Honoring the Past
Shaping the Future

pa humanities at 50

2023-2024 marks 50 years of bringing Pennsylvanians together to make meaningful change through the humanities.

From our humble beginnings in 1973, we’ve worked side-by-side with everyday people to build connections and foster transformative conversations within communities. Today we continue that tradition with an expanded commitment to equity, advocacy, research, and impact as we look to revolutionize the way people think about, and engage with, the humanities.

To celebrate 50 years of innovation, we’ve launched an exciting series of new programs and projects aimed at honoring the people of Pennsylvania and their stories, traditions, and talents.

We invite you to support us – to be co-creators and collaborators with us – as we embark on the next chapter of our story and imagine new pathways for a more equitable future.

Our History


Public Committee for the Humanities in PA (HIP), led by a group of dedicated volunteers with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, established at Bucknell University to award grants for everyday people to use the humanities to develop respect and seek justice in their communities.


Now in Philadelphia, name changed to Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC), as a private nonprofit, to expand grantmaking and people’s access and appreciation of the humanities.


Launch of our popular Commonwealth Speakers, offered for 30 years and ended in a Telly award-winning series broadcast to 3.3 million on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Humanities on the Road kicked off with Linda Goss, storyteller and performer in the African diasporic oral tradition.


Started awards honoring Distinguished Humanists like Vartan Gregorian and Sonia Sanchez with Governor Casey’s cultural advisors office.


Celebrated The Year of the Pennsylvania Writer with speakers like David McCullough and a special newspaper supplement.


Soared into the national spotlight with Bicentennial celebrations of the US Constitution in 1987 then the Bill of Rights in 1991, with a “To Preserve These Rights” exhibit unveiled at the U.S. Senate in DC.


Women’s Studies initiative, Through Women’s Eyes, produced the first-of-its-kind, award-winning Raising Our Sites, integrating women’s history into PA sites and museums.


Inventive initiative 2020 Vision: Seeing America into the Twenty-First Century, along with a new partnership with the PA Historical and Museum Commission, centered our programs in the experience and memories of everyday people and explored the impact of new technologies on our lives.


A fresh, new grant initiative called Humanities-and-the-Arts offered collaboratively with PA Council on the Arts began our journey to explore arts through the humanities and creatively foster connection, communication, and healing in PA communities for the next 10 years.


Re-imagined our annual lecture series for a new century with the Speaker’s Millennium Lecture, launching public lectures in the Hall of the House of Representatives in the state capitol with noted historians, journalists, and artists like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Frank McCourt, and John Updike.


Our Read About It!, a first-of-its-kind book series on popular literature co-curated by libraries with their local communities, is developed in partnership with PA Department of Education’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries and blossoms for a decade.


Built on our decades-long work with Pennsylvania libraries, Teen Reading Lounge (TRL) is born in partnership with librarians, educators, artists, and scholars. This program increases the capacity of libraries and OST sites to engage a diversity of people in humanities programming that centers youth and their interests.


Inventive shift to strategically focus on putting the humanities in action for education and civic engagement, grounded in inclusive, people-centered, humanities-driven community building, with programs like Chester Made.


Launch of PA Heart & Soul, using storytelling for community change, at three pilot sites – Williamsport, Meadville, and Greater Carlisle – with more than a dozen communities now across the state in partnership with Community Heart & Soul, Department of Community & Economic Development, and Route 6 Alliance.


With the Philadelphia Media Network, kicked off a PA centennial celebration of Pulitzer Prizes with 100 Days of Pulitzer website.


Initiated a new strategic phase of recovery and growth philanthropy during the pandemic with Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers, PHC CARES, and PA SHARP.

(Ellen Henderson Photography)


Rebrand to PA Humanities, centering growth, equity, and community as a pathway to positive long-lasting change with new statewide original projects like the PA Kindness Poem.


Growth of first-ever research on the impact and use of the humanities in Pennsylvania with reports like Humanities in Action: A National Perspective and the PA Humanities Discovery Project.


50th anniversary celebration, launching a new series of imaginative programs like Rain Poetry.


What's your PA Humanities story?

"[PA Humanities] allowed us to expand a project that started as a grassroots event into a community-wide, community-created storytelling, music performance, and visual arts event. [It] gave our communitv a forum where we can actively build empathy and understand each other a little better in the hopes to make our community and our world a better place."

Lisa Cadigan, Executive Director, Adams County Arts Council

Throughout 2023-2024, we're reaching out to our friends and partners, old and new, from across the state to share memories about PA Humanities impact.

Do you have memories to share? We'd love to hear from you, too!

Email us at hello@pahumanities.org or share online with #PAHumanities50.

Join the celebration!

Join the movement of generous Pennsylvanians in communities like yours supporting the humanities in action.

Funding Our 50th


Goal: $750,000

Your gift of any size helps start conversations that can change lives:

Rain Poetry helps young people transform everyday spaces into opportunities to engage with the humanities — and fosters learning, conversation, and community stewardship along the way. Help us bring Rain Poetry to a town near you!

● The Humanities in Action grant fund will provide up to $10,000 to organizations that champion the humanities in action and center their community and inclusion in their work. Help people in towns like yours join our network of humanities practitioners.

Voices of History: Stories from Black Pennsylvanians engages cultural organizations and theater professionals with PA residents to inspire them to share stories of their family’s experiences. Join us in bringing this emergent experience to diverse PA communities in 2024.

These programs will only be possible with additional contributions from generous people like you.

Major Donors

Thomas B. Hagen

Randall M. Miller

Sondra Myers

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