehow found me 150 years later, and I wanted to make her proud and show how alive, loud, and powerful she still is today.”

“Lucy’s story and the whole Words Project have inspired Marlboro College students to become more actively engaged in Brattleboro as an incredibly rich learning environment,” said Amy Beecher.