Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC)

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities

The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC), was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. The AHC and humanities councils for fifty-five other states and territories were established by Congress and operate under the guidelines of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent agency of the United States government. While state councils were formed under NEH legislation, they are separate, independent entities. The AHC is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Arkansas.

In its legislation creating the NEH, Congress gave the term “humanities” a wide-ranging definition. In brief, it may include history, literature, languages, philosophy, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative religion, and ethics. Other areas of the social sciences and connections between the environment and culture also are included. The AHC supports work in any of these fields in Arkansas.

State humanities councils have much freedom to determine the methods by which they offer support. AHC has therefore awarded grants to support the humanities across the state in ways most meaningful to citizens. This often takes the form of local organizations applying for grants to support local projects on a wide variety of topics, from a public presentation of local history to the preservation of a historic cemetery. Grant categories include public programs, research, publications, media, and planning.

Major grant awards have varied from statewide History Day competitions among school children to the creation of a new Arkansas history text book, from sacred harp singing to digital books. Mini-grants have ranged from studies of ancient Indian cultures to film festivals. One AHC-funded project supported the creation of virtual field trips to the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, while an educational mini-grant supplied the funds for KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) students from Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) to take a five-state civil rights tour. KIPP, a public charter school, took students to Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Jackson, Mississippi, touring historic sites of the civil rights movement. The AHC grant required the input of a humanities scholar, so the school arranged a lecture from a Tennessee professor who was an original Freedom Rider.

To increase grant funds and better serve the public, AHC has supplemented its NEH funding by developing a donor base and forging partnerships with other entities, including other non-profits and government agencies. AHC partners have included the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Central Arkansas Library System, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas universities, and many other non-profit organizations.

Total AHC grant awards in 2008 exceeded $200,000. Major grants are awarded in April and November each year. Mini-grants and educational mini-grants are awarded on a monthly basis. Grants are awarded by the AHC board, consisting of twenty-four directors, six of whom are appointed by the governor, while the other eighteen are elected by the directors themselves. Directors serve a three-year term and can be reelected to one additional three-year term.

For additional information:
Arkansas Humanities Council. (accessed April 5, 2022).

Arkansas Humanities Council Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Williams, John. “What About Bob?” Humanities 29 (January and February 2008): 46.

Jeffrey Root
Ouachita Baptist University


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