NEH’s “A More Perfect Union”: America at 250
Exploring America’s Story and Commemorating Its 250th Anniversary
The National Endowment for the Humanities’s special initiative A More Perfect Union is designed to demonstrate and enhance the critical role the humanities play in our nation, while also supporting projects that will help Americans commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. The initiative builds on NEH’s investment over the past six decades in projects that catalog, preserve, explain, and promote American history.
“The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On ‘We the People’ who seek a more perfect Union.” —President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Inaugural Address, January 20, 2021
About the Initiative
The task of building a more perfect union, rooted in the ideal of human equality, falls to every generation of Americans, ours no less than our predecessors'. The basic goals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness endure over time, even as the challenges change: from founding a nation out of colonies; to dismantling the institution of slavery; to prevailing through times of economic depression and war; to advancing civil rights for all; to strengthening our democratic institutions; to building a more inclusive and sustainable society.
NEH 's A More Perfect Union initiative encourages projects that explore, reflect on, and tell the stories of our quest for a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society throughout our history. NEH especially welcomes projects that bring the perspective of the humanities to questions of racial justice, gender equality, the evolution of the American landscape, as well as America 's place in the world. Projects that strengthen Americans' knowledge of our principles of constitutional governance and democracy are strongly encouraged, as are projects that address the experiences of Native Americans and other underrepresented communities. In addition, NEH welcomes projects that develop innovative approaches to sustaining the nation's humanities infrastructure and preserving its historical record.
Special encouragement is available for:
- Documentary editing projects that make significant texts available to a wide audience
- Preservation assistance for American history-focused collections held by small- to medium-sized institutions
Looking toward 2026: NEH is an ex officio member of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, created by Congress to commemorate our nation 's founding.
Snapshot of recent and ongoing “A More Perfect Union” projects
- In 2021, NEH inaugurated a partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture to invest $2.2 million in the History and Culture Access Consortium (HCAC), a five-year pilot project to strengthen the archives and museums of five Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- “Held in Trust,” a three-year cooperative agreement between NEH and the Foundation for the Advancement in Conservation, examines the state of conservation, establishes a forward-looking vision for the preservation of the nation 's cultural heritage, and identifies future priorities.
- NEH has partnered with the Smithsonian American Art Museum to support the creation of educational and digital resources for the East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project. For the Bicentennial, more than 70 cities were photographed to create a historical record. East Baltimore serves as a pilot project for a larger effort that will revisit the cities fifty years later.
- In 2020, NEH cohosted the Native Arts and Culture: Resilience, Reclamation, and Relevance Convening, a first-of-its-kind gathering of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian artists, curators, archivists, preservationists, historians, and organizational and tribal community leaders to discuss best practices and common challenges in creating, sharing, curating, researching, and resourcing Native arts and cultural heritage.
- In 2019, NEH established a $1.1 million partnership with the Department of Education to support a national initiative to improve the teaching and learning of American history and government in K–12 classrooms. The resulting report, “Educating for American Democracy,” was released in March 2021.
- NEH is supporting a three-year program with National History Day to highlight diverse perspectives on the American Revolution, the early American Republic, and the ongoing efforts to create a more perfect union throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- NEH is providing additional funding to the state humanities councils to enhance civics education at the local level.
Overview of NEH investments in American history over the past six decades
- The letters, memos, and telegrams of ten presidents and leading American figures are available in edited volumes and online databases.
- Authoritative editions of American literature fill bookshelves, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning histories and biographies made possible through NEH support.
- Chronicling America, a partnership with the Library of Congress, provides access to almost 18 million pages from 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in its free online database.
- The records of 12 million enslaved Africans who crossed the Atlantic Ocean were assembled by historians into a public database, enhancing our understanding of the slave trade.
- NEH-supported films on topics ranging from suffrage and civil rights to the Vietnam War and the quest to land on the moon are available on PBS and streaming platforms.
- Exhibitions, historic sites, and humanities discussion programs provide ways for people to engage with American history in their own communities and across the country.
- Cutting-edge platforms offer American history-based educational games and interactive experiences grounded in the latest scholarship.