Building a More Perfect Union: 38 Pandemic Recovery Grants Awarded to Humanities Organizations

The National Writing Project supported programs funded by grants for humanities organizations as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking program.

Building a More Perfect Union Grantee Hero

Between April 2022 and March 2023, groups of teachers, students, museum and library staff, public historians, archivists, and more, worked together to build a more perfect union through the National Writing Project’s Building a More Perfect Union program.

This program, which awarded 38 grants in spring of 2022 to humanities organizations across the United States, was designed to assist in recovering from interruptions to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Building a More Perfect Union funded organizations to develop programming in anticipation of the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

“Through the Building a More Perfect Union, we see the humanities’ special powers for enabling human-to-human connection and bridge-building across groups come alive!”

— Dr. Sarah Ruffing Robbins, Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature at Texas Christian University, Building a More Perfect Union Review Committee Chair

The awarded projects, selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process, were located at local, regional, or cross-regional organizations such as nonprofits, museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, and public-facing humanities centers at colleges and universities across the country. This funding helped such entities to restore programming post-pandemic and to engage or deepen collaborations with stakeholders and communities that will expand their reach.

Awardees aimed to “build a more perfect union” through expanding access and raising the visibility of lesser-known stories and histories in regions and communities, engaging communities through participatory public humanities events and opportunities, and developing institutes and curriculum with teachers and students to support humanities-oriented learning in K12 classrooms and beyond.

You can read more about each of the 38 projects below. Use the links to explore projects by state.


Alabama

Power of Pen and Story: Teaching for Equity to Empower Our Youth
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Red Mountain Writing Project
Birmingham, AL

Red Mountain Writing Project teamed up with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BRCI) to give local teachers an opportunity to improve their knowledge and teaching of the modern civil rights movement. They began the 10-month-long project with a summer institute, during which they were given access to the digital and hands-on resources at BCRI. They hosted additional sessions for the cohort in the fall and winter to further facilitate the creation of meaningful learning opportunities for students and colleagues focused on racism, equity, and more.


Arizona

"We the People:" Building Salas de Libros to Explore Migrant Waves in Our Nation's History
University of Arizona’s Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literatures and Literacies and the Southern Arizona Writing Project
Tucson, AZ

The team from Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures (WOW) at the University of Arizona and the Southern Arizona Writing Project partnered to restart a new family and community literacy program in the Tucson, Arizona, area called Salas de Libros. Salas de Libros—which translates literally to "living rooms of books"—are intergenerational gatherings for children, teens, and adults to explore cultural identity and community through reading and literary engagements. The project included training a cohort of 20 Salas facilitators and launching 10 Salas de Libros in the Tucson area.

Read more about this project: "How Family Literacy Programs Can Build Empathy and Connection" and Salas de Libros.


California

Studying and Teaching Our Complicated Histories
Redwood Writing Project at Humboldt State University
Arcata, CA

Redwood Writing Project kicked off a year-long study group with local teachers where they discussed scholarship, texts, and resources focused on untold local histories of Humboldt County and California. The project culminated with the creation of 15 classroom units on topics including Civic Engagement and Civic Journalism: Lessons and Resources, Effective Use of Primary Sources with An Emphasis on Art: Lessons and Resources and, Indigenous Funds of Knowledge: Lessons and Resources.


Bringing Local History to Life: Actualizing a More Perfect Union Through Oral Histories
Bay Area Writing Project at University of California Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Bay Area Writing Project collaborated with a number of community organizations to pair student interviewers with local elders. Among the local community groups that helped make elders available for interviews were the Black Gold Storytellers, the National Japanese American Historical Society, the Oakland Senior Center, and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Altogether, the project collected 16 oral histories from elders, which were woven together with images, poetry, and maps.

Read more about this project: "Youth Uncover Hidden Histories"


Rebuilding The Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation
Northern California Writing Project at CSU, Chico and the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation
Chico, CA

Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR) and the Northern California Writing Project partnered to increase the visibility and accessibility of the reservation’s history, culture, and language. The project had three components: a professional update to the QVIR website that gave the community a place to tell their stories, a collaboration with local teachers who created classroom lessons using the new QVIR website, and the revival of QVIR's summer Culture Camp, during which community members share cultural knowledge, skills, and history with younger generations.

