The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards More Than $72 Million to Teams Led by Humanities Scholars to Ensure “Just Futures” and Expand National Cultural Narratives

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards More Than $72 Million to Teams Led by Humanities Scholars to Ensure “Just Futures” and Expand National Cultural Narratives

New York, NY – January 13, 2021 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest funder of the arts and humanities in the US, announced today that grants totaling more than $72 million have been awarded to winners of its Just Futures Initiative—supporting teams of scholars who are studying past periods of crisis and disruption in order to lead us to cultural and social transformation. The 16 projects will receive grants of up to $5 million to be used over a three-year period to support multidisciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative teams producing solutions-based work that contributes to  public understanding of the nation’s racist past and can lead to the creation of socially just futures. 

“Through extraordinary collaborative exploration and rigorous humanities-driven inquiry, the Just Futures Initiative will expand our collective understanding of our country’s history,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “We are thrilled that the work of these multidisciplinary teams will propose and implement solutions to real social problems, and also mark new milestones in the effort to better capture the contributions of the many different communities that make up the American story.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced deep inequities and vulnerabilities that have disproportionately impacted communities of color. The Mellon Foundation sees the humanities playing an important role in envisioning the future by helping to shed light on the past, make meaning of the present, and analyze the conditions required for socially just futures. In keeping with the Foundation’s new strategic focus on building “just communities,” the Just Futures Initiative is a collaborative competition in the service of racial justice and social equality. 

In August 2020, the Foundation’s Higher Learning program issued a call for proposals from multidisciplinary, humanities-led teams working to address racial inequality. A select group of 38 universities, including public universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and private universities were invited to participate. The Foundation received 165 applications, from which 16 winning proposals were selected by a jury of 8 distinguished scholars with expertise in racial justice. 

A full list of the winning projects is below: 

  • Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island): “Reimaging New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty and Freedom”
  • Columbia University (New York, New York): “Racial Justice and Abolition Democracy: An Action Curriculum for a Just Society”
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, New York): “Cross-Border Movements: Racism, Dispossession, and Migration”
  • Florida International University (Miami, Florida): “Race, Risk, and Resilience: Building a Local-to-Global ‘Commons for Justice’”
  • Howard University (Washington, District of Columbia): “Social Justice Consortium”
  • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland): “Inheritance Baltimore: Humanities and Arts Education for Black Liberation”
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan): “Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Inequity and Injustice”
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas): “Democratizing Racial Justice: Remembering Histories, Transforming Futures”
  • University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California): “The Black Studies Collaboratory”
  • University of California at Riverside (Riverside, California): “Latinx Futures:  The Civil, Cultural and Political Stakes for Southern California Latinx Communities”
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan): “Research for Indigenous Social Action and Equity Center: Undoing Inequality”
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan): “Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-based Reparations Solutions”
  • University of Minnesota at Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minnesota): "Minnesota Transform: A Just University for Just Futures”
  • University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon): “Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice”
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): “Dispossessions in the Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present”
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison (Madison, Wisconsin): “Humanities Education for Anti-racism Literacy in the Sciences and Medicine”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

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