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College of Arts and Sciences

Mellon Foundation grant will strengthen South Carolina’s founding documents program

The University of South Carolina will enhance its research and teaching of America’s founding documents through a new grant from the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of the arts, culture and humanities.

The grant will sponsor a series of campus workshops and public events related to civic engagement, voting rights and their relationship to the founding documents.

Holly Crocker, director of the Humanities Collaborative in the College of Arts and Sciences, sought the grant to enrich the research and teaching related to the founding documents courses. Professors Woody Holton (History) and Thomas Crocker (law) will coordinate several research programs, including a monthly seminar and a scholarly conference, that will allow scholars, students, and the public to investigate the struggle for ballot access from the founding era through our present moment.

“It is a vital part of the Humanities Collaborative’s mission to develop the humanities potential of the Founding Documents teaching initiative,” Crocker said. “We seek to build intellectual programs for faculty, students, and the public that reflect on the principles of freedom, democracy, and citizenship that the ‘Founding Documents’ initiative is designed to teach at the undergraduate level.”

Beginning in Fall 2023, the three-year grant project will enable students and faculty to investigate ballot access from the period of the American founding onward, through analysis of such key historical documents as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

“The College of Arts and Sciences has embraced the opportunity to educate USC students about the founding and evolution of American democracy. This grant allows us to invest even more in this program, increasing students’ appreciation for American history, as well as their commitment to participating in the democratic process,” said Joel Samuels, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The $500,000 grant is one of 26 grants to higher education institutions that the foundation announced on Tuesday.

Events related to the grant will begin in the fall of 2023 and extend through the spring of 2026.


About the Humanities Collaborative

The mission of the Humanities Collaborative at the University of South Carolina is to advance interdisciplinary humanistic inquiry by initiating new collaborations and supporting ongoing programs among faculty, students, and members of the public. 

The Humanities Collaborative takes a wide view of humanistic inquiry, including research and conversations that cross disciplines, schools, and the academic / public divide. Our programs include intellectual, creative, and investigative endeavors that span traditional humanities disciplines, the creative and performing arts, the social and natural sciences, as well as questions that arise from schools such as law, business, medicine, and public health. Our programs are part of a new vision of the humanities that includes public outreach and community collaboration with partners across our state, the US, and the world.  

Founded in 2021, the Humanities Collaborative sponsors grants, lectures, workshops, seminars, and working groups to bring humanities scholarship to broad and diverse audiences within and beyond the University of South Carolina.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.