Special Initiatives

Humanities Tennessee (HT) has received $50,000 as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “United We Stand: Connecting Through Culture” initiative which awarded $2.8 million nationwide. HT’s focus with this programming during 2023-2024, our 50th anniversary year, is to explore Tennessee’s collective imagination as a tool shaping a safer, more just civic life in which all Tennesseans belong.


“As Americans we share a responsibility for understanding and embracing our diverse cultural histories, traditions, and experiences, and for opposing hate-based violence and extremism,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “The humanities strengthen mutual understanding by providing the context, history, and models of discourse that remind us of our common purpose and shared humanity. NEH is proud to participate in this important national initiative by awarding dedicated United We Stand funding to our state and jurisdictional partners to support humanities programs focused on fostering cross-cultural understanding, communication, and resilience in communities across the country.”


Through our program initiatives, HT will engage communities and individuals in these crucial questions:

  • How have artists, NGO’s and Tennesseans-at-large sought to make change?
  • How attuned are our media to the systems, issues, and power dynamics that relate to safety and justice?
  • How has the State, through laws, education, and policy impacted the vulnerability of Tennesseans to prejudice and violence?

When Humanities Tennessee formed 50 years ago, we grappled with similar questions in a different time and context. Now, 23 years into a new century facing unimaginable new challenges, we look forward to “doing the humanities” as we explore these questions together.


Upcoming Activities & Events

Humanities Tennessee’s “United We Stand” programming will span October 2023 through July 2024. Historian Brigette Jones is co-directing, coordinating, and moderating three livestreamed, virtual events centering on each grand division. These events will be held in March, April, and May 2024, culminating in an in-person event in June 2024.

Our online literary publication, Chapter16.org, will include a series of author interviews and personal essays from Tennesseans from across the political spectrum who have joined efforts to address vitriol and hate that has consumed some online communities and spilled into physical towns and neighborhoods in Tennessee. Chapter 16 also features reviews of several books featured at the 2023 Southern Festival of Books as part of the “United We Stand” track (see below for full list.)

United We Stand: Connecting Through Culture is a joint initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that leverages the arts and humanities to combat hate-motivated violence. Funding for Humanities Tennessee programming has been provided by the NEH.

Authors and books featured at the 2023 Southern Festival of Books

Violence has often unfolded in tandem with Tennessee’s history. This track of sessions addressed historical accounts of racial violence and contemporary violent extremism as part of the national “United We Stand: Connecting Through Culture” initiative, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Whether through acts of physical brutality or deliberate measures to exclude, forms of violence arise when we ignore our shared humanity. Tennesseans have long challenged this behavior. We hope you may add some of these titles to your reading list in advance of the spring 2024 programs.


Timothy Egan | Saturday, Oct. 21, 11am – Noon
A historical thriller by the Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning author that tells the riveting story of the Klan’s rise to power in the 1920s, the cunning con man who drove that rise, and the woman who stopped them.



Ben Fountain, Stephen Kearse | Saturday, Oct. 21, 1:30 – 2:30pm
Power corrupts absolutely. In these masterful novels set in Haiti and Atlanta, ordinary people confront powerful forces.




Fergus Bordewich | Sunday, Oct. 22, 11am – Noon
A stunning history of the first national anti-terrorist campaign waged on American soil—when Ulysses S. Grant wielded the power of the federal government to dismantle the KKK.



Jefferson Cowie | Sunday, Oct. 22, 12 – 1pm
An “important, deeply affecting—and regrettably relevant” (New York Times) chronicle of a sinister idea of freedom: white Americans’ freedom to oppress others and their fight against the government that got in their way. Cowie won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for this book.



Yasmine Ali, Rachel Louise Martin, Emily Strasser | Sunday, Oct. 22, 2 – 3pm
A fire that led to the founding of FEMA. A school desegregation in a small Tennessee town. The secret community that helped build the atomic bomb. These gripping true stories make Tennessee history come alive.