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Humanities Kansas 50th AnniversaryHumanities Kansas 50th Anniversary Mobile

Generations of Ideas: Humanities Kansas at 50


In 2022, we’re celebrating 50 years of Humanities Kansas exploring stories that carry our culture and ideas that change the world.

Since our organization's founding as an independent nonprofit in 1972, Humanities Kansas has explored bold stories and big ideas in every corner of Kansas — ideas about what it means to be human, to be part of a democracy, and to strengthen our communities.


As we celebrate our first 50 years, HK remains committed to Kansas stories because these stories carry our culture — and help us to listen to each other, to strengthen our communities, and to explore the ideas we all need to shape the next 50 years. Together.


Our stories tell us who we were.

Our conversations inform who we are.

Our actions define who we'll become.


You’re invited to be part of the story — to attend an event, create a local happening, share your big idea, apply for a grant, become a partner, make a donation, and help build a better Kansas.


As HK continues innovative programs, grants, and partnerships across Kansas, here’s a look back at the first 50 years.

Explore HK’s HIstory

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act into law, legislating the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Bill Signing 1965

NEH invites Kansans to create a state-based humanities program connecting the public and humanities scholars for discussions on public issues. Humanities Kansas is founded as the Kansas Committee for the Humanities (KCH) and Marion Cott is hired as executive director. KCH awards 14 grants. The theme was “Human Values in a Changing Kansas.

Logo 1972

Grants awarded for programs connecting the humanities and public policy.

1975 World of Women

KCH introduces the field humanists program. Field humanists are humanities faculty who serve as KCH consultants and work with community groups. Garden City Committee for the Humanities hosts “The Changing Social Role of Women” with the support of a KCH grant.

1975 Field Humanists

KCH funds KU’s production of Neshnabek: The People, a documentary about Potawatomi traditions.


The Humanities Resource Center is created as a film and video library.

Resource Center

Kansas: A State of Mind exhibit, produced by the State Steering Committee for Humanities in Libraries, begins touring. Work & the Humanities is the theme for KCH programs.

1980 Graphic

KCH turns 10! The American Dream conference and exhibit takes place at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

American Dream

Technology and the Human Prospect projects encourage reflection on technology and society.

New Literacy

Debut of the Speakers Bureau. Friends of the Humanities founded. Emporia State University’s Kansas Chautauqua begins touring the state. Libraries in Kingman, Salina, and Emporia pioneer “Let’s Talk About It” book discussions.


NEH exemplary award to KCH for STAR: Striving Toward America’s Roots on the bicentennial of the Constitution. The Making of Kansas celebrates the 125th anniversary of Kansas statehood.

Making of Kansas

Kansas Habits, Kansas Hopes engages more than 250 Kansans, including former governors, in a discussion of the state’s vision of its economic future and quality of life at a two-day conference in Topeka.

KS Habits

KCH’s work recognized by NEH with a $50,000 merit award.


Peacemaking in the Middle East conference at Bethel College. KCH becomes the major underwriter for KTWU’s Sunflower Journeys series on public television. KCH receives state funding for the first time.

Sunflower Journeys Dave Kendall

Historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter presents the Sixth Annual Humanities Lecture entitled “Did the ‘South’ Lose the Civil War?”

Nell Irvin Painter

The organization turns 20 and has a new name: Kansas Humanities Council.

KHC Logo

Health Care and Human Values project wins NEH exemplary award and stimulates statewide discussion of the values and ethics involved in health care reform.

Health Care Human Values

History Alive! introduces historical characterization into Kansas schools. Talk About Literature in Kansas debuts.

Wm Allen White by Krebs

Crossing Boundaries/Making Connections: African American & American Culture project wins NEH exemplary award to take Black history into public schools in Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. Humanities scholars present first-person portrayals of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Crossing Boundaries

KHC-funded documentary Troublesome Creek nominated for an Academy Award. KHC offers its first bilingual TALK book discussion series, El lenguaje que nos une/The language that unites us, in Garden City and Kansas City.

Troublesome Creek

Stories at Work applies humanities to professional life. Democratic Vistas: Creating Community for a New Century theme announced for KHC’s 25th anniversary.

Demo Vistas Logo Marion Cott 25th Anniversary

Great Plains Chautauqua invites Kansans to travel back to the future with “Behold Our New Century: Early 20th Century Visions of America.” Under the blue-and-white striped tent, humanities scholars portraying historical figures Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and Jane Addams tell their dreams for America in Hutchinson.

New Centurty

KHC promotes heritage tourism when the Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon Smithsonian exhibition tours 8 communities. Record crowds view the exhibit in Lindsborg, Colby, Fredonia, Arkansas City, Winfield, Hiawatha, Highland, and Elkhart.

Barn Again Opening Elkhart

Stories at Work offers health care providers insights into end-of-life ethical choices. Women of Mystery film documentary and book series explore how women writers of detective novels changed the genre. Programs in Lawrence, Dodge City, Iola, and Hays.

Women of Mystery

Film festivals in Great Bend and Iola recognize the contributions of Oscar Micheaux, America’s first Black filmmaker, and silent film star and comedian Buster Keaton. Both men were influenced by their Kansas heritage.

Photo Micheaux

Bleeding Kansas Chautauqua: Where the Civil War Began draws big crowds in Junction City, Colby, Fort Scott, and Lawrence as the nation reflected on the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The award-winning Black/White & Brown, a documentary produced by KTWU with support from KHC, examines the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision on desegregation.

