National Endowment for the Humanities

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National Endowment for the Humanities
Official logo
Agency overview
Formed September 29, 1965
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Employees 159 (2010)
Annual budget $167,500,000 USD (2010)
Agency executive Carole M. Watson, Acting Chairman

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency of the U.S. government, established by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 (Pub.L. 89–209), dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. The NEH is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. in the Old Post Office.


The NEH provides grants for high-quality humanities projects to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The agency is also a base supporter of a network of private, nonprofit affiliates, the 56 humanities councils in the United States. These grants are given in order to strengthen teaching and learning in the humanities in schools and colleges across the nation, facilitate research and original scholarship, provide opportunities for lifelong learning, preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources and to strengthen the institutional base of the humanities.

The Endowment is directed by a chairman, who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, for a term of four years. Advising the chairman is the National Council on the Humanities, a board of 26 distinguished private citizens[1] who are also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The National Council members serve staggered six-year terms.

On June 3, 2009, President Obama announced that he intended to nominate former Iowa congressman Jim Leach, a Republican, to be the next chairman of the NEH;[2] the Senate confirmed his appointment in August 2009.[3] Leach began his four-year term as the NEH Chairman on August 12, 2009.

On April 4, 2014, President Obama nominated William 'Bro' Adams to be the next Chairperson of the NEH.[4][5][6]


Grant-making divisions and offices[edit]

The NEH has seven grant-making divisions and offices:[15]

The Office of Challenge Grants specializes in matching grants intended to inspire and augment fundraising by humanities institutions for the sake of their long-term stability.

The Office of Digital Humanities promotes the use of technology to ask new questions. It makes grants and sponsors efforts that show how new media and technology are reshaping traditional disciplines in the humanities.

The Division of Education works to support and strengthen teaching of the humanities.

The Office of Federal/State Partnership collaborates with fifty-six state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support local programs.

The Division of Preservation and Access awards grants to help maintain cultural and historic collections.

The Division of Public Programs supports projects that bring the humanities to large audiences through libraries and museums, television and radio, historic sites, and digital media.

The Division of Research makes awards to support original scholarship in all areas of the humanities, funding individuals as well as teams of researchers and institutions.

Noteworthy projects[edit]

Since 1965, the Endowment has sponsored noteworthy projects such as[citation needed]:

  • "Treasures of Tutankhamen," the blockbuster exhibition seen by more than 1.5 million people
  • The Civil War, the landmark 1990 documentary by Ken Burns seen by 38 million Americans.
  • Library of America, editions of novels, essays, and poems celebrating America's literary heritage
  • United States Newspaper Project, an effort to catalog and microfilm 63.3 million pages of newspapers dating from the early Republic
  • Fifteen Pulitzer-Prize winning books, including those by James M. McPherson, Louis Menand, Joan D. Hedrick, and Bernard Bailyn

Civility Tour[edit]

Between November 2009 and May 2011, NEH Chairman Leach conducted the American "Civility Tour" to call attention to the need to restore reason and civility back into politics, a goal that in his words was "central to the humanities." Leach visited each of the 50 states, speaking at venues ranging from university and museum lecture halls to hospitals for veterans, to support the return of non-emotive, civil exchange and rational consideration of other viewpoints:

According to Chairman Leach, "Little is more important...than establishing an ethos of thoughtfulness and decency of expression in the public square. Words reflect emotion as well as meaning. They clarify — or cloud — thought and energize action, sometimes bringing out the better angels in our nature, sometimes lesser instincts."[16]

Since the completion of Leach's Civility Tour, rallies for reasoning politics like Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, and grassroots initiatives for pluralistic rationalism in public discourse, have reflected Leach's call for civil, non-emotive and reasoning language between those with disparate political ideologies.

Bridging Cultures initiative[edit]

NEH's newest initiative, Bridging Cultures, aims to stimulate important humanities efforts in two thematic areas: "Civility and Democracy" and "The Muslim World and the Humanities". These two themes are of great interest today both as subjects of humanities scholarship and as an issue of public concern, making them especially suitable for demonstrating the role of the humanities in taking thoughtful approaches to issues that matter to a broad American Public.[citation needed]

"We the People" Initiative[edit]

"We the People" is an NEH program designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles. The initiative supports projects and programs that explore significant events and themes in American nation's history, which advance knowledge of the principles that define America.[17]

NEH was founded on the belief that cultivating the best of the humanities has real and tangible benefits for civic life. Through "We the People," NEH has rededicated itself to this mission, and is leading a renaissance in knowledge about American history and principles among all our citizens. The NEH launched the "We the People" initiative on Constitution Day, September 17, 2002.[18]


Jefferson Lecture[edit]

Since 1972 the NEH has sponsored the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, which it describes as "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities". The Jefferson Lecturer is selected each year by the National Council on the Humanities. The honoree delivers a lecture in Washington, D.C., during the spring, and receives an honorarium of $10,000. The stated purpose of the honor is to recognize "an individual who has made significant scholarly contributions in the humanities and who has the ability to communicate the knowledge and wisdom of the humanities in a broadly appealing way".[19]

National Humanities Medal and Charles Frankel Prize[edit]

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities. Up to 12 medals can be awarded each year. From 1989 to 1996 the NEH awarded a similar prize known as the Charles Frankel Prize.[20] The new award, a bronze medallion was designed by David Macaulay, the 1995 winner of the Frankel Prize. Lists of the winners of the National Humanities Medal[21] and the Frankel Prize[22] are available at the NEH website.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Council on the Humanities: Council Members list at NEH website.
  2. ^ Robin Pogrebin, "Obama Names a Republican to Lead the Humanities Endowment", New York Times, June 4, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Robin Pogrebin, "Rocco Landesman Confirmed as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts", New York Times, August 7, 2009.
  4. ^ "President Obama Announces his Intent to Nominate Dr. William “Bro” Adams as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities". Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "Obama nominates William 'Bro' Adams to be next head of National Endowment for the Humanities". Minneapolis Star Tribune. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Adams Tapped by President Obama". Colby College. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Bruce Cole to Depart the National Endowment for the Humanities," press release dated November 12, 2008, at NEH website.
  8. ^ U.S. Congress (4 September 2001). "Nominations". Congressional Record 147 (113): S9088. Retrieved 2006-09-25. 
  9. ^ U.S. Congress (14 September 2001). "Confirmations". Congressional Record 147 (120): S9464. Retrieved 2006-09-25. 
  10. ^ U.S. Congress (18 July 2005). "Nominations". Congressional Record 151 (97): S8438. Retrieved 2006-09-25. 
  11. ^ U.S. Congress (17 December 2005). "Confirmations". Congressional Record 151 (163): S13969. Retrieved 2006-09-25. 
  12. ^ "President Obama appoints Carole M. Watson as Acting Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities," press release dated February 10, 2009, at NEH website.
  13. ^ Stan Katz, "Who Can Lead the NEH," Chronicle Review blog post, February 10, 2009.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Information about the Divisions and Offices that Administer NEH Grant Programs". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "E.J. Dionne Jr. Welcomes Jim Leach's Call for Civility," The Washington Post, November 30, 2009. Retrieved November 03, 2012.
  17. ^ The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau
  18. ^ "About We the People". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  19. ^ Jefferson Lecturers at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009).
  20. ^ Awards and Honors at NEH Website (retrieved January 23, 2009).
  21. ^ National Humanities Medals at NEH Website (retrieved January 23, 2009).
  22. ^ Winners of the Charles Frankel Prize at NEH Website (retrieved January 23, 2009).

External links[edit]