In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton inaugurated an unprecedented national conversation on race. “One America: The President’s Initiative on Race” marked the first time a sitting president had called for such a dialogue without the catalyst of a major crisis. It suggested, on a federal level, the importance of dealing positively with race relations on a daily basis.
Accepting the challenge to prod grassroots efforts, the University of Mississippi hosted the only deep-South public forum for One America. Preceded by dialogue groups representing ten constituency topics ranging from the arts to education to religion, the event highlighted elected delegates from each group. Sharing the insight and hopes of the more than 160 participants, the representatives crafted a frank yet civil discussion on one of our nation’s most difficult subjects.
The President’s staff hailed the UM experience as the single most successful of the entire Initiative year. That recognition encouraged the University to formalize its dialogue process with the creation of an institute to promote racial reconciliation and civic renewal.
Founded in 1999, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation builds more inclusive communities by promoting diversity and citizenship, and by supporting projects that help communities solve local challenges.
Through open communication, relationship-building, and truth-telling, the Winter Institute develops collaborative, knowledgeable leadership and community-building skills that increase capacities for positive social change. We perform this work in partner communities seeking to achieve fuller cooperation among the races.
Additionally, from primary schools to graduate classrooms, the Winter Institute promotes scholarly research and teaching on race and the impact of race and racism across traditional academic areas.
About our Programs
The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation’s programs focus on two overarching things: creating an equitable future by addressing fully, and together, our shared history; and helping our youth become engaged citizens.
- The Welcome Table equips diverse community stakeholders with the tools to work together and overcome local problems, both economic and social, caused by race. In the last ten years we have worked in more than 20 Mississippi communities and have moved beyond our state’s borders, partnering with, for example, Mayor Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans.
- The Summer Youth Institute, a 15-day civil/human rights and organizing experience for rising Mississippi high school sophomores and juniors, sends students home with projects to improve their communities. The third year of SYI saw more than 200 applicants for 28 spots, and we see as well the enduring positive effects throughout the state of SYI alums’ ongoing projects.
- The Mississippi Truth Project is a statewide effort to create a culture of truth telling that seeks to bring to light racial injustices and incidents of inequity suffered in Mississippi between 1945 and 1975 specifically and life in a segregated society during the 20th century.
How to Help
Click on the button at the top of the page that says “Help Us End Discrimination Based on Difference” and find out!