Read more about this project: "Partnership Brings Visibility to the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation"


Buchanan Mall Community History Project
San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society
San Francisco, CA

This BAMPU grant funded a collaboration between the SF African American Historical and Cultural Society, San Francisco Public Library, Citizen Film, and the community who lives along the Buchanan Mall, a five block public park in one of San Francisco's last historically Black neighborhoods. The organizations brought together scholars, creatives, and community members for three conversations to create a "shared vision of the future and a more inclusive expiration of history." This phase of the project culminated in a new booklet, Buchanan Mall Memory Walk: Harlem of the West, Then & Now. Plus, the groups now have new ideas and a vision to share with city officials.


Japanese American Redress: Reckoning and Recovery

National Japanese American Historical Society
San Francisco, CA

The National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) designed and produced an inaugural interactive exhibition that explores the Japanese American call for restitution and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In collaboration with the Bay Area Writing project and the National Park Service, the NJAHS developed learning activities and education programming for the exhibit, which centered storytelling with an oral history booth and highlighted the stories of those involved in redress.


An Educator's Guide to Orange County Diversity: Making Visible Underrepresented Communities and Their Histories in Orange County
Heritage Museum of Orange County
Santa Ana, CA

The Heritage Museum of Orange County developed an "Educator's Guide to Orange County Diversity" grounded in antiracist and culturally sustaining pedagogy and focused on long-neglected community histories. The museum and its partners worked with local educators to provide professional learning opportunities and solicit feedback on the materials developed, all with the aim of helping youth build foundational understandings of democracy and core principles of government, informational literacy, and the ongoing struggles for equity, power, and representation.

Visit the project website: An Educator's Guide to Orange County

Read more about this project: "Archives Inside Out"


Georgia

Combining Voices
Augusta University Writing Project and the Morris Museum of Art
Augusta, GA

Augusta University Writing Project (AUWP) teamed up with the Morris Museum of Art to help increase participation in one of the museum's main educational programs, Combining Voices: Tour and Literary Competition, an annual competition that encourages young people to respond to works of art through creative writing. Local AUWP teachers engaged in related professional development and became Museum Ambassadors.


Idaho

Fostering Conversations: Document Based Inquiries into the Contact Zones of American (and Idaho) History
Boise State Writing Project
Boise, ID

Boise State Writing Project supported teachers in developing Document Based Inquiries (DBIs) that fit in existing units of study across the curriculum and gave students opportunities to be citizen historians. The project helped "tell fuller and more diverse stories of our national and state experience—and to recover silenced or untold stories and their implications."

Visit the project website: EMPOWER Your Teaching Towards a More Perfect Union


Illinois

Bronzeville—A Citizens' View of the History and Culture of an Illustrious African-American Neighborhood
Illinois Writing Project and the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at the Northeastern Illinois University
Chicago, IL

Illinois Writing Project and the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University teamed up to shine a light on Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood—a center of African American culture and community often overlooked in the history books. The team gathered historical material about Bronzeville through oral history interviews and writing and created a permanent interactive display on the history of Bronzeville for use by teachers and students in Chicago schools.


History Lessons: Everyday Objects from the History of Public Housing
National Public Housing Museum
Chicago, IL

The National Public Housing Museum focused on a national effort to collect objects from public housing residents in four communities and work with residents in storytelling and writing workshops to write their own artifact labels. The objects and their story labels will be included in a virtual exhibition hosted on the Museum’s website available to a broad national public and published in a forthcoming book from the New Press.


Teacher Writing for Civic Engagement: A Chicago Area Writing Project Initiative
Chicago Area Writing Project at the University of Illinois
Chicago, IL

The Chicago Area Writing Project (CAWP) focused on rebuilding capacity and programming after the pandemic shutdown. Their project was an extension of a pre-pandemic initiative supporting youth writing for civic engagement with a new focus on empowering teachers to create and share their own writing to make a social impact within and beyond their classrooms. CAWP held a weeklong summer intensive on this theme along with bimonthly workshops for resource development throughout the year; the team published an Anthology of their work along with an online guide, Teachers Writing for Civic Engagement: A Quick Guide to Beginning or Restarting a Writing Practice.


Kentucky

Root Deep, Grow Tall: Celebrating heritage and changing lives one story at a time
Hindman Settlement School and the The Morehead Writing Project
Hindman, KY

Morehead Writing Project (WP) and the Hindman Settlement School joined forces to create a project-based learning humanities program for rural eastern Kentucky communities. The Hindman Settlement School staff hosted Morehead WP teachers for a week-long retreat to create units together. Afterwards, the educators implemented their units in the classroom, and students across eight eastern Kentucky communities developed projects related to identity, community, and the arts.

