NEH Awards $717,200 to State and Jurisdictional Councils to Expand National History Day Programs

NEH Awards $717,200 to State and Jurisdictional Councils to Expand National History Day Programs
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National History Day 

Washington, DC (February 26, 2024)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $717,200 to partners in 39 U.S. states and jurisdictions to support the expansion of National History Day, which engages middle- and high-school students in hands-on historical research.

Since its founding in 1974, National History Day® (NHD) has been helping 6th through 12th grade students delve deeply into history and civics through a yearlong academic program that teaches how to conduct and present original historical research. Each year more than half a million middle- and high-school students—guided by 30,000 teachers— choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research to prepare original papers, websites, exhibits, performances, and documentaries for entry into local, state, and national History Day competitions. NEH grants were instrumental in helping National History Day grow from a pilot start-up project in Ohio into a national program that now operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, all U.S. territories, and in international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia. The program received a prestigious National Humanities Medal at the White House in 2012.

Read a Washington Post opinion piece on National History Day, “The Best Middle and High School Program No One Knows About.”

NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo) invited affiliates within NEH’s partner network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils to apply for supplemental NEH funding of up to $20,000. These supplements will support and expand local National History Day programs in small and hard-to-reach communities by working with scholars to develop resources and programming and to diversify the pools of scholars, advisors, educators, and contest judges participating in NHD competitions. Funded under NEH’s special initiative, American Tapestry: Weaving Together Past, Present, and Future, this opportunity also included a special encouragement for councils to build upon NEH’s partnership with the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative through the creation of NHD educational activities and resources that help students explore, research, and analyze topics related to the history of the federal Indian boarding school system.

“National History Day introduces students to the thrill of historical discovery and teaches them the research, critical thinking, and communication skills they will need throughout their lives as students, professionals, and citizens,” said NEH Chair Lowe. “Thanks to these grants and the work of our state and jurisdictional partners, more young people around the country will benefit from this remarkable program.”   

“2024 marks 50 years of National History Day’s impact on history education and these decades of influence have been made possible by the strong support of the National Endowment for the Humanities,” said Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day. “Locally based humanities councils are often the first to connect with students and teachers who become valuable participants in NHD’s contest and educational programs. This new funding will propel NHD’s reach forward as we aim to engage students from all walks of life in the study of history.”

Of the 39 humanities councils that received supplemental National History Day awards, several focused on bolstering training and professional development opportunities for history and social studies teachers in order to increase the number of teachers able to coordinate NHD programs within schools and school districts. Funding to Idaho Humanities Council will support a two-day workshop this summer at the Idaho State Historical Society to train teachers from across the state in primary source research, classroom strategies for effective pedagogy, and implementing NHD programs in their schools. The workshop will incorporate tours of the Old Idaho Penitentiary and Idaho State Museum to allow teachers to investigate object- and place-based learning.

Working with the Historical Society of Michigan, the state’s NHD coordinator, Michigan Humanities will focus on areas of mid-Michigan and greater Lansing that currently have low National History Day participation rates, by recruiting and training NHD teachers through educator institutes that demonstrate how to incorporate History Day programs into Michigan’s statewide curriculum. Georgia Humanities will develop a free, three-day educator workshop at the nation’s largest consortium of HBCUs to reach educators and students in underserved urban communities in Atlanta and teachers-in-training at HBCUs.

Nevada Humanities will support work by the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement (NVCCE) to recruit teachers in grades 4–12 from a variety of rural, urban, and underserved communities.  NVCCE will host teacher workshops on implementing NHD programs in the classroom, a mentorship program for participating teachers, and a series of student showcase opportunities that will allow students across the state to present their History Day projects, visit with state museums, and engage with scholars and community members. And the Alabama Humanities Alliance will hire a part-time teacher ambassador to work with educators in the Alabama Gulf Coast region through personal visits, conferences, presentations, and professional development workshops to boost National History Day participation in the state’s underserved and rural communities.

In some cases, supplementary NEH funding will support the restoration of National History Day programs that were canceled during the pandemic. In the District of Columbia, Humanities DC will rebuild a program that was discontinued in 2022 through a new partnership with the DC History Center to convene advisory and focus groups that will identify students, schools, and teachers in the District who have never previously participated in National History Day contests. Similarly, Humanities Montana will partner with Montana State University-Bozeman to revitalize an NHD program that has been on hiatus since 2021 through teacher workshops, outreach to underserved students, and the recruitment of judges from around the state.

Other humanities council efforts seek to increase and diversify the pool of judges involved in National History Day competitions. Funding to the New Mexico Humanities Council will support judge training workshops throughout the state at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions (NASNTIs) to increase the number of Latino and Indigenous volunteers assessing student NHD projects. The Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities will expand opportunities for students to participate in the council’s unique National History Day program—which encourages students to create projects in their Hawaiian language—by working with Hawaiian language immersion schools and staff and scholars at Hawaiian studies departments, Indigenous history departments, and Hawaiian language departments to recruit additional judges and share resources with teachers and students.

Among the councils that chose to focus on NHD activities related to the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative is Oklahoma Humanities, which plans to increase tribal representation in National History Day through outreach to tribal schools and partners, recruit judges from tribal communities, and sponsor a special research category encouraging primary research on federal Indian boarding schools. Humanities Washington will work with the Washington State Historical Society to digitize the historical society’s collections related to the Fort Simcoe Boarding School in Yakima and the Cushman Indian School in Puyallup for the creation of curricular material and NHD resources on the history of federal Indian boarding schools in the state. Working with American Samoa’s Department of Education, the Amerika Samoa Humanities Council will use NEH funding to fill gaps in local history resources and classroom curricula, focusing on American Samoa’s Indigenous history and heritage.

National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at

National History Day (NHD): NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, Maryland, that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by the 400 Years of African American History Commission, The Better Angels Society, the Bezos Family Foundation, HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Park Service. For more information, visit


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