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A $2.5 million grant from Lilly...

A $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment will strengthen religion programs

By: Sarah Warnock - January 13, 2023

The grant will support programs, activities, and projects focused on the understanding and interpretation of the role of religion in Mississippi history and culture.

Religion is a deep part of Mississippi’s culture. The study and preservation of our history would not be possible without acknowledging the role faith has played and continues to play in the lives of Mississippians. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Foundation for Mississippi History to help the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) support and promote programs, activities, and projects focused on the understanding and interpretation of the role of religion in Mississippi history and culture. 

We are both grateful for the support and excited about what this will mean for people in our state. Lilly Endowment made the grant through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, a nationwide effort to help museums and other cultural institutions improve the public understanding of religion. 

Through the grant, the Two Mississippi Museums will begin offering free group tours this summer to faith-affiliated communities in Mississippi—groups who attend churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, house churches, and more. 

The foundation’s generosity will help more Mississippians experience these museums. Building an endowment to underwrite field trips for Mississippi students was paramount to our initial vision. With the recent passage of the five-year anniversary of the Two Museums, Lilly Endowment helps to build on that momentum and expand our educational outreach.  

The Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum treat comprehensively the history of religion—from the spiritual beliefs of Native Americans to the conflicting religious convictions of slaveholders and enslaved people, to the leadership of people of faith during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Support from Lilly Endowment will enable MDAH to broaden its audiences and engage them in new and exciting ways. For example, MDAH will invest in capital improvements at Historic Jefferson College near Natchez and at the Huddleston Memorial Chapel at Natchez College, a historically Black college open from 1884 to 1989. In addition, the grant will make MDAH’s archival collections related to religion more accessible to the public. 

MDAH is one of sixteen organizations from across the United States receiving grants through the latest round of the initiative. The Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative began in 2019 with an initial group of eighteen grants. The group includes fine arts museums, historical societies and history museums, libraries, historic sites, museums dedicated to serving children and families and museums dedicated to particular geographic locations and cultures. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. 

We are glad the Lilly Endowment saw the value in a Mississippi investment, one that should help enrich understanding and appreciation of the role of religion in the Magnolia State for years to come. 

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Warnock

Sarah Warnock is the director of public relations at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.