Read more about this project: "Strengthening Community Through Collaboration"


Connecting our Heartlands: Towards an Inclusive American Creed
Center for Rural Strategies, Citizen University, and Citizen Film
Whitesburg, KY

The Center for Rural Strategies, Citizen University, and Citizen Film explored the connection between rural American themes and America as a whole in order to deepen public dialogue about national ideals and identities. During the grant period, they created multimedia documentary stories on three young adult leaders from rural communities, including photo-essays, a podcast episode, and four 2-4 minute "starter films" for engaging high school students in discussion. In addition, the Center for Rural Strategies hosted an event titled Connecting Our Heartlands: Towards an Inclusive American Creed bringing together civic scholars with rural community leaders, journalists and educators.


Louisiana

The Good Troublemakers Book Project
826 New Orleans
New Orleans, LA

826 New Orleans relaunched one of their signature annual community writing programs, The Good Troublemakers Book Project. After a year of hiatus due to the pandemic, the program came back strong with a new collection of youth writing focused on community safety in New Orleans. The collection, titled Colors of a City, was 100% curated and edited by 826's Youth Writers Council; a video of their publishing party is available.


Massachusetts

Writing Boston's Future
Museum of African American History and the Boston Writing Project
Boston, MA

What does it mean to be Black in Boston today? Using Boston’s Museum of African American History as a focal point, the group convened by the Boston Writing Project—students and teachers learning together, side-by-side—began by delving into the past to better understand the current moment. Their responses to that question and artifacts they created during the Writing Boston’s Future learning experience have now become part of the museum’s archives.

Visit the project website: Writing Boston's Future

Read more about this project: "Youth Uncover Hidden Histories"


Sailing to Freedom: Building a More Perfect Union by Escaping and Ending Slavery
New Bedford Historical Society
New Bedford, MA

The New Bedford Historical Society held a series of public events in order to disseminate information and lessons from a volume of essays published in 2021 that focused on seaborne escapes of enslaved African Americans. This lesser known aspect of the Underground Railroad was the focus of the Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad exhibit, conference, and subsequent lectures, which were all held in partnership with the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

View the recorded archives of the public events.


Maryland

Restorying We The People: Connecting Maryland Classrooms to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
University of Maryland Writing Project and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
College Park, MD

University of Maryland Writing Project partnered with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (RFLM) to provide area teachers with professional development and facilitate a curriculum writing workshop. By partnering with archivists, museum educators, historians, and digital content creators, teachers created multimodal digital tools and humanities-focused curricular resources during the 2022-2023 school year to attract and engage educational audiences at the RFLM; these lessons and resources are featured on the Museum’s website under Teacher Resources.


Michigan

Welcome Back to CADL
Red Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University and Capital Area District Libraries
East Lansing, MI

Red Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University teamed up with the Capital Area District Libraries to draw people back to the physical library after the COVID pandemic caused a steep decline in library use. The programming included summer workshops for a range of age groups focused on the themes and tools of building a more perfect union and summer and fall open community programming including author celebrations with live streaming to increase access, as well as oral history collections and community engagement.


Towards a More Perfect Union: Understanding a More Complete Picture of Our Nation's Past, Present, and Future
Oakland Writing Project at the University of Michigan-Flint and the The Stockton House Museum
Flint, MI

A partnership between Stockton House Museum in Spring Grove, Michigan, Oakland Writing Project, and University of Michigan-Flint helped support the recovery of the museum through an innovative exhibit highlighting Flint’s history across the life of the Stockton House and the developing city around it. The exhibit experience is supported by educational workshops that invite museum visitors to be participant-learners, artifact makers, and storytellers, and offers a rare opportunity for students and teachers to be partners with a museum.

Visit the project website: Voices: Exploring the Past & Imagining the Future


Cultivating Engaged Citizens Through Family Literacy, Civic Reasoning, Critical Thinking, and Empathy
Top-of-the-Mitt Writing Project at North Central Michigan College
Petoskey, MI

Top of the Mitt Writing Project worked to support teachers and families to strengthen relationships and create stronger connections between school and home after the isolation of COVID. They hosted a set of Family Literacy Projects at local schools across the region; each consisted of six weekly sessions during which teachers and parents had conversations about parenting, teaching, and literacy.

Visit the project website: Family Literacy Projects

Read more about this project: "How Family Literacy Programs Can Build Empathy and Connection"



Minnesota

Reconsidering Minnesota History through Dakota Narratives
East Side Freedom Library, Speaking Out Collective, and the Minnesota Writing Project
St. Paul, MN

This collaboration of the East Side Freedom Library, Speaking Out Collective, and the Minnesota Writing Project involved the development of a collection of stories about Dakota history geared towards elementary-age children with accompanying curriculum for teachers. The team so far has documented and developed thirty-nine Dakota stories and is creating lesson plans for more than half. Ultimately, they intend to make curricular resources available for educators in the state of Minnesota to use.


