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.

This spring, HT will host three virtual events to foster learning and discussion on topics highlighting challenges in each Grand Division.

Spring 2024 Events

  • MARCH: Racial Reconciliation in West Tennessee, featuring Dr. Aram Goudsouzian (University of Memphis), Laura Kebede-Twumasi (University of Memphis), and Tami Sawyer (Politician and Civil Rights Activist) in conversation with moderator Brigette Jones, public historian.

Watch the recorded video of this event on YouTube.


  • APRIL: Cultural Competency in Middle Tennessee

Program Note: Due to technical difficulties, this event was cancelled. However, the conversation is being rescheduled and a recording will be posted here when it is available. 

Participants shared perspectives on the legacy of ethnic violence in middle TN and the current work of TNs to challenge the continued harms to immigrants and refugees in the region. The Middle TN theme of Cultural Competency featured a panel discussion facilitated by public historian Brigette Jones in conversation with the following panelists:

  • Samar S. Ali (Vanderbilt University, Founder/CEO of Millions of Conversations) will discuss her work and the necessity for cross-cultural dialogue to ensure a future Tennessee with cultural competency as an interwoven trait.
  • Sabina Mohyuddin (American Muslim Advisory Council) will discuss her work with youth leadership in inter-faith conversations and the role that grassroots organizations will play in combating cultural violence and oppression.
  • Imam Ossama Bahloul (Islamic Center of Nashville) will discuss the history of Islamic people in Middle Tennessee,  and the role that religious differences play in cultural understanding.
 Special thanks to the Hispanic Family Foundation for providing a video describing some of the issues facing Latin(x) immigrant communities and the Foundation’s own work to empower Hispanic Tennesseans.


  • MAY: The Wealth Gap in East Tennessee. Details coming soon!



“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 virtual events centering on each grand division. These events will be held in March, April, and May 2024, culminating in a program closing virtual 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.



This program is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the United We Stand: Connecting Through Culture initiative.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.