New York, NY -- January 24, 2023. The Mellon Foundation—the nation's largest funder of the arts, culture and humanities—today announced more than $12 million in funding to support twenty-six colleges and universities across the nation mounting social justice-related research or curricular projects.
The grants are the result of Mellon's Higher Learning inaugural open call—announced in Spring 2022 as a means of continuing to support inquiry into issues of vital social, cultural, and historical import. The open call invited proposals from institutions exploring three distinct topical categories—Civic Engagement and Voting Rights, Race and Racialization in the United States, and Social Justice and the Literary Imagination—in an effort to help illuminate the significance of voting rights controversies in US history from numerous humanities perspectives; demonstrate the complex import of race and racialization within US culture and society; and highlight the role of the literary imagination in making and remaking worlds and societies, past and present.
"This call is designed to highlight the essential role of the humanities—including those disciplines concerned with the interpretation of expressive culture—in addressing our society's most salient social issues, past and present," said Phillip Brian Harper, program director for Higher Learning at Mellon. "We seek to support not only incisive analytical work, but also projects that creatively envision more just and equitable futures."
Open to any accredited, non-profit, four-year liberal arts degree-granting institution in the US with more than 1,000 full-time degree-seeking undergraduates and multiple humanities degree programs, the call generated more than 280 submissions from 150 institutions. From the initial applicant pool, 26 institutions were selected to develop full proposals and were confirmed to receive funding.
Grantees for the 2022 Higher Learning Open Call include:
Civic Engagement and Voting Rights
- Bard College – The 26th Amendment: Student Voting Rights as a Prism into Disenfranchisement and Re-enfranchisement in America – This project, done in collaboration with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Tuskegee University, Prairie View A&M University, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation, will use the history of the 26th Amendment, and the fight for student voting rights, to understand more fully voting rights in the United States.
- Clemson University – Civic Engagement and Voting Rights Teacher Scholars – This project proposes recruiting and supporting Teacher Scholars from across the nation to work as a cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary, humanities-based faculty learning community producing ready-to-deploy classroom activities, assignments, and syllabi for an array of humanities courses to stimulate civic engagement and voting rights education.
- Florida Atlantic University – Voting Rights History as Civic Literacy – This project seeks to develop a curriculum and curricular materials to center the history of voting, electoral politics, and republican governance in undergraduate US history survey courses, demonstrating how the question of political participation is central to the nation's story.
- Ohio State University – Native Americans and African Americans in and out of the US Body Politic – This project is an intersectional historical research project that promises to reveal the hidden histories of Black and Native American political life within the oppressive context of the 19th century. Emphasis will be on Native American and Black activism around citizenship and voting and on the role of higher education in the struggle for Black and Indigenous rights before the modern Civil Rights Movement.
- University of South Carolina – Civic Engagement, Voting Rights, and the Founding Documents at the University of South Carolina – This project will enable students and faculty to investigate ballot access from the period of the American founding onward, through analysis of such key historical documents as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Emancipation Proclamation.
- West Virginia University – Convening Series: Roots and Shadows–Mining History to Counter Political Violence and Threats to Election Integrity in Appalachia – Through oral history and other non-traditional sources, West Virginia University will collaborate with community members to co-create narratives that help foster the engagement of young people and others with essential local institutions so as to counter the mistrust, extremism, and political violence currently impacting election integrity and community stability.
Race and Racialization in the United States
- Morgan State University – Black Queer...Everything (BQE) – A national collective of Black, queer faculty committed to cultivating the intellectual and artistic pursuits of the next generation of black, queer scholar-activists will develop an innovative program and curricula that will support summer institutes as well as year-long mentorships, with the goal of realizing meaningful social change.
- North Carolina Central University – Purpose, Persistence, and Power: Pioneering African American Women and their Fight for Racial Justice in North Carolina and Beyond – This project aims to create collaborative research that connects faculty trained in digital storytelling with humanities majors to chronicle the experiences of African American women civil rights activists. Through this innovative partnership with faculty, staff, students and alumnae, students will read several autobiographies, study history, visit local museums and interview women graduates, whose oral histories will be preserved in an audio and video archive.
- Northwestern University – Race, Black Dance, and the Embodied Geographies of Freedom – This research project will explore Black dance practices across the United States in order to demonstrate how they help constitute African American identity and instantiate Black freedom.
- St. Catherine University – Democratizing the Humanities – This project focuses on developing an interdisciplinary, intersectional curriculum that would resist and combat racism at the university and beyond. Co-convened humanities seminars will bring students together with community partners to investigate the racial histories of key humanities fields and fashion interdisciplinary projects that counter racism in humanistic scholarship and in institutional and local communities.
- Seattle University – Race, Racialization, and Resistance in the United States – The central aim of this project is to design an integrated curriculum that explores the complex processes of the construction of race in the US, investigates the broad range of collective and individual forms of resistance to racism, and addresses the tension between the social-structural constitution of race and subjective experiences of it.