Missouri

Curating Black History in KC
Greater Kansas City Writing Project at the University of Central Missouri, the Black Archives of Mid-America, and Clio
Kansas City, MO

The Greater Kansas City Writing Project at the University of Central Missouri situated itself at the Black Archives of Mid-America to familiarize local teachers with the archive as well as a permanent exhibit there titled With My Eyes No Longer Blind which tells the stories of Black Kansas City civic institutions, schools, businesses, hospitals, churches, sports, and music. The teacher participants created individual projects which included lesson plans and research projects; a community-shared author event; a writing marathon; and a culinary arts program.

Read more about this project: "Archives Inside Out"


Nebraska

There's No Such Thing as Free Land: Understanding the Homestead Acts through Multiple Perspectives
Friends of Homestead National Historical Park and the Nebraska Writing Project
Beatrice, NE

Friends of Homestead National Historical Park and the Nebraska Writing Project teamed up to fully tell the story of the Homestead Act by bringing in Native voices, diverse immigrant stories, and Black, Jewish, Latinx and women/suffragists homesteaders. The project explored the opportunities and “costs” of homestead legislation offered to these different groups and resulted in a writing festival, the creation of a curriculum piloted in two elementary and two secondary classrooms, and a field day visit to the park for students featuring writing activities as well as presentations and performances by two Native American experts.

Visit the project website: There's No Such Thing as Free Land: Understanding the Homestead Act through Multiple Perspectives

Read more about the project: "No Such Thing as Free Land"


New Jersey

Rethinking the Narrative: Historical and Artifactual Literacies and Museum Curation
Drew Writing Project at Drew University and the Museum of Early Trades & Craft
Madison, NJ

Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative and the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts partnered to help museum visitors and local students make connections between museum artifacts and their own lives. The collaboration included an Advanced Summer Institute followed by the development of a curriculum for high school English language learners. Students had an opportunity to visit the museum and narrate their interactions with the artifacts, sharing their connections through writing, drawing, or storytelling.

Visit the project website: Building a More Perfect Union Grant

Read more about this project: "Strengthening Community Through Collaboration"


New York

You Are Here: Making Connections between Family History and US History
Long Island Writing Project at Nassau Community College and the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center
Garden City, NY

Long Island Writing Project (LIWP) partnered with the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County to enable teachers, students, and members of the wider community to share their stories and to hear the stories of others who have different backgrounds, gaining a new understanding of the diversity of American history. Through a year of professional development programming, LIWP teachers networked with colleagues, attended and participated in asynchronous and synchronous activities to further develop curriculum resources, engaged in writing, and published student writing.

Visit the project website: A More Perfect Union: The Intersection Between Our Stories and Our History


“A More Perfect Union”: Exploring the Many Musics of America's People
American Musicological Society Inc.
New York, NY

The American Musicological Society (AMS) organized a high-profile series of public events exploring the music of the United States, with particular attention to diverse local and regional traditions that have not always been included in school curricula. Through this program, the AMS not only reinvigorated its regional chapters post-COVID, but also provided accessible programming in various parts of the country and cultivated conversations about American music.

Visit the project website: Many Musics of America


A More Perfect Bronx History
New York City Writing Project at Lehman College and the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance
New York, NY.

The New York City Writing Project (NYCWP) aimed to surface the untold history of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx by introducing high school students to the Enslaved African Burial Ground that sits within the park's boundaries. Through a collaboration with the Black Gotham Experience and the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, the “A More Perfect Bronx History” project encouraged those students to take on the mantle of historian and educator—to make this hidden history known to their peers, teachers, and the public.

Read more about this project: "Youth Uncover Hidden Histories"


The Eagle's Nesters: Beyond the Myths
Rosendale, NY

Community leaders in Rosendale, New York launched an in-depth research project to uncover a more accurate history of a rural, multi-racial community in the state where free Blacks owned land as early as 1795. The project culminated in the launch of a website curating stories and artifacts of the community along with the production of a fictional play, "Falcon Ridge," inspired by this local history.

Ohio

Round Table Storytelling: Toward Hearing and Empowering All the Voices of the Past and Present
Dayton Society of Natural History and the Ohio Writing Project
Dayton, OH

The Dayton Society of Natural History (DSNH) and the Ohio Writing Project collaborated to engage teachers and students at the SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park through programs that teach about pre-contact history and culture in the region. The partnership included a summer workshop focused on inquiry based learning approaches that center Indigenous voices in the classroom and a student field trip experience at SunWatch, facilitated by DSNH staff.


