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About Us

An Overview of Humanities Tennessee

Founded in 1973, Humanities Tennessee is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, civil discourse, and an appreciation of history, diversity, and community among Tennesseans. Our statewide programs include the annual Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Wordâ„ , the Appalachian and Tennessee Young Writers' Workshops, a variety of History & Culture programs, Grants & Awards for teachers and community, and many more


Humanities Tennessee nurtures the mutual respect and understanding essential to community by enabling Tennesseans to examine and critically reflect upon the narratives, traditions, beliefs, and ideas — as expressed through the arts and letters — that define us as individuals and participants in community life.


1973 – Incorporated as the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities, a “state-based” affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The mission to “bring the humanities to the public” was supported solely by federal funds.

1985 – We changed the name to the Tennessee Humanities Council (a name that many still remember).

2000 – Reborn as Humanities Tennessee. No longer solely a grant-making organization, HT now conducts programs and makes grants, raises significant non-federal funds, and attempts to engage the public actively in the humanities and to integrate the humanities into community life in Tennessee. 

Instrumental in making Humanities Tennessee what it is today was our longstanding President, Robert Cheatham. For thirty-five years Robert served in this capacity, leading the organization through many changes both internal and external. He tirelessly served Tennesseans bringing much needed resources, conversations, and engaging programming to communities throughout the state. Robert's legacy and service reaches beyond Tennessee; he served as a leader of national importance as well.

Read more about Robert's impact on Humanities Tennessee and the national humanities community.  

Board of Directors

To honor Robert Cheatham's service, the board of directors of Humanities Tennessee passed a resolution naming him President Emeritus of Humanities Tennessee. See the Resolution here.

Holly Conner, Chair, Nashville   Carol Harris, Dyersburg
Dr. Lynn Alexander, Vice Chair, Martin   Michael KnightKnoxville
Donald Fann, Immediate Past Chair, Woodbury   Dr. Randy MackinLinden
Sammie ArnoldNashville   James McKissic, Chattanooga
Patsy CarsonMadisonville   Emily Mitchell, Nashville
Daryl A. Carter, Ph.D., Johnson City   Dr. Scott NewstokMemphis
Mary Pom Claiborne, Knoxville   Dr. Shawn PittsSelmer
Carmen DavisChattanooga   Gabe Roberts, Nashville
Jim DodsonOak Ridge   Jennifer Wheatley, Big Sandy
Joy FulkersonJohnson City   Karen E. WilliamsFranklin
Courtney Ginn, Nashville    


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