William E. Lass Research Grants Send 2 Graduate Students to England, Tennessee, Mississippi

The two projects study history to address problems related to an understanding of poverty, civil rights, colonialism and ethnic nationalism.

May 22, 2018 |

Mankato, Minn. – Two graduate students in Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of History are traveling this summer to England and the American South to conduct archival research for their master’s projects, thanks to recently awarded financial assistance from the Department’s William E. Lass Research Grant.

The two projects study history to address problems related to an understanding of poverty, civil rights, colonialism and ethnic nationalism.

Graduate student Pheeraphong Jampee (B.A., history, Bemidji State University ’17), is visiting London, England, in May and June to conduct research for his thesis project entitled “Thai Irredentism and the Shan States Freedom League, 1946-1962.”

Graduate student Jonathan Soucek (B.S., history and political science, Minnesota State Mankato ’17) will visit Memphis, Tenn., and Cleveland, Miss., in July to conduct research for his thesis project: “Highway 61 Revisited: A Social History of the Poor People’s Campaign in Memphis and the Mississippi Delta.”

Following are Minnesota State Mankato Department of History summaries of the two students’ projects:

(Pheeraphong Jampee's project) – The Shanland/Shan States region of modern Myanmar was once a part of Thailand. The Shan people share a language and, since the 1940s, television and radio airwaves with neighboring Thais. Jampee’s thesis will examine how Thai nationalist propaganda of the postwar period influenced the Shan “freedom” campaign in the Union of Burma, the successor state to the British colony of Burma. Jampee has identified a set of English-language sources for this study, which he will use in conjunction with his native proficiency in Thai and access to Thai nationalist literature and television programming from the 1950s. Recognizing that British diplomats posted to Thailand were closely monitoring the prospect of Shan independence from Burma, Jampee will use records held at the National Archives and at the British Library in London to assess the British response to the possibility that Thai nationalism might challenge their goal of decolonizing Burma as a single, Burmese-dominated state. Justin Biel, associate professor in Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of History, is supervising Jampee’s project.

(Jonathan Soucek’s project) – Soucek’s thesis will examine how Martin Luther King Jr.’s final civil rights campaign – the Poor People’s Campaign, which targeted poverty – affected the people of Memphis, Tenn., and the Mississippi Delta, an area located in the northwest corner of Mississippi. Most scholars think the Poor People’s Campaign failed largely because of King’s death in April 1968. Soucek hopes re-examining the campaign will help provide a better understanding of its impact on the lives of ordinary southerners. The Ned R. McWherter Library on the campus of the University of Memphis contains a number of archival collections that Soucek will review. Soucek will also visit the Delta Center at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Angela Jill Cooley, associate professor in Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of History, is supervising Soucek’s project.

Jampee and Soucek are two of six students who have received seven awards to conduct and present their research from the Lass endowment in 2017-2018.

Media wishing to contact the students about their research projects may request student contact information from Dan Benson, director of media relations, by phone at 507-389-6838 or by email at daniel.benson@mnsu.edu.

For more information about the William E. Lass Research Grant, contact Chris Corley, professor and graduate coordinator in Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of History, by phone at 507-389-6374 or by email at christopher.corley@mnsu.edu.

The Lass Research Grant was established by Professor of History Emeritus William E. Lass to help students with the cost of historical research and writing. Lass taught history to Minnesota State Mankato students for 42 years. During his career, Lass published dozens of articles and seven books. Since retiring from teaching, Lass has continued to pursue his passion for historical research and writing. His teaching, research and writing have enabled him to become a leading expert on Minnesota history.

Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of History is part of the University’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 14,712 students, is part of the Minnesota State system, which includes 30 colleges and seven universities.