In 1971, Oklahoma joined five other states in a program developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to help launch the first state-based humanities councils. The NEH, a federal grant-making agency established by Congress in 1965, supports research, education, and public projects in the humanities. In creating state councils across the nation, the NEH delegated some of its grant-making activities to the citizens where humanities programs take place.
The Oklahoma Humanities Task Force focused its early years on public policy issues through grant-making and projects based on the theme “Citizen Values in Community Decisions.” Symposia, seminars, and radio/television broadcasts brought scholars, public figures, and citizens together to discuss concepts such as censorship, energy conservation, women’s issues, and Native American culture.
In the 1976 reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Congress acknowledged the success of state councils and broadened the scope of funding beyond public policy issues to include all aspects of the humanities. This opened the door for the council to support a broad range of projects, including developing its own programs and services to serve the state.
As the mission of the organization evolved, so too did its name: the Oklahoma Humanities Task Force in 1971, the Oklahoma Humanities Committee in 1973, the Oklahoma Foundation for the Humanities in 1983, the Oklahoma Humanities Council in 1998, and Oklahoma Humanities in 2016. During these years, the organization expanded its reach by soliciting support from private sources and State of Oklahoma to match federal funds and by partnering with other organizations to extend resources to rural communities and smaller organizations that would otherwise never have access to programs and support.
Today, Oklahoma Humanities provides funding and resources that support lifelong learning and a vibrant cultural life for all Oklahomans. The mission of Oklahoma Humanities is to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans learn about the human experience, understand new perspectives, and participate knowledgeably in civic life. We accomplish that mission through our own programs and through grants for public humanities programming and research. We strive to stimulate discussion, encourage new perspectives, and to actively engage people in the humanities disciplines, such as history, literature, philosophy, and ethics.