Carole M. Watson

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Carole M. Watson
Carole M Watson.jpg
Carole M. Watson
Acting Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities
In office
President Barack Obama
Acting Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities
In office
President Barack Obama
Personal details
Born Kansas
Citizenship USA
Nationality USA
Alma mater St. Louis University, George Washington University

Carole McAlpine Watson (born Kansas) is an American academic and leading civil servant. Watson has served twice as acting Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, first in 2009 and again in 2013 to 2014. Watson studied African American literature and authored Her Prologue, a scholarly bibliography of novels by African American women published between 1859 and 1965.[1] Watson holds a bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University, a Master's in English and American literature from St. Louis University, and a PhD in American cultural history from the George Washington University and was a Fellow of the Council for Excellence in Government (1991).[2][3]


Watson began her career as an academic and educator. She directed Inter-cultural Programs at the Lindenwood Colleges in Saint Charles, Missouri and was the founding chair of the English department at the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity School in St. Louis, Missouri. Her academic work investigated the history of novels published by Black women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Reflecting on the work, Watson noted that many of the novels reflected the social structure of the era: "I found that most of the novels weren’t any good—they were written to put a positive face on African-American life for white audiences or to serve as exemplars for African-American readers. They were full of principles of behavior."[2] As a public servant, currently serving as Deputy Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Watson has exercised leadership in strengthening the role and importance of the humanities. According to the National Journal, Watson has "done her part to obliterate the distinction between hard and soft fields of inquiry" and moved NEH forward through the National Digital Newspaper Program, a humanities "equivalent of the Human Genome Project. In collaboration with the Library of Congress, the agency is digitizing a hundred years of reportage: every article published by an American newspaper between 1836 and 1922."[2]

Watson has twice served as Acting Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She first directed that agency in 2009, prior to the appointment of Jim Leach.[4][5] Following Leach's retirement, she again served as Acting Chair from 2013 to 2014. During this time, Waton's leadership guided the NEH through a time of budgetary difficulty and uncertainty during the Federal sequester, for which she was commended in 2014.[6] In 2013, Watson brokered a MOU with the US Department of State, which allowed for the distribution of documentaries created with NEH support to be distributed through the State Department's "American Corners" library program around the world.[7] In 2014, Watson organized Standing Together, an NEH funding initiative that aims to "help Americans understand the experiences of service members as they return to civilian life."[8]


  1. ^ Watson, Carole M. (1985). Her Prologue: The Novels of Black American Women. Greenwood. 
  2. ^ a b c Hopkins, Christopher Snow (14 July 2013). "Carole Watson, Chairwoman (acting) of the NEH". National Journal. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Deputy Chair". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Carole M. Watson Appointed". ALSC News. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Katz, Stan (10 February 2009). "Who Can Lead the NEH?". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "National Humanities Council Meets as NEH Faces Budget Uncertainty, New Chairman". Council of Social Science Associations. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "New Agreement Underwrites Exhibition of Documentaries at U.S. Embassies Abroad". US Department of State. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Carole Watson". Federal News Radio. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014.