In August 2005 the Richards Civil War Era Center took a significant leap forward in its ability to shape both scholarly and public understanding of the struggle for freedom. The National Endowment for the Humanities named the Center as one of the winners of its We the People Challenge Grants for 2005. The award provides an outright grant of $1 million to the center to help build its endowment and was matched by another $3 million raised by the university within a five-year period.
Announced by President Bush in 2002, the initiative supports targeted institutions that can help fulfill the goal of the We the People Initiative to further the study, teaching, and understanding of American history. “From the earliest days of American democracy,” according to the NEH, “the study of history has been essential to the preservation of freedom.” Freedom is a concept that has changed over time, defined and preserved through often hard-won struggles. The NEH challenge grant helps build resources for those projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history, and shares these lessons with all Americans.
The Richards Center was founded on the premise that Americans will benefit from a more expansive vision of the Civil War period and its impact on freedom in contemporary life. The war represents both the culmination of debates left unresolved by the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention and the beginning of new struggles for freedom that emerged in the battles over Civil Rights in our more recent past. The We the People grant is an exceptional honor that marks the formal acknowledgement by the Federal Government of the outstanding work of the Richards Center in advancing the study of the Civil War Era and related issues of slavery, freedom, and equality up to the present day.