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Bourgeois wins humanities award

Oxford resident Louis Bourgeois has received a nod from a state organization for his efforts at helping prison inmates keep their minds fresh.

The Mississippi Humanities Council announced recently its recipients for its 2016 Public Humanities Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities.

Bourgeois, 45, founder of Mississippi Prison Writes, won the humanities educator award, and is excited to be honored.

“It is a high honor to be recognized by such an esteemed institution as the Mississippi Humanities Council,” he said. “They truly believe in the educational work we are doing in Mississippi prisons and I am humbled by the award. The program is expanding semester by semester and hopefully this award will bring us enough attention to expand even further over the next year. It may be that the Mississippi Prison Writes initiative is the most important education program in the state.”

The program, Bourgeois said, is the only liberal arts program in the state for Mississippi inmates. For the last two years, it has offered creative writing and philosophy workshops, but next year he hopes to include theater, painting, music lessons and screenwriting.   

“I’ve been amazed by how quickly inmates learn material they never even had the slightest background in,” he said. “Teaching Mississippi inmates, men, women and children, has actually restored my interest in teaching, something I lost when teaching at the university. Also, some of the writing that’s coming out of the program is sheer genius, and it is a privilege to be able to publish and distribute this amazing stuff.”

Bourgeois will receive his award Feb. 12 in Jackson.

“This year’s winners embody our philosophy that the humanities are for everyone,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Council. “Their outstanding work shows the impact the humanities can have on individuals and our communities. We are pleased to honor their commitment to reaching the diverse population of our state.”

The Mississippi Humanities Council is funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi.

“The Mississippi Humanities Council has supported us from the very beginning,” Bourgeois said. “I have never met more generous and intelligent people before in all my years in the arts industry.”