Civil Rights Discussion Grant

The Civil Rights Discussion grant program is inspired by Mass Humanities’ popular Reading Frederick Douglass Together program, in which participants gather in a public place to read Douglass’ fiery 1852 “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, in which he challenges the United States to live up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence and takes the country to task for enslaving millions of Africans. For more information about the format, please explore the Reading Frederick Douglass Together program pages on our website.

The Civil Rights Discussion grant is intended to stimulate, through similarly shaped programs, informed and open conversation around racial conflict and relations in the United States. Held in a public space or at a public venue, events funded through this small grant are shared readings of a short text (a speech, petition, letter, poem, or excerpt) by an American civil rights leader, such as Martin Luther King or Ida B. Wells. Since one of the purposes of the program is to encourage collaboration between diverse groups of people of one town or neighborhood in creating a shared experience, Mass Humanities encourages individuals and organizations from a particular town or neighborhood (for instance libraries, community centers, museums, public schools, community organizations, or simply groups of people) to form a loose partnership to design, plan, and execute the event. Readings are often introduced by a historian or other scholar and/or followed by moderated discussion.

Organizations may apply for up to $500 toward defraying costs for organizing a Civil Rights Discussion event as a shared reading by itself, as an event that includes music or other entertainment, or as part of a larger festival or event. We ask that two or more organizations collaborate, with one organization taking the lead, and that a humanities scholar be involved in the project.

Applicants who wish to create a Reading Frederick Douglass Together project should use this Civil Rights Discussion grant. Applicants who wish to modify a Civil Rights Discussion project into something that does not fit these guidelines may want to apply for an Open Discussion grant instead. Please contact Rose Sackey-Milligan if you have questions.

Essentials for Applicants

  • All nonprofit and government organizations that serve Massachusetts residents are eligible to apply.
  • Humanities Scholar must be confirmed at the time of application.
  • Applicants ensure a minimum of 20 participants.
  • Download and read the Civil Rights Discussion guidelines (pdf) before submitting an application. Full instructions on how to apply online can be found in the guidelines.


  • Discussion Grants deadlines are four times a year and notification is within three weeks of submission. See Discussion Grants deadline chart for specific dates.
  • LOI forms must be submitted online at least two weeks before the application deadline. You may contact Mass Humanities staff or submit an LOI form online at any time.
  • Submit your online LOI form at least ten weeks ahead of your intended start date, so that you can submit your online application at least eight weeks ahead of your intended start date.
  • For guidance in scheduling a discussion project, please see our Discussion Grant Coordinator’s Guide (pdf).

Grant Publicity Requirements, click here.