Biography and History

The American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities (AAAH) operated from 1979 until 1982. The AAAH was a general membership organization which supported the humanities in the United States through its involved in legislation, conferences, and producing the monthly publication Humanities Report. The AAAH was incorporated in October 1977 by James M. Banner, Jr. and Theodore K. Raab of Princeton University and opened its office in Washington, D.C. in January of 1979. It initially received funding from the Rockefeller, Ford, and Exxon Education foundations and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and later from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ATT, and the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation.

The AAAH was founded to provide a general, independent membership organization to represent all aspects of the humanities in the United States, not just the scholarly community. It focused on three general areas: to support the work of humanists and foster communication and cooperation between them, to promote public understanding of the humanities, and to increase the contribution of the humanities in American life. It was governed by a 15 member Board of Directors composed of individuals involved in the humanities and related fields in the broadest sense, including schools, libraries, and the legal and medical professions. Five board members were elected each year by the membership. Board meetings were held twice a year, with an annual meeting open to both members and non-members.

The AAAH's activities included testifying before Congress, aiding in the founding of the National Humanities Alliance (a lobbying organization for the humanities) and the Community College Humanities Association, participating in a study with the Association of Research Libraries of the distribution of information about library developments to scholars at research universities, investigating the feasibility of creating a business committee for the humanities, and speaking for the broad interests of humanities at specialized humanities organizations. It also produced a monthly newsmagazine, Humanities Report, which was the only independent news source in the United States on the humanities. Humanities Report contained general news on issues, programs, activities, and developments in the humanities, as well as interviews, editorials, letters, and association news. It was distributed to all members of the AAAH. All of the AAAH's activities were handled by four full-time staff members, with James M. Banner, Jr. as chairman, supported by part-time assistants, project directors, and volunteers.

Soon after its inception, the AAAH reached its peak of 3,500 members. However, the association soon encountered difficulties. As an area with a great deal of specialization, many in the humanities did not see the need for this type of organization. It also encountered resistance from scholars who would have preferred it to be a more academic organization, rather than including a broader base of membership. Due to an economic downturn, individuals had less money to spend on dues, young scholars were facing unemployment, and the foundations which were supporting it also faced budget difficulties. By 1982, the membership had declined to close to 2,500. Unable to support itself financially from membership dues, and with insufficient support from the humanities community, the Board of Directors, with the agreement of chairman James M. Banner, Jr., decided to close the AAAH in the spring of 1982.

Source: From the finding aid for MC163

  • American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities Records. 1977-1985 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC163

    The American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities (AAAH) operated from 1979 until 1982. The AAAH was a general membership organization which supported the humanities in the United States through its involved in legislation, conferences, and producing the monthly publication Humanities Report. The AAAH’s records document the administration of the association and include correspondence, board minutes, financial records, and materials on Humanities Report.

  • American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities Records. 1977-1985 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC163

    The American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities (AAAH) operated from 1979 until 1982. The AAAH was a general membership organization which supported the humanities in the United States through its involved in legislation, conferences, and producing the monthly publication Humanities Report. The AAAH’s records document the administration of the association and include correspondence, board minutes, financial records, and materials on Humanities Report.