Oklahoma

Engaging Humanities Through Art on The Chisholm Trail
Oklahoma Writing Project at the University of Oklahoma and the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Norman, OK

Oklahoma Writing Project's partnership with the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma, enabled teachers and their students to learn about regional and national history through the exploration of the art and historical narratives included in the Center’s collection. With a focus on pandemic recovery, the grant successfully introduced teachers previously unfamiliar with the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center and its resources, expanding its reach to new audiences.


A Century of Questions: Student-Driven Inquiry into the Tulsa Race Massacre
Oklahoma State University Writing Project
Stillwater, OK

The Oklahoma State University Writing Project’s “Writing the Past, Changing the Future: A Century of Learning the 1921 Race Massacre” pointedly shed a light for student and teacher participants on this overlooked, tragic episode in US history, one which for decades was not even acknowledged to have occurred. Over 300 students and a dozen teachers visited Greenwood cultural centers, monuments, and museums during their excursions, then created artifacts and displays to showcase to their peers the history that they uncovered. Teacher participants also created shareable lesson plans that delve into the history and impact of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Visit the project website: Writing the Past, Changing the Future: A Century of Learning the 1921 Race Masacre

Read more about this project: "Youth Uncover Hidden Histories"


Pennsylvania

"They Carried Us": Hidden Histories of African American Women in Philadelphia, Building a More Perfect Union from the 1700s to the present
Philadelphia Writing Project at the University of Pennsylvania and the African American Museum in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Writing Project at the University of Pennsylvania and the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) developed and hosted a series of events focused on the hidden histories of African American women in Philadelphia from 1700 to the present. The events included four public panel discussions as well as an institute for Philadelphia teachers at AAMP. In addition, the organizations published open-source resources from the project for students, educators, and community members to freely access.

Visit the project website: "Hidden Histories" of African American Women in Philadelphia


Rhode Island

Activism in the Archives: Exploring Rhode Island Stories of Solidarity
What Cheer Writers Club
Providence, RI

What Cheer Writers Club produced a series of curated events that explored the notion of authors as activists and examined the archives at institutions like the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society to understand how stories from the past can inspire today's activist storytelling. The project culminated with the development and sharing of SOLIDARITY, a zine anthology filled with the written and illustrated word of local creatives who participated in the curated events.

Read more about this project: "Archives Inside Out"


Texas

Expanding the Resources of the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures
Coastal Bend Writing Project at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi and the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures
Corpus Christi, TX

Coastal Bend Writing Project at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi focused on restoring programming to the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures and helping the museum build capacity and engage larger and more diverse audiences. The main event was an educator open house, during which museum staff demonstrated three lessons and led a museum tour. The open house expanded the museum's reach and increased engagement within the local school communities. The partnership also helped the museum improve its Hakata doll exhibit and expand marketing efforts.


Virginia

(Re)Telling Our Stories: Central Appalachia's Cultural Contributions in Oral History and Artifact
Appalachian Writing Project at the University of Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Museum, and the African American Appalachian Cultural Museum
Wise, VA

The Appalachian Writing Project helped educators better understand the experiences and contributions of Appalachian African Americans through a partnership with the Appalachian African American Cultural Center (AAACC). Based on these professional development experiences, the participating educators created opportunities for their students to "retell" the story of Appalachia by sharing their families' stories and challenging a narrative that often stereotypes Appalachians as white and poor. Student projects included a range of multimedia products—podcasts, interviews, research reports, videos, photography, creative writing, and more.

Read more about this project: "Strengthening Community Through Collaboration"


Wisconsin

ALL Stories: American Storytelling to Build a More Perfect Union
Arts + Literature Laboratory, Inc and the Greater Madison Writing Project
Madison, WI

The Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL) and the Greater Madison Writing Project teamed up to bring experienced writers from Madison and surrounding areas into school and community settings to share their expertise in writing, as well as assist young people in writing their own stories and histories. At each of six sites, the authors and educators presented a series of lessons focused on poetry as a means of personal expression and storytelling. The participants' writing was published in an anthology and writers were also given an opportunity to read for a public audience.

Visit the project website: ALL Stories: American Storytelling for a More Perfect Union



To read more about the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations and learn more about other organizations that are offering these same grants, please visit https://www.neh.gov/sharp/grantmaking and follow #NEHRecovery and #SHARP.