COE professor Leslie Cordie part of multidisciplinary NEH grant on “Bloody Sunday”

September 3, 2021

An Auburn University multidisciplinary project focused on the infamous “Bloody Sunday” civil rights event that occurred in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, is the recipient of an award as part of $28.4 million in humanities grants recently announced by the National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH.

Leslie Cordie Head ShotLeslie Cordie, an associate professor in the College of Education’s Adult Education program, is serving as a Co-PI on the prestigious grant.

“Based on my background and experience in adult learning and professional development, my role on the project will be to help create and facilitate teacher workshops,” Cordie said. “I will also use my online instructional design skills to lead content development within an open Learning Management System (LMS). This system will support collaboration for not only teachers in the workshops, but also a wide range of other educators. To support the long-term goals of the project, I will help develop a Community of Practice (CoP) for the teachers to support the dissemination and sustainability of the project results.”

Co-directed by professors Elijah Gaddis and Keith Hébert of the Department of History, their project, titled “Bloody Sunday, Selma and the Long Civil Rights Movement,” is the recipient of an $189,837 award in the “Landmarks of American History and Culture” category. One of five awards in that category, Auburn’s grant will support a pair of week-long workshops to include 72 K-12 educators in field studies that focus on the significance of Selma in the early days of the civil rights movement.

“We plan to deeply immerse workshop participants in the landscape and built environment that existed in 1965 and in learning about the participants and events that led up to and included the march from Selma to Montgomery and the clash between marchers and law enforcement that came to be known as Bloody Sunday,” Gaddis said.

Gaddis described the Auburn team as multidisciplinary. The College of Liberal ArtsCollege of Architecture, Design and Construction, or CADC, are all involved, along with the College of Education.

The team’s efforts build on earlier research by Hébert and Richard Burt, the McWhorter Endowed Chair and head of the McWhorter School of Building Science in CADC. Along with Cordie, other team members include Junshan Liu, CADC, and Danielle Willkens of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and faculty from Alabama State University and a high school teacher from Selma.

In addition to her professional development role described above, Cordie will also facilitate the development of ePortfolios. She has experience in this area as affiliate faculty with University Writing, an area of her research expertise. She has provided workshops and webinars across the country and internationally on the topic of ePortfolios and their significance to teaching and learning.

“Recently, I have worked  with Drs. Hebert and Burt to develop a paper on culturally relevant teaching that will presented at the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) conference this fall,” she said. “The paper emphasizes the importance of collaborative projects and the significance of interdisciplinary communities of practice in terms of creating mutual understanding and competencies on equity and equality in our global world.”

According to Gaddis, the project will use much of the work that Drs. Hebert and Burt did on documenting the historic sites from that period in Selma’s history,” Gaddis said.

That earlier research used historical photos and video footage, photogrammetry software, laser scanners, drones and design concepts and technology to survey and map the area where the confrontation occurred. Through those efforts, the researchers were able to identify and chart the location of everything from local businesses, vehicles parked on the road and Alabama State Troopers, to the civil rights marchers, spectators and media, including the ABC News van that captured the events as they unfolded.

“This largely recreates the scene from 1965 in the form of schematics and computerized plans in a pursuit to preserve the setting of Bloody Sunday,” Gaddis said.

Edmund Petis Bridge in Selma AlabamaMost associate that Selma event with the well-known Edmund Pettus Bridge, according to Gaddis.

“But the confrontation did not occur on the bridge,” he said. “Our workshop will incorporate Hebert and Burt’s architectural landscape study with other in-depth studies and information about actual participants. Moreover, the workshops will not focus only on Selma, but also on other Alabama locations that were part of this significant event in the American civil rights movement.”

The NEH on Wednesday, Aug. 18, announced the full slate of $28.4 million in grants to support 239 humanities projects across the nation.

“The grants demonstrate the resilience and breadth of our nation’s humanities institutions and practitioners,” said NEH’s Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “From education programs that will enrich teaching in college and high school classrooms to multi-institutional research initiatives, these excellent projects will advance the teaching, preservation and understanding of history and culture.”

Gaddis said Auburn will begin hosting its workshops in summer of 2022 with events planned in Selma, Montgomery and Auburn.

“We will end the last day of the workshops on the steps of the Alabama Capitol Building, where the marchers ended their journey from Selma to Montgomery,” Gaddis said.