The American Council of Learned Societies was founded to support the free circulation of knowledge, on the belief that deep understanding of human thought and action is a key part of creating a just and peaceful world.

Over the past century, that commitment has not wavered. However, in the year since I began my service as president of ACLS, the need to examine long-held assumptions and expand our reach has become more clear and urgent. 

The humanities and social sciences will not thrive unless they reflect the diversity of the experiences they seek to interpret.” ACLS President Joy Connolly

In September 2019, our statement on inclusive excellence declared: “The humanities and social sciences will not thrive unless they reflect the diversity of the experiences they seek to interpret.”

We continue to foster greater diversity within the academy by elevating perspectives that have traditionally been muted, and by embedding attention to equity and inclusion in all our practices, from our evaluation of grant and fellowship applications to our outreach to potential new member societies.

We are committed to doing more. 

In 2020, ACLS implemented a holistic anti-racism agenda with the goal of integrating it into our plans for the next four years, as stated in our Strategic Priorities. Our aim was and is to help dismantle the biases that persist within academia and our larger society, in an effort to mirror the more just and equitable world we wish to see.    

Working from the agenda we designed in 2020, we can report the following progress:

  1. Assessment – We secured a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant and convened an Advisory Group with representatives from various constituencies who guided and improved our anti-racism action plan and programming.
  2. Investment – At a time when new PhDs face the worst academic job market in a generation and faculty without tenure are navigating the stresses of remote work, we have directed our fellowship funds to those most vulnerable. In summer 2020, ACLS introduced the Emerging Voices Fellowship program, aimed at supporting early career PhDs with year-long positions, with a call for nominations that focused on the voices most needed in the academy of today and the future, including and especially members of underrepresented groups. 
  3. Practice – Recognizing the need to bring more perspectives into our discussions on fostering positive change, ACLS hired Dr. Jovonne Bickerstaff as a program officer in Higher Education. She oversees the Emerging Voices Fellowship competition and works with our member societies and emerging scholars of color on ways to enhance our engagement with underrepresented and underrecognized groups in the academy via the Intention Foundry.

    We entered into and continue our discussion with new member societies, colleges, and universities to help ensure our membership truly reflects the full diversity of scholars and key areas of study we support, and that the needs and concerns of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and tribal colleges are part of the conversations that guide our work. Additionally, we have enhanced our efforts to increase diversity in our applicant pools and grant and fellowship review panels to provide clearer paths of opportunity for those underrepresented within the academy, especially Black scholars and other scholars of color.

  4. Amplifying More Diverse Voices and Perspectives – In 2020-21, we introduced a public programming series highlighting scholarship by ACLS fellows on race and society, racial inequality, race and democracy, and ways to improve equity and inclusion in our world. We will also lift up work by past fellows on the LGBTQ+ experience and additional areas, and we will publicize efforts along these lines by our member societies. In 2021-22, diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be central concerns of our public programming.

We thank Samira Abdul-Karim and her colleagues at Hyphens and Spaces for their expert guidance through academic year 2020-21 and beyond. 

We repeat what we said in 2020: we know that there is more work to be done. We seek to make the most of the collective power of our community to drive positive, sustainable change within the academy.  Humanistic knowledge and perspectives are key to building a society that recognizes and respects all of its members.

Your insights are always important to us. Please share your thoughts with us at [email protected]

Public Programs
Explore some of the community conversations ACLS has hosted on advancing efforts for more diversity and anti-racist policies within the academy.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2020, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) presented “A Discussion on Race and Racism,” via Zoom webinar.
On Thursday, December 17, 2020, the American Council of Learned Societies presented the latest event in its Humanistic Knowledge in the 21st Century series, “How Do We Get There? Accelerating Diversity in Slow-To-Change Humanities Fields.”
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021 the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) presented the latest event in its Humanistic Knowledge in the 21st Century series, “Forward-Looking Philanthropy: A Virtual Conversation Among Funders and Black Scholars.”

Discover research by the ACLS community exploring topics of race, diversity and inclusion, and more.
Indigenous Studies Scholarly Resources

Focusing on the insights, histories, and experiences of Indigenous people.
Read More.

Interrogating the Legacy of Racism in Our Society

Selected research and writing by and recommended by ACLS fellows and grantees. Read More.

Disabilities Studies Scholarly Resources

Exploring the history and legacy of disability rights movements. Read More.


DEI Resources for Learned Societies

Materials produced by ACLS member societies. Learn More.

Explore humanistic scholarship and resources on timely, urgent topics.
Black History, Black Futures Scholarly Resources

Highlighting scholarly resources on the hidden and lesser known histories of the Black American experience. Read More.

Environmental Humanities Scholarly Resources

Exploring the the intersection of the environment, climate change, and sustainability with the humanities.
Read More.

Anti-Asian Bias and Asian Empowerment Movements

Understanding the histories of societal anti-Asian bias and the movements that have stood against them. Read More.


Celebrating the Diversity of Experience In Humanistic Scholarship
Hispanic Heritage Month Scholarly Resources

Celebrating the Hispanic and Latinx Diaspora. Read More.

Women’s History Scholarly Resources

Celebrate lesser-known, forgotten, and diverse histories and historical roles of women. Read More.

LGBTQ+ Scholarly Resources

Featuring research by and recommended by ACLS fellows and grantees. Read More.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Highlighting scholarly resources on the history, impact, and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Read More.