Photos: Harley Avery

October 31, 2023 [Indianapolis, IN] At the National Humanities Conference on Friday, October 27, the Federation of State Humanities Councils (Federation) presented the 2023 Schwartz Prizes for outstanding work in the public humanities to Alaska Humanities Forum, North Carolina Humanities, and Rhode Island Humanities. Alaska Humanities Forum won for its Ilakucaraq Program; Rhode Island Humanities for its 2022 Civic Health Index; and North Carolina Humanities for its North Carolina Reads program. The Schwartz Prize to North Carolina Humanities was given this year in memory of Marilyn Hatza, the former Director of Grants and Community Engagement at Maryland Humanities.

 “This year’s winners have worked in and with communities across the nation to build deeper understandings and develop curiosity and empathy,” said Phoebe Stein, president of the Federation State Humanities Councils. “We are pleased to recognize three of our member Councils for strengthening community connections through multi-faceted approaches that have resulted in innovative and sustainable public humanities programming.”

About the Alaska Humanities Forum’s, Ilakucaraq Program

The Ilakucaraq Program, Yup’ik for “Being Together” has directly enriched the lives of 674 middle- and high-school students within the state’s Alaska Native communities to develop resilient, positive cultural identities, which leads to greater success after high school. The program creates opportunities for cohorts to travel both to a rural community and an urban community while maintaining regular connections to each other virtually. These in-depth connections create a forum for cohorts to confront topics like colonization, culture shock, and what it means to be Native people, leveraging the power of “Being Together” to create strong networks of support. School workshops are also available statewide through the Ilakucaraq Program. The Alaska Humanities Forum has developed exceptionally strong partnerships with the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a public boarding school in Sitka, AK.

Founded in 1972, the Alaska Humanities Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that designs and facilitates experiences to bridge distance and difference. Its programming shares and preserves the stories of people and places across our vast state, and explores what it means to be Alaskan. Visit for more information.

Rhode Island Humanities’ 2022 Civic Health Index

Rhode Island Humanities developed the state’s first Civic Health Index as an essential first step for shared understanding and action to improve civic life through the humanities. The 2022 Rhode Island Civic Health Index defines civic life in broad and inclusive ways, thanks in part to collaboration from institutional partners, academic advisors, 10 Community Partners and a Data Consultant. The Index draws upon data-driven indicators and information about diverse aspects of civic life to provide a baseline to help community members, cultural leaders, and policy makers understand what challenges and opportunities Rhode Islanders share. It includes humanities perspectives on data content, collection and analysis, and was designed to support active and meaningful engagement with the report’s findings. The Index has sparked in-depth conversations about community, well-being, social connection, public participation, collective understanding, and engagement with government throughout Rhode Island. Five Community Partners designed Index-focused events in Newport, South Kingstown, Woonsocket, and Providence, and fifteen venues have hosted the bilingual traveling exhibit of the Index, attracting thousands of viewers. The 2022 RI Civic Health Index was done in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) and the Rhode Island Department of State with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the A More Perfect Union initiative, the Rhode Island Foundation, and individual supporters. 

Established in 1973, Rhode Island Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. It supports museums, libraries, historic sites, schools, preservation and historical societies, community and cultural organizations, individual researchers and documentary filmmakers to bring Rhode Island’s stories to life and to amplify many diverse voices. Visit for more information.

North Carolina Humanities’ North Carolina Reads

North Carolina Reads is a free, statewide, trailblazing book club that has broadened understanding of the past, present, and future by considering new perspectives. The book club annually features five books that explore issues about racial justice, gender equity, and the history and culture of North Carolina. The program has attracted new audiences to book clubs and engaged diverse groups of attendees in questions about the rapidly-changing American landscape.

During its second year, the book club program attracted attendees from all of the council’s state districts, and 99% of surveyed participants said they would attend a future book club event. This program first launched in 2022 with support from a $50,000 A More Perfect Union grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Since then, North Carolina Humanities has distributed over 6,800 free books and reading resources around the state to further conversations about North Carolina stories.

North Carolina Humanities connects people throughout the state with cultural experiences that spur dialogue, deepen human connections, and inspire community. It strives to enrich North Carolina through the humanities and equip it with empathy, understanding, and respect. Visit for more information.

About the Schwartz Prize

Since 1982, the Federation has awarded the Schwartz Prize to up to three councils for outstanding work in the public humanities each year. The prize was established by founding Federation board member Martin Schwartz and his wife, Helen. The Schwartz Prize judges are selected from humanities partners, former board members, and council board and staff of the prior year’s winners. For more information, visit

The Federation of State Humanities Councils

The Federation of State Humanities Councils (Federation) was founded in 1977 as the membership association of state and jurisdictional councils. The Federation provides support for the state humanities councils and strives to create greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life.

The state humanities councils are independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations supporting grassroots humanities programs and community-based activities. Humanities councils were created by Congress in the early 1970s and receive an annual congressional appropriation through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which most councils supplement with private funding. For more information about the state humanities councils, visit

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