In December 2015, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced two new grants to Humanities Texas: a $168,000 Humanities in the Public Square grant and a $12,000 Common Heritage grant.

With the support of the Humanities in the Public Square grant, Humanities Texas will present "Citizenship, Elections, and American Democracy," a series of public forums across Texas that will examine pivotal presidential elections in U.S. history. In April 2016, our inaugural forum will analyze the political forces, issues, and consequences of the election of 1860, as well as its parallels to today's world. Following the inaugural event, we will organize six regional public forums across Texas, each examining a critical presidential election and its relevance to the current conditions of our national life. These programs will be designed to engage local educators, students, first-time voters, humanities scholars, representatives from local civic organizations, and members of the general public.

The Common Heritage grant will provide funding for a History Harvest in East Texas to be held in collaboration with the area's educational, historical, and cultural institutions. During this daylong event, community members will be invited to bring historic photos, letters, diaries, and other documents to be digitized onsite. Humanities Texas staff and local volunteers will scan paper items onsite and immediately return the owner's original materials, along with a free digital copy of each. The sponsoring organizations will also create and retain digital copies in accordance with each owner's approval. The History Harvest will ultimately create a community collection documenting the area's local, regional, and national heritage. The collection will be made available online and through subsequent public programs. Previously, Humanities Texas worked with local partnering organizations to host community History Harvests in San Angelo and Brownsville.

These are among the first awards made under the NEH’s new Humanities in the Public Square and Common Heritage grant programs, which were created in April 2015 as part of The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, an agency-wide initiative that seeks to enhance the role of the humanities in civic life.

Dividing the National Map. Cincinnati, 1860. Political cartoon satirizing the U.S. presidential election of 1860 in which four candidates were vying for the office. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Manuel Gutierrez, student volunteer from The University of Texas at Brownsville, and Sheena Moore, Humanities Texas staff member, scan glass negatives from the turn of the twentieth century at the Brownsville History Harvest in September 2014. Brownsville Herald photo by Miguel Roberts.