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NEH Announces $3.6 Million for “Humanities in the Public Square”

New grants support community discussions of the relevance of the humanities to civic life

National Endowment for the Humanities -- Humanities in the Public Square

National Endowment for the Humanities

WASHINGTON (December 15, 2015) — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $3.6 million in grants for 21 community-based projects that will put humanities scholars in direct dialogue with the public on some of the most pressing issues of the day—through public forums, community programs, and development of educational resources.

These are the first awards made under NEH’s new Humanities in the Public Square grant program, which was created in April 2015 as part of The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, an agency-wide initiative that seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role and significance of the humanities and humanities scholarship in public life.

“The pressing challenges facing our nation call for dialogue and understanding,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “There is ample evidence that communities across the nation are eager to come together to discuss the critical issues that face them as citizens and neighbors. Using the unique insights of the humanities, these projects address a diverse range of subjects in order to bring new audiences and organizations together.”  

NEH’s Humanities in the Public Square program offers grants of up to $300,000 to institutions such as colleges and universities, libraries, and state humanities councils, for projects that incorporate:

  • a public forum, to be held by May 2016, that engages humanities practitioners in discussion with a public audience about a theme of contemporary significance
  • public programs, starting in the spring of 2016, that use creative formats, such a book or film discussion programs, local history projects, scholarly talks or courses for lifelong learners, to engage the public or specific audiences in sustained conversations on a chosen theme
  • the creation and dissemination of educational resources that will extend the reach of the content developed for the public forum and public programs through digital resources or curricular materials for use by teachers, students, and lifelong learners

Among the NEH Humanities in the Public Square grants awarded:

  • $200,000 to the University of Mississippi for a forum that will bring together scholars, students, artists, and teachers to discuss civil rights literacy in Mississippi and elsewhere. The project includes the collection of oral histories related to the civil rights movement, to be archived online for public use through the Mississippi Civil Rights Project.

  • $137,247 to the Folger Shakespeare Library for a project that will engage the DC community in dialogue about race and religion through the lens of literature and history. The project uses a modern re-telling of the Merchant of Venice as a launching point for discussions of the ways in which the conflicts examined in Shakespeare’s play remain relevant to contemporary cities.

  • $225,000 to the University of Maryland, College Park for a project called “Baltimore Stories” that will bring together a consortium of Baltimore institutions for public forum and programs examining the ways in which narratives around race have influenced the life and identity of the city.

  • $201,104 to North Dakota State University for a year-long public dialogue on the legacies of war in North Dakota communities. The project will yield an oral history archive of veterans’ stories, a community book discussion program, and a series of literary and crafts workshops for veterans.
  • $156,340 to Northampton County Area Community College in Pennsylvania for forums and public programming that will examine humanities questions around food and community in Lehigh Valley, and particularly the issues of “food deserts” in low-income areas and the history of agriculture in the valley. 
  • $225,000 to Missouri Humanities Council for a year-long series of statewide conversations about the history of cultural and social polarization in Missouri, from the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to the 2014 protests surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson.

See the full list of NEH Humanities in the Public Square grants (PDF).


About the 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:

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