About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Photo of the Constitution Center, where the NEH offices are located
Photo caption

Constitution Center

© Eric Taylor

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The grants:

  • strengthen teaching and learning in schools and colleges
  • facilitate research and original scholarship
  • provide opportunities for lifelong learning
  • preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources
  • strengthen the institutional base of the humanities

Learn about notable NEH-funded projects, past and present.

Since 1965, the Endowment has opened new worlds of learning for the American public with noteworthy projects such as:

  • Seven thousand books, 16 of which have won Pulitzer Prizes, and 20 of which have received the Bancroft Prize.
  • The Civil War, the landmark documentary by Ken Burns viewed by 38 million Americans
  • The Library of America editions of novels, essays, and poems celebrating America’s literary heritage
  • The United States Newspaper Project, which cataloged and microfilmed 63.3 million pages of historic newspapers, paved the way for the National Digital Newspaper Program and its digital repository, Chronicling America
  • Annual support for 56 states and territories to help support some 56,000 lectures, discussions, exhibitions and other programs each year

What are the humanities?

"The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life."
--National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, 1965, as amended