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College of Arts and Sciences

  • People with sign that reads count every vote.

Mellon Grant

Mellon Foundation Grant at USC for “Civic Engagement, Voting Rights, and the Founding Documents at the University of South Carolina”


Beginning in fall 2023, the Humanities Collaborative will enhance its research and teaching of America’s founding documents through a new $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder of the arts, culture, and humanities.

Photo of Holly Crocker

Holly Crocker, director of the Humanities Collaborative, sought the grant, titled “Civic Engagement, Voting Rights, and the Founding Documents at the University of South Carolina,” to enrich the research and teaching related to the founding documents courses. Crocker and the associate director of the Collaborative Maureen Ryan will administer the grant. 

With this initiative, we'll examine how anti-majoritarian institutions work in tandem with anti-democratic practices in American politics, both past and present. Many anti-majoritarian institutions trace their origins to the founding era in U.S. history. Anti-majoritarianism is also manifest through political projects that make democracy more difficult for others—including voting abuses during Jim Crow. Thus, the American project of achieving a just and equitable society—"a more perfect Union," as the Constitution aspires—must content with these anti-majoritarian impulses and institutions.

Photo of Woody Holten

Photo of Thomas Crocker

Professors Woody Holton (History) and Thomas Crocker (Law) will coordinate several research efforts that will allow scholars, students, and the public to investigate the struggle for ballot access from the founding era through our present moment.

Impact on the University Community

Joel Samuels, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says, “The grant itself is incredibly important as we think about our current state and national landscape. When we think about restoring trust in higher education through impact of our work, this project is directly in line with that guiding principle. This shows how our work can connect big ideas and complex concepts to practical impacts affecting citizens daily.”

This is the first Mellon grant the University of South Carolina has received, and it is also the first grant for the newly launched Humanities Collaborative. Of this achievement, Samuels says, “I cannot emphasize enough what a watershed moment this is, not only for our College but for the University. I am excited to see the impact of this grant across our state and beyond.”

Civic Engagement, Voting Rights, and Founding Documents Programming

Beginning in fall 2023 and extending through Spring 2026, grant-related programming will confront this tradition of anti-majoritarianism via a series of events:

  • A scholarly conference
  • A monthly fellows’ seminar
  • A public speakers’ series featuring nationally known authors and scholars
  • Faculty and student workshops

All will tie to the University’s Founding Documents required curriculum and offer students, faculty, and the public a richer understanding of voter access and participation issues.

We will regularly update this page with information about events beginning in fall 2023!

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.