Generous NEH grant helps reimagine African American Studies program


This month, Illinois College received almost $150,000 to further develop the African American Studies program.

A recipient of the Humanities Initiatives Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Illinois College is one of the top 3 recipients in the state of Illinois. Under the leadership of Dr. Brittney Yancy, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, the grant project aims to offer experiential learning, training, and community outreach at the faculty, student, and community level across Central Illinois.

“The Reimagining African American Studies at Illinois College Project promises an immersive dive into African American Studies for our campus community,” Dr. Yancy explains, “This NEH grant is poised to cast a national spotlight on the exceptional faculty, brilliant students, and invaluable community collaborators at Illinois College and Central-Western Illinois.”

On January 9, 2024, the NEH announced $33.8 million in grants for 260 humanities projects across the country. Of those, Illinois College is one of 28 recipients of the Humanities Initiatives Grant.

“Grants from organizations like the National Endowment for the Humanities offer faculty at IC the opportunity to engage in scholarship and activities that enrich both the college and community in ways that we would likely not be able to afford without external support,” Director of Grants Jenny Chandler adds.

The goal of the Humanities Initiatives Grant is to strengthen the teaching and study of the humanities in higher education through the development or enhancement of humanities programs, courses, and resources. Grant programs are offered for colleges and universities, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Receiving this grant to further develop African American Studies at Illinois College aligns with the college’s history and fulfills our mission to prepare students to be informed and skillful global citizens. Such study enriches the lives of our students and community.
Dr. Lisa Udel, Associate Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty of African American Studies

28 grants total were awarded, totaling $4.1 million. Illinois College received $149,178 for the 3-year project to revise the African American Studies program.

The scope of the 3-year project includes engagement at the faculty, student, and community level. Faculty are invited to participate in a Curriculum Development Institute led by Dr. Yancy and Dr. Beth Capo, Edward Capps Professor of Humanities, Professor of English. This two summer long institute aims to aid faculty members in integrating perspectives and approaches in African American Studies into their curriculum.

In Fall 2025, the College will host its first Sankofa Symposium. This half-day symposium will bring faculty, students, and community partners together to advance narratives, cultures, and histories of African-descended people.

My hope for this grant is that it deepens my awareness and aligns me with the right resources needed to create a lasting impact of helping people achieve an historical understanding of African American history and culture.
Jiech Bel '26, African American Studies minor

At the community level, the project will offer experiential learning and community outreach opportunities that will connect students with local and regional African American and social justice institutions across Central Illinois.

“Receiving a grant like this allows Illinois College and the community to bridge opportunities for partnering and creating a unified group for the purpose of bettering communication, support, and a shared interest in the betterment of both,” community partner Art Wilson of the Jacksonville African American History Museum states.

Along with the Jacksonville African American History Museum, community partners include the Garvey-Tubman Cultural Arts & Research Center under the direction of Shatriya Smith and the New Philadelphia National Park Freedom Corridor under the leadership of Drs. Gerald and Kate-Williams McWorter.

New Philadelphia Convo with the McWorters, New Philadelphia Association, and IC Faculty, staff, and students
New Philadelphia Convocation with the McWorters, New Philadelphia Association, and IC Faculty, staff, and students

“Illinois College is honored to have received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant,” Provost O’Connell says, “This support will enable faculty members, students, and our community partners to conduct important research about African-American history in our region. In addition, the grant will help us grow our academic offerings and facilitate collaboration among faculty members. The NEH is one of the most important sources for humanities support nationwide and we are delighted that the excellent work of our faculty has garnered this national recognition.”

For more information, read the official release from the National Endowment for the Humanities here.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit for more information.

Media Contact Information
Emily Titsworth '19, Writer
Office of Marketing and Communication
217.245.3219 |