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News Release

For immediate use:

Nov. 20, 2007

Stone Center awarded NEA grant for community reading program

CHAPEL HILL – The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be one of 127 organizations nationwide joining the federal government’s Big Read program next spring.

The center was awarded a $5,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for a community-wide reading project in April. The book will be Zora Neale Hurston’s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” In the story, Hurston’s main character, Janie Crawford, matures from a voiceless, inhibited teenager to a woman who establishes her own destined path.

The endowment recently awarded grants of $2,500 to $20,000 each, totaling more than $1.5 million, to 127 libraries, towns and education and cultural groups chosen for the Big Read in the first half of 2008. The number of proposals received was not available, but spokesperson Paulette Beete called the selection process “very competitive.”

Conducted by the endowment and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Big Read began as a pilot program in 10 communities last year and aims to involve 400 in 2009. Its goals are to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment and build a new generation of readers.

Awardees will receive readers’ and teachers’ guides, audio guides and other materials. Local programs may include events such as read-a-thons, book discussions and film screenings. The Stone Center’s activities will be announced in March, and the center will seek to arrange for discounts on the book at local stores, said Lotticia Mack of the center, the project director.

“The Stone Center is honored to be among the chosen communities,” she said. “We invite faculty, staff, students and community members to begin reading the novel in anticipation of activities slated to occur in April. We hope that collaborative efforts by the local and campus communities will establish a long-term literary coalition that will ascend toward the Big Read initiative of restoring reading to the center of American culture.”

For more information on the national program and a list of grant winners, visit For more on the Stone Center project, call (919) 962-9001.

Stone Center Web site:

Stone Center contact: Olympia Friday, (919) 962-7265,
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589