Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

Humanities moments occur daily in the lives of human beings. We access them through stories that reveal our complexities, our aspirations, and our tragic flaws. Whether we reflect on our personal experiences or our national history, it is the humanities moments that are most resonant and to which we continually return to mark who we are as individuals and as a culture.

The Humanities Moments Project was created by the National Humanities Center in an effort to gather, store, and share personal accounts about how the humanities illuminate our lives, help us better understand ourselves and each other, and provide tools for more fully understanding where we came from and where we are going.

We encourage you to

  • Explore the moments submitted by people from all walks of life about how the humanities have shaped their understanding of the world and of their fellow human beings, opened their eyes to new possibilities, and helped guide them through life.
  • Share your own stories about memorable encounters with history, literature, philosophy, the study of art and music, film and folklore, and other humanities topics.
  • Invite others to join the Humanities Moments project and add their voices to those gathered here.

Recently Added Moments

Getting Carried Away by a Book

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by Kevin Spencer, 37, PhD student in English at Duke University

When I was young, maybe around 13 years old, I read a fantasy novel by Raymond Feist called Magician. I enjoyed reading since I was young, but I lived in a house where the TV was always on and I was easily distracted. On this occasion, I was reading on my bed in my…

Well-Behaved Women

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by Jacqueline Stallworth, 46 years old, High School English teacher in northern Virginia

My moment focuses on the fact that African American women have been using their words as Political Resistance.

Goats for Uzbekistan

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by Pam Su'a, Social Studies/World Languages Administrator, Jordan School District

Working with a sixth grade class in Utah to help them figure out "solutions to current issues" as required by our state social studies standards, our class wanted to do more than collect cans or pick up trash. The 11-year olds thought they could really figure out how to…

Eyes on the Mockingbird.

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by Sarah Arnold, 38, English Teacher

I grew up in a very small town in rural Wisconsin. When I looked at my classmates it was like looking in a mirror. Because of that, I never realized that there were many people who were facing hardships because of their minority status and people who were taking advantage of…

The World from My View

The Bosporus Strait

by Megan Webster, Educator

I have traveled many places and have tried to capture what I found unique, beautiful and different. But, this place, along the Bosporus Strait which merges the European region of Istanbul, Turkey, with the Asian region of Istanbul, Turkey, to be one of my favorites. At…

My Mom, My Best Friend

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by Victoria Ade, 29, Social Studies Teacher

When I was two years old, my parents filed for divorce. At the age of two, I don't recall this time of my life but what I do remember is where it led me. As I grew up as an only child living in a home run by my single mother, she became my ultimate role model and was…

The Role of the Individual versus an Intellectual Aristocracy

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by Stephen Miller, 48, Philosophy Teacher

Choosing a Humanities Moment was initially a challenging task. Over the last few years working with the organization PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the humanities, liberal arts and a philosophical education.…

9/11 Shaped My Career

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by Carly Hill 34, teacher

I was a brand new college freshman getting ready to attend my Political Science class that started at 8:45am on September 11, 2001. I heard the news on the radio when I first woke up and I thought it wasn't real. I turned on the TV and still couldn't believe it was real. I…

The Virginia State Capitol: Past and Present

Virginia State Capitol

by Daniel J. Palazzolo, 56, professor of political science at the University of Richmond

I had been to the Virginia State Capitol many times since I moved to Richmond in 1989. I’ve viewed proceedings in the House and Senate chambers, held meetings for students, given several lectures in the meeting rooms, and toured the building with family, friends, and…

Remembering the Music

Christmas Carols

by Cherry Whipple, 52, Teacher

When I was in elementary school I didn’t know anything about racial conflict or even recognize there were racial differences between the kids at my school. My classmates were just friends or people I went to school with. Everyone looked different, some had freckles, some…

My Favorite Things

John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things”

by George Bailey, 74. Retired helicopter pilot (45 years). Failed musician, proficient amateur illustrator, avid sailor.

At the age of 74, I could describe many humanities moments but this one stands out. Sometime in 1961, my brother was driving me home when I first heard Symphony Sid play John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” over the radio. I was a veteran jazz listener at that time but…

Human Ecology of Health

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by Edward Kinman, age 59, Professor of Geography and Coordinator of the Virginia Geographic Alliance

Walking the cobble-stone streets of a Bolivian village, I witnessed how a new clinic in a medically underserved area hadn’t made much of an impact. I was visiting a remote outpost to better understand the challenges in promoting health in poor Latin American communities.…

The Perfect Invitation

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by Patricia Matthew, 49, English professor living in Brooklyn, New York

Hearing Lucille Clifton’s poem “won’t you celebrate with me” at a celebration of her work is the Humanities Moment that offered both comfort and a model for how to navigate life as a Black academic. I was a new English professor and was unprepared for the isolation I…

Abu’s Afsanas

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by Omar H. Ali, 46, Historian

My Abu (‘father’ in Urdu) is my favorite storyteller ... I grew up with stories of his childhood in India and later in his life: he and his best friend, Shafi, climbing neem trees in Puna; them trying to get back at a bully, but having their elaborate plan—with one of…

Spaces & Stories: Kent State

Map of shootings at Kent State University, May 1970

by Stephen Kidd, Executive Director, National Humanities Alliance

Stephen Kidd, Executive Director of the National Humanities Alliance, recalls a trip to Kent State University that he made as a high school student while growing up in Ohio. This visit to the site of the 1970 Kent State shootings provided a greater historical context to an…

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