Back to news Grants

Mellon Foundation Grant Supports New “Who Gets to Vote?” Initiative

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to announce the receipt of a new grant from the Federation of State Humanities Councils and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the “Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative. Funding from this grant will support the LEH program “Who Gets to Vote?”, which will engage members of the general public in a series of discussions on the history of voting—and efforts to suppress the vote—in the United States.

This public humanities initiative will feature two keynote programs and a four-part reading and discussion series incorporating books that explore the expansion of voting rights since the country’s founding, the women’s suffrage movement, historic and contemporary voter suppression practices, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and the 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated key portions of it), and the disenfranchisement of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans. Programs will begin late this year and continue into next year.

The books that will be included are:

The first program in the series, held on October 23, 2020, was a virtual lecture and discussion with award-winning historian Lisa Tetrault, author of The Myth of Seneca Falls and consultant on PBS’s American Experience documentary The Vote.

For the reading and discussion series, the LEH will issue a public call to library and community partners across the state, asking prospective host sites to submit letters of interest. LEH staff will choose 10 geographically diverse sites to participate in the program. Each site will choose four of the six books in the series and host four discussion programs, with financial support from the LEH to cover site coordination, facilitator honoraria, book purchases, and program publicity.

Using reading and discussion guides developed by humanities scholars and targeting up to 20 participants per session, participants will engage in thoughtful dialogue around book themes and consider the intersections between history and the present. All sessions will be facilitated by humanities scholars and can take place virtually or, should the public health environment allow, in person.

“Who Gets to Vote?” will culminate in a closing keynote public program presented by the LEH via Zoom webinar featuring one of the five other authors from the series in conversation with a Louisiana-based scholar.

Stay tuned for additional details, including a full program schedule and application details for libraries and partners interested in applying to host a reading and discussion program.

Image: President Calvin Coolidge votes by mail in the 1924 election; gift of Herbert A. French, Library of Congress