Brown Vs Board

Kansans Tell Their Stories, a statewide initiative encouraging Kansans to explore their immigrant and ethnic histories, begins with projects in Atchison, Collyer, Emporia, Fort Scott, Garden City, Horton, Hutchinson, Kansas City, Lawrence, Liberal, Newton, Pittsburg, Shawnee, Topeka, and Wichita.

KTTS Postcard

Prime Time Family Reading Time, a family reading and discussion series offered in English and English/Spanish premieres in Dodge City, Junction City, Newton, and Syracuse. Marion Cott, KHC founding director, retires after 34 years of public service to Kansas.

Prime Time

StoryCorps, the national oral history project, visits Medicine Lodge, Wichita, Newton, Topeka, Shawnee, and Baldwin City. Fred Krebs, portraying William Allen White, receives a standing ovation under the Chautauqua tent during the Famous Kansans Chautauqua. KHC hires Julie Mulvihill as new executive director.

Photo Julie

The first Kansans Tell Their Stories short film documentaries are produced in Lucas and Lansing. The Kansas City Chinese Film Festival explores the theme “Shanghai: Between the Past and Future.”


The Stafford County Historical Museum receives a KHC Heritage grant to digitize 29,000 glass plate negatives depicting early 20th century life in Kansas. The Journey Stories Smithsonian exhibition tours six Kansas communities: Atchison, Colby, Glasco, Junction City, Lindsborg, and Parsons. KHC gets a new logo.

KHC Logo

TALK book discussions and Speakers Bureau topics commemorate Kansas at 150. A Kansans Tell Their Stories traveling exhibition tours Winfield, Parsons, Peabody, Seneca, Lucas, Lansing, and Kinsley. KHC partners with Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area to produce the Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater series for the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

KTTS Exhibition

KHC turns 40! The Way We Worked initiative features a Smithsonian travel exhibition, local exhibitions in 28 communities, and an oral history project on the closure of the Boeing plant in Wichita, supported by the Library of Congress.


KHC is the home for the Poet Laureate of Kansas and works with Poets Laureate Caryn Miriam-Goldberg, Wyatt Townley, Eric McHenry, Kevin Rabas, and Huascar Medina to lead humanities discussions through poetry across Kansas.

Poet Laureate

KHC receives the Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize for outstanding public humanities programming for #QR1863, the Quantrill’s Raid Twitter project. Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War featured statewide book discussions and preservation projects. Turning Points: Stories of Change short films explores pivotal moments in the history of four communities: Kinsley, Olathe, Ulysses, and Hays. StoryCorps records oral histories with Topekans for the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. NEH Chairman William “Bro” Adams visits Kansas for the “Heart of the Matter” event at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Selfie with NEH Chairman Adams

70,000 people participate in Hometown Teams Smithsonian exhibition activities in Ellinwood, Goodland, Greensburg, Atchison, Perry, and Humboldt. Coffeyville, Harper, LaCygne, Lansing, Manhattan, and Wamego take part in the Big Read of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.

Hometown Teams

Kansas cultural nonprofit professionals convene in Topeka for KHC’s Fundraising Bootcamp for Cultural Nonprofits. KHC commemorates 100 years of the Pulitzer Prizes, through the lens of William Allen White’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial “To An Anxious Friend,” with events in Abilene, Baldwin City, Manhattan, and Overland Park.


KHC turns 45! KHC partners with the Wichita Public Library for Candid Conversations: Discussions of Race in Wichita. Brooksfest Poetry Walk honors the work and legacy of Topeka native Gwendolyn Brooks.

Brooks Fest

The Movement of Ideas begins! KHC becomes Humanities Kansas and new “Next Gen” programs are launched, including the Big Idea and Story Chasers. Journalist Sonia Nazario speaks in Kansas City as part of the Latino Stories of Kansas initiative.


Vietnam veterans from 12 communities handover their oral histories to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress at the Kansas Stories of the Vietnam War ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics. Ad Astra: Working Hard in the Heartland looks at the working poor in Kansas features a keynote event with author Sarah Smarsh.

Kansas Stories of Vietnam

HK connects Kansans and responds to the needs of Kansans and Kansas cultural institutions during the pandemic with Quick Grants, Movement of Ideas Kits, and the Humanities Hotline. HK awards 83 CARES recovery grants. Kansans visit the Crossroads: Change in Rural America Smithsonian exhibition in person and online.

Crossroads Alma

HK awards SHARP recovery grants to 121 Kansas cultural organizations. Words of a Feather, an online poetry and bird chapbook, connects Kansans with the beauty of nature and the works of Kansas poets.


50 and forward. The Kansas 1972 podcast launches. 21st Century Civics resources engage Kansans with topics exploring the history of American democracy. HK welcomes U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to Lawrence. 50th anniversary events connect Kansans with history. The Movement of Ideas continues.

Joy Harjo

Strong democracies are built on bold ideas — ideas that inspire us to reflect, to have deeper conversations and to get involved in our communities.

To engage every Kansan in this conversation, Humanities Kansas is leading a movement of ideas across our state — from Big Ideas discussions and Smithsonian exhibitions to community grants, thoughtful history presentations and engaging book discussions. We create opportunities for all people in Kansas to explore bold stories and big ideas and shape a future worthy of generations yet to come.


Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. Join us on the journey into our next 50 years of strengthening communities across Kansas.



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