Statement from the President, September 2019
It is the function of the humanities and social sciences to make the heritage of human creativity past and present meaningful today and for the future. The humanities and social sciences will not thrive unless they reflect the diversity of the experiences they seek to interpret.
Since our founding in the wake of World War I, ACLS has devoted itself to the free circulation of knowledge for a secure and peaceful world. At the heart of our mission for the 21st century is our commitment to work toward a more just and inclusive future by supporting a scholarly ethos of curiosity, discovery, understanding, debate, and critique.
In the early decades of the 20th century, ACLS was one of the first US national organizations to systematically develop the study of civilizations beyond western Europe and the ancient Mediterranean, by building China studies and Slavic studies in the 1920s and Latin American studies in the 1930s.
The support of new fields of learning with profound social relevance has been a hallmark of ACLS’s activities. In 1932, Lorenzo Turner, a linguistics scholar and professor of English at Fisk University, received a grant to produce a descriptive grammar of the Gullah dialect resulting in his landmark publication Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Fisk subsequently created African studies programs at several historically black universities.
In 1929, a time when few women were given support to pursue research, Gertrude E. Smith received an ACLS fellowship. An assistant professor of classics at the University of Chicago when she won the award, Smith became a full professor, holder of a named chair, and chair of her department.
Much work remains to be done. Our programs seek to foster greater diversity among the professoriate and to create a climate of equity and inclusion in all our practices.
Among our efforts:
- Our longstanding ACLS Fellowship program supports a diverse range of scholars, within and beyond the professoriate, in the pursuit of forward thinking research in the humanities and social sciences. Central to the program’s peer review process is ACLS’s commitment to inclusive excellence; our guidelines specifically note that equity and diversity constitute integral components of merit.
- Through fellowships, workshops, residencies, and publication support for early career scholars, the Carnegie/ACLS African Humanities Program has sought to redress historical disadvantages and imbalances in terms of gender, inclusion of underrepresented universities, and the de-prioritization of humanities disciplines. After 10 competitions, just over 400 scholars from more than 80 institutions of higher education in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda have received AHP fellowships.
- In partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ACLS administers the Foundation’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program (MMUF), which encourages and supports promising undergraduates from underrepresented groups to pursue PhDs and, ultimately, faculty careers. ACLS works with the campuses that participate in the program to collect and evaluate data and reports on the administration of grant funds.
- The ACLS Postdoctoral Partnership Initiative (PPI) fosters institutional efforts to diversify the humanities professoriate by offering high-quality, two-year postdoctoral fellowships to promising early career scholars from historically underrepresented groups. Partnering institutions appoint fellows with the intent to promote them into tenure-track assistant professor positions at the conclusion of their fellowships. Recent recipients include The City College of New York, Haverford College, and Temple University.
We aim to help scholars cultivate greater openness to new sources of knowledge, innovation in scholarly communication and above all, responsiveness to the interests of people of color and historically marginalized communities.
We devote ourselves to listening to the emerging generation to whom the future belongs.