- Syracuse University – Black-Arab Relationalities: Confronting Racism, Narrating Solidarities – This project examines the impact of racism and discrimination on the identities, histories, and lived experiences of Arab and Black communities living in the city of Syracuse and its implications for US racial politics. Through pedagogical, scholarly, and community-based interventions, this project will develop collaborative spaces that highlight the relations between Black and Arab communities in Syracuse as informed by the city's racial histories, current realities, and future trajectories, with the goal of supporting solidarity among these communities.
- University of California at Los Angeles – Housing the Third Reconstruction – This project will bring together university and movement-based scholars in a multi-year endeavor that tackles key dimensions of displacement and dispossession in US cities. Through collaboration between the university and the community, this project will generate a rich repertoire of scholarly writing as well as movement and community archives.
- University of Houston - Downtown – Unpacking Contemporary and Historical Constructions of Race and Racialization: Developing a Program of Black Studies – With a focus on contemporary and historical constructions of race and racialization in the United States, this project will develop and create an interdisciplinary Africana studies anthology focused on contemporary and historical constructions of race and racialization and design a Black studies curriculum and degree program predicated on this collective scholarly research.
- University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign – The Virality of Racial Terror in US Newspapers, 1863-1921 – This project will employ digital humanities text-mining methods to trace the circulation of reports about anti-Black violence in US newspapers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and develop a series of exhibits demonstrating how such reporting fueled both subsequent violence and acts of resistance.
- University of Iowa – Dividing the City: Race Restrictions and the Architecture of Segregation in the Midwest – The "Dividing the City" project will examine white reactions to Black migration in Iowa, focusing on the use of racial property restrictions in the state's metropolitan counties, resistance to these practices, and their implications for racial equity today.
- Vanderbilt University – Clearing the Ground In EDI: Philosophy, Race Theory, and the Diversity Industry – "Clearing the Ground in EDI," a philosophically informed study of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) efforts, will help clarify the framing goals, foundations, and objectives of EDI interventions and provide a big-picture summary of the way concrete EDI interventions operationalize key concepts and principles in critical race theory and racial justice research.
- Whittier College – The Poet StoryLab: Narrative, Community, and the Transformative Possibilities of Brown Storytelling – Through experiential pedagogy and scholarly research, the Poet StoryLab will investigate the historical evolution of a "brown" identity in the U.S., paying close attention to the intersectional experiences of gender and sexual orientation.
Social Justice and the Literary Imagination
- Drexel University – UnMapping: A Project of Radical Textual Geographies – This project aims to bring the literary and broader humanities imagination to bear on urgent social justice issues in the West Philadelphia community and beyond.
- George Washington University – Story for All: Disability Justice Collaboratories – a project that seeks to extend the impact of a robust curriculum already deeply invested in social change through the creation of humanities labs focused on civic engagement in support of the advancement of disability justice.
- Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis – Speculative Play and Just Futurities – This project aims to establish eight residencies per year for diverse scholars and creators who are imagining more just futures through writing and other forms of narrative production.
- Reed College – The Generative Literature: Social Justice and the Environmental Imagination – This initiative highlights the power of narrative to imagine possibilities in the face of crisis. It will support new scholarship in the environmental humanities, generate a cluster of new, interdisciplinary courses centered on environmental justice and the literary imagination, and augment student experience with co-curricular opportunities.
- Texas A&M University-San Antonio – The Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva – The Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva, a group of scholars, teachers, artists, and activists, will generate scholarship, programming, and resources about multilingual Borderlands Shakespeare appropriations. These striking literary works use Shakespeare to reimagine colonial histories and to envision socially just futures in La Frontera.
- University of Minnesota Twin Cities – Remapping the Očhéti Šakówiŋ Oyáte: Oratures as Deep Mapping – "Oratures as Deep Mapping" seeks to digitally represent traditional homelands of the Očhéti Šakówiŋ (People of the Seven Council Fires) in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and beyond. The map asserts the primacy of placenames in D/N/Lakota language and the stories, cosmologies, and knowledge that shape the Native community's sustained and ongoing relationship to homelands with the unique and dynamic capabilities that digital mapping provides.
- University of Nebraska at Omaha – Tell All the Truth Project – "Tell All the Truth" aims to foster social justice in the metropolitan community of Omaha, Nebraska by providing meaningful opportunities for collaborative truth-telling through diverse forms of literary expression informed by critical analysis of the nation's intersectional histories.
- The University of Texas at Austin – Pido la Palabra: A Texas Prison Literature Project for Social Justice and the Literary Imagination – Through a partnership between the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and the Texas Prison Education Initiative (TPEI), this project will create Spanish-language creative writing courses in prisons, with an associated course taught at UT that will train a new generation of college-in-prison educators through a seminar and practicum in the history and theory of prison literature by and about incarcerated people in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Read additional details about the open call for concepts.
About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation's largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.