Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray are three literary legends of the twentieth century, pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance, Modernism, and cultural theory. Each of these authors spent their formative years in HBCUs, and have artistic and biographical ties to Tuskegee University and Macon County, Alabama—a region that serves as a backdrop to and central inspiration for their works.
The Mastheads, a public humanities organization in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was founded in 2016 with a goal of connecting Pittsfield residents to the literary heritage of the region, cultivating pride in place, and supporting the production of new creative work. This mission grew out of the challenges Pittsfield has faced since General Electric, the major employer, left the region. To bring together diverse groups to celebrate Pittsfield as a site of cultural and artistic production, the organization has collaborated with a variety of community organizations—from the library to the local farmers market, to groups looking to support and improve their local neighborhoods—since its inception.
On December 11, the National Humanities Alliance partnered with Jefferson Community College (JCC) to highlight how the NEH’s Dialogues on the Experience of War programs serve veterans. The showcase-style briefing included a discussion with leaders of and participants in JCC’s 2018 program. Representatives Chellie Pingree, David Price, Elise Stefanik, and Steve Stivers served as honorary co-hosts of the event.
NHA is currently working with 14 NEH-funded summer professional development programs for teachers to document their impact. Though our final follow-up survey is still several months away, pre- and post-program surveys shed light on what drew educators to the workshops and what they found most valuable while there. The responses have been enlightening and have helped us understand how NEH-funded programs are fulfilling teachers’ needs and filling gaps in the curricula.
Over the past two years, we have partnered with Common Heritage programs across the country to profile their mission–from preserving Franco-American veteran stories in Maine, to digitizing Tahoe’s history, natural beauty, and culture in Nevada, to collecting stories of the Hmong population in North Carolina. These programs, supported by the NEH, are based around public digitization events that preserve family and local history. In reporting our initial survey efforts to document the impact of select Common Heritage programs, we’ve shown how these programs surface artifacts of ethnic and migration histories that would otherwise be lost. As we continue our survey efforts, we’ve added to these impacts and found more robust evidence of how these programs are demystifying cultural heritage preservation by equipping communities with the tools, resources, and a sense of urgency to preserve their familial and community heritage.
In recognition of National Arts and Humanities Month, the National Humanities Alliance teamed up with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) to host a briefing on Capitol Hill. The event was developed at the request of the Congressional Humanities Caucus, and our goal was to introduce staffers who are responsible for arts and humanities issues to the Endowments, as well as give them a brief glimpse of their impacts.
By supporting the preservation of cultural heritage at organizations across the U.S., the NEH works to ensure that their collections are accessible to the public. At the most basic level, NEH funding supports libraries and archives as they process important collections, enabling them to create the guides and databases that are crucial to researchers trying to access archival materials. NEH funding also helps organizations digitize collections, making collections like the Adams Family Papers, the Journals of Lewis and Clark, and Fox Movietone Newsreels accessible to anyone with an internet connection.