In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act into law, establishing the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as an independent federal agency. However, to achieve its goal of serving and strengthening our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities for all Americans, NEH could not act alone.
In 1971, NEH funded six experimental state-based humanities programs in Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wyoming. These programs were designed to bring humanities programming directly to as many members of their communities as possible—and they succeeded. By the end of the year, two more states, Nevada and Ohio, would establish humanities councils. In 2021, these eight councils celebrated their 50th anniversary and five decades of providing their states with humanities programming, critical grant funds, and educational resources. Celebrate this milestone achievement and learn more about the first humanities councils.
From its offices in Atlanta, Georgia Humanities shares the stories that move us and make us, from communities across the state. Through programs like National History Day and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street, Georgia Humanities works with partners to engage Georgia residents in a diverse range of humanities initiatives. In addition to its own programs, Georgia Humanities supports schools, museums, libraries, and other institutions through its grant programs. With SHARP funds from NEH, Georgia Humanities distributed more than $1 million to 78 organizations in the state impacted by COVID-19 in 2021.
In the Silver State, Nevada Humanities is producing humanities programming that invites people to explore the Nevada experience, understand the state’s culture and history, and engage with the issues of the moment. The state council promotes the humanities through cultural events, programs, and partnerships that connect Nevadans and grants that fund humanities projects statewide. Among its original programs are the Nevada Humanities Exhibition Series, which presents six curated exhibitions a year , showcasing the work of Nevadan artists, writers, poets, photographers, and other creative thinkers who explore and articulate a sense of place in the Silver State, the Las Vegas Book Festival, and “ Salon” community discussion series. In 2021, Nevada Humanities distributed more than $614,000 to 60 grantees with funds from the NEH SHARP program.
Maine Humanities Council
Headquartered in Portland, the Maine Humanities Council is using the humanities as a tool for positive change in the communities it serves. Programs like Maine Speaks—hosting speakers and providing opportunities to listen and learn—and the Discussion Project, facilitating community discussions of compelling texts—bring the people of Maine together to better understand themselves and one another. Beyond its diverse collection of programs, the Maine Humanities Council has distributed more than $1.1 million in grants to state cultural organizations since January 2020.
For more than fifty years the Missouri Humanities has been dedicated to enriching the Show-Me State by connecting its citizens with the people, places, and ideas that shape their communities. Since 2015, more than 616,000 Missourians in 114 counties have been served by the council’s programs and grantees. In 2022, the council launched its annual signature series, Eat, Think & Be Merry, exploring the state’s foodways and culinary traditions. Find an event this fall and watch the trailer for the upcoming short film, Won’t You Feed My Neighbor?
For the more than 3.9 million people who live in Oklahoma, Oklahoma Humanities is the leading humanities organization in the state, bringing communities and institutions together to explore the unique experience of living in Oklahoma. On average, each year Oklahoma Humanities grants more than $200,000 to nonprofit organizations and serves more than 150,000 people through those grants. Reaching people in all 77 counties in the state, programs like Let’s Talk About It, an expertly facilitated book club series hosted across the state since 1985, and events produced in partnership with grantees support a vibrant humanities community in Oklahoma.
Through its public humanities programs and grants, Ohio Humanities is sharing stories, sparking conversations, and inspiring ideas. In its fiftieth anniversary year, Ohio Humanities awarded more than $2.4 million to support 147 local organizations in 54 counties throughout the state, serving 1 in 10 Ohioans. From urban centers such as Cincinnati to the state’s Appalachian communities, Ohio Humanities provides community-minded programming, including See Ohio First, which guides visitors and locals alike on adventures through the state and produces documentaries, podcasts, and other history projects.
Since its founding in 1971, Oregon Humanities has been committed to connecting the people and communities of the state through the humanities. Each year, Oregon Humanities hosts hundreds of public conversations and events, provides training for facilitators to engage people in vital discussions, and supports nonprofits, libraries, and other institutions through its grant programs. One of five statewide partners of the Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Humanities expands humanities access in inclusive environments with programs like Humanities in Perspective, a free for-credit, college-level humanities program for people who are living on low-incomes or facing barriers to continuing education.
Serving all 23 counties and 99 communities in the state, Wyoming Humanities works to strengthen Wyoming’s democracy by fostering an environment of understanding, creativity, and idea sharing through its initiatives and grants. The council’s initiatives range from exhibits showcasing the state’s history, including “Two Nations, One Reservation” — a series of pop-ups telling the story of the Wind River Indian reservation — to events and streaming programs, like Winds of Change, a podcast profiling the people, places, and stories of Wyoming and what it means to thrive in the state. In 2021, Wyoming Humanities distributed more than $500,000 in grants to 74 organizations with funds from the NEH SHARP program.