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The NEH “supports research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities,” and is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the US. Credit: Annie Luo

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded grants two Penn professors and a Penn librarian this fall.

History and law professor Sarah Barringer Gordon, philosophy and education professor Karen Detlefsen, and the director of the Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library David McKnight all received NEH grants to fund collaborative research projects. The NEH awarded a total of $29 million for 215 humanities projects nationwide this fall. 

Gordon received $242,000 to fund her project called “The Long Road to Freedom: Biddy Mason (1818-1891) and the Making of Black Los Angeles.” She will co-author a book on freedwoman Biddy Mason’s role in developing the First African American Methodist Church in Los Angeles. She will also develop a website with documents and interactive maps of nineteenth-century Los Angeles to tell Mason’s story.

The NEH granted Detlefsen $50,000 to fund a three-day conference discussing early modern women philosopher works, which will culminate in an edited volume of essays from 49 scholars. Detlefsen’s project is called “New Narratives in the History of Philosophy: Women and Early Modern European Philosophy.”

McKnight was awarded $45,266 to fund a one-week conference for editors, archivists, and technologists to discuss digitalizing the manuscripts of British writer and suffragist May Sinclair. His project, “The Papers of British Writer and Suffragist May Sinclair (1863-1964): Creating a Digital Archive of her Manuscripts,” will then create a full-text searchable online database of Sinclair’s manuscripts, which are the property of Penn’s library.

Penn faculty and staff have received NEH grants in the past. Last March, history and sociology professor Beth Linker was awarded $50,400 for her book on the American poor posture epidemic, and English professor Whitney Trettien was awarded $60,000 in January for her digital publication on early modern English history.

The agency, which is funded by the U.S. government, has been continuously under fire by the Trump administration. In 2017, Penn faculty released a petition criticizing Trump’s intention to eliminate the program. Earlier this March, Trump called for the defunding of the program for the third year in a row. Congress ignored his proposal and the NEH received $155 million in federal support for the fiscal year 2019 funding cycle.

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