OVERVIEW: Vermont Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Vermont Humanities Council
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Subject: African American/Black, Cross-Cultural Understanding, Gender, History, Journalism, Poetry, Varies Audience: All

The Vermont Humanities Council’s (VHC) Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfire Initiative was a statewide, year-long celebration and exploration of Pulitzer Prize-winning works. More than 2,600 people participated in 60 events and programs happened in 10 of 14 Vermont counties. VHC’s Pulitzer programming consisted of four main components: public lectures, reading and discussion programs, a Pulitzer-themed Literature & Medicine series, and an event centered on Vermont Pulitzer winner David Moats (Editorial Writing, 2001).

FIRST WEDNESDAY TALKS

16 Pulitzer-related lectures were held each month in nine venues statewide.  There were thirteen different talks and, in total, 1,576 people attended.

  1. William Carlos Williams: America’s Most Revolutionary Twentieth Century Poet with UVM professor Huck Gutman on how Williams changed American and world poetry forever by creating a new poetic language and forms.
  1. Wallace Stevens and the Art of the Empty Mind with Yale Professor of English and Dean of Humanities Amy Hungerford on how Stevens set out to clear away a Romantic view of nature and see the world freshly in his distinctly modern poetry.
  1. Putting the Sword to Pen with journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Rumor of War Philip Caputo who reflected on how, in his work, war is a context in which our contradictory natures play out, often with stark clarity.
  1. Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson who chronicled one of the greatest stories of American history – the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life – a movement that reshaped culture and politics and set in motion racial challenges faced today.
  1. Crises in the Middle East: Difficult Choices for our Next President with New York Times Paris Bureau Chief and 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alissa Johannsen Rubin.
  1. Joseph Pulitzer and the American Republic with Boston College professor Heather Cox Richardson who explored Pulitzer’s remarkable life – his work in newspapers pushing clean government and middle-class values, his invention of a new kind of journalism, and his major role in creating the world today.
  1. Robert Frost in the World with Middlebury professor and Frost biographer Jay Parini who explored how Robert Frost became America’s favorite poet by writing accessible poems, creating a uniquely appealing persona, and pioneering the public reading of poems.
  1. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis with writer Reeve Lindbergh who told how the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane in which 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh made his non-stop New York-to-Paris flight, was also the vehicle that brought together her father and mother, and established a family.
  1. Who Stole the American Dream? with Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, author, and Frontline writer, who chronicled four decades of changes in Washington policy-making and mindset, and their effect on the middle class.
  1. The Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service with author Roy Harris who told stories of the coveted prize awarded annually to a newspaper, and considers the profound contribution great journalism has made and still makes today.
  1. The Future of Investigative Reporting with David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times and member of two Pulitzer-winning investigative teams, who looked at what investigative reporting takes and what it will take in the future.
  1. Confused by the News? with veteran journalists Cynthia Skrzycki and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shribman who examined the contemporary news scene with an eye to helping people discern truth from untruth, professional from amateur, and the enduring from the ephemeral.
  1. In this Here Place: Race, Nation, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved with UVM professor Emily Bernard who explored how Beloved argues that America must reckon with the consequences of the nation’s original sin – slavery.
  1. Celebrating E. B. White with Dartmouth professor Nancy Jay Crumbine who celebrated White’s versatility and enormous legacy.
  1. 43rd Annual Fall Conference, held November 4-5, entitled “Looking at Leadership through the Humanities.” The opening keynote speaker was Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch whose talk, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Lessons in Leadership,” explored how the citizens’ movement around Dr. King is a patriotic model for the future, not only the past, promising once again to overcome gridlock and other intractable barriers along with race.
  1. Alissa Johannsen Rubin Lecture, held August 5th, was a partnership with the Paramount theater and Spring Lake Ranch Therapeutic Community. New York Times Paris Bureau Chief and 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alissa Johannsen Rubin spoke on her work and the nature of journalism today.

READING AND DISCUSSION GROUPS

37 reading and discussion sessions were held in twelve different towns, hosted by ten public libraries, a senior living community, and the military museum at Norwich University. A total of 377 people attended these sessions. Below are the titles of the nine series that were created. The book lists and descriptions for these series can be found in the catalog here.

  1. A Hard Look at America
  2. Forces of Nature
  3. Required Reading
  4. Family History
  5. The Changing South
  6. 20th Century Jewish Lives
  7. International Migrations
  8. Pulitzer Plays
  9. Based on a Real Life

LITERATURE & MEDICINE

In keeping with the idea of using Pulitzer-winning works to engage in conversations about healthcare, VHC selected Pulitzer Prize winning works to include into their Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare programs. Three Literature and Medicine sites- the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury, and Copley Hospital in Morrisville participated in reading and discussing Pulitzer Prize-winning works in 2016.

FILM SCREENING AND DISCUSSION: THE STATE OF MARRIAGE

The film details the previously untold story of how legal pioneer Mary Bonauto partnered with Vermont lawyers Beth Robinson and Susan Murray in a two-decade struggle that built the foundation for the entire marriage equality movement. Despite fierce opposition, Vermont became the first state to grant same sex couples legal recognition through a groundbreaking 1999 State Supreme Court decision and through Civil Unions in 2000, and the first to legalize marriage equality by legislative vote in 2009. The film screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring David Moats, filmmaker Jeff Kaufman, activist Sherry Corbin, and state legislators Bill Lippert and Alice Nitka. The event was held in the Pavilion Building Auditorium, only a hundred-yard walk from the Vermont State House.  108 people attended, including many legislators, legislative staff members, and participants in the marriage equality movement.

David Moats also spoke to a group of 40 students at Rutland Senior High School in December about the struggle for marriage equality in Vermont and the role of journalism in a democracy.

PARTNERSHIPS:

  • Vermont Public Libraries
  • Paramount Theater
  • Spring Lake Ranch Therapeutic Community
  • Norwich University
  • Rutland Senior High School

EVENT LOCATIONS:

  • Norwich, VT
  • St. Johnsbury, VT
  • Newport, VT
  • Manchester, VT
  • Essex Junction, VT
  • Brattleboro, VT
  • Montpelier, VT
  • Middlebury, VT
  • Rutland, VT
  • Burlington, VT

PULITZER PRIZE PARTICIPANTS:

  • David Moats, Editorial Writing (2001)
  • Philip Caputo, Investigative Reporting (1973)
  • Isabel Wilkerson, Feature Writing (1994)
  • Alissa Johansson Rubin, International Reporting (2016)
  • Hedrick Smith, International Reporting (1974)
  • David Sanger, National Reporting & Public Service (1999, 2002)
  • David Shribman, Beat Reporting (1995)

To view the Pulitzer Prizes spotlight page and overview of all council participation, please click the “Learn More” button below.

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