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The National Endowment
for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities
is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1965 to promote knowledge of human history, thought and culture and enhance the role of humanities throughout the nation. The Endowment supports significant and innovative scholarship in all humanities disciplines, fosters effective teaching and lifelong learning in the humanities, encourages thoughtful public participation in and enjoyment of the humanities, and preserves cultural and intellectual resources essential to the people of the United States.

What Are the Humanities? The act that established the National Endowment for the Humanities says, "The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparitive religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences that have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life."

The Endowment's Mission: Created by Congress under the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, NEH provides grants to individuals and institutions for projects in the humanities. Grants support conservation of and access to the nation's cultural resources; research and educational opportunities for humanities professors, independent scholars, and elementary and secondary school teachers; the writing of scholarly texts; and museum exhibitions, television and radio programs, and other public programs that offer examination of ideas and themes in the humanities.

How NEH is Administered: The endowment is directed by a chairman, who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a term of four years. Advising the chairman is a national Council of 26 distinguished private citizens, also presidentially appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, who serve staggered six-year terms.

Competition and the Review Process: NEH grants are awarded on a competitive basis. In the most recently completed fiscal year, the Endowment funded less than one out of every six applications reviewed. Funding decisions are made on the basis of the application's merit and the significance of the project.

Each application is assessed by knowledgeable persons outside the Endowment who are asked for their judgments about the quality and significance of the proposed projects. In the fiscal year 1996, about 500 scholars, professionals in the humanities and other experts served on approximately 100 panels. Panelists represent a diversity of disciplinary, institutional, regional and cultural backgrounds. In some programs the judgment of panelists is supplemented by individual reviews from specialists who have extensive knowledge of the specific area or technical aspects of the application under review.

The Endowment's Programs: NEH awards grants through the Federal-State Partnership, three divisions (Preservation and Access, Public Programs, and Research and Education) and the Office of Challenge grants.

From its creation in 1965 through the end of fiscal year 1996, the Endowment has awarded nearly $3 billion for more than 54,000 fellowships and grants. Some of these grants have required one-to-one matching funds from private-sector donors and have been matched by some $333 million nonfederal contributions. Grants made by the NEH Challenge grants program, requiring $3 or $4 in matching funds for each federal dollar, have generated more than $1.15 billion in nonfederal support for America's libraries, colleges, museums, and other eligible humanities institutions since the program began in 1977.

Jefferson Lecture and Charles Frankel Prize: In 1972, NEH established the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual and public achievement in the humanities. The lecture is delivered annually in the Spring in Washington, D.C. Past Jefferson Lecturers include Toni Morrison, Vincent Scully, Gwendolyn Brooks, Walker Percy, Cleanth Brooks, Sydney Hook, Barbara Tuchman, Saul Bellow, John Hope Franklin, Robert Penn Warren, Erik Erikson, and Lionel Trilling.

In 1988, NEH established the Charles Frankel Prize to recognize persons for outstanding contributions to the public's understanding of the humanities. Recipients include Rita Dove, Bill Moyers, David McCullough, Charles Kuralt, Allan Bloom, Eudora Welty, Ken Burns, Karl Haas, Mortimer Adler, and Daniel Boorstin.

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