Small Grants to Libraries: Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War

RECEIPT DEADLINE: April 19, 2011

Date posted: January 5, 2011

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 45.164


Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or You can also contact the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at 202-606-8337 or Hearing-impaired applicants can contact NEH via TDD at 1-866-372-2930.

I. Program Description

The American Library Association (ALA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) present
Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War, a scholar-led reading and discussion program for public audiences.

The program is designed for libraries seeking to present sesquicentennial programming that probes meanings of the Civil War that are “hidden in plain sight” behind the key questions and main characters so familiar to us. Program participants may be surprised to encounter in the readings such a large cast of characters, so broad a range of perspectives, and so dense a web of circumstances. After considering the vast sweep and profound breadth of Civil War experience, readers will understand that the American Civil War was not a single thing, or a simple thing. And yet they will also see emancipation—the end of the most powerful system of slavery in the modern world—take its place as the central story of the war.

Fifty libraries around the country will be selected to host this program, which consists of a series of five discussions. The discussions must take place between October 1, 2011, and May 31, 2012.

Participating libraries will plan a five-part series of reading and discussion programs, which will take place every two to four weeks, depending on local library preferences. At each session, the conversation will focus on a different facet of the Civil War experience, using one or more common texts as a foundation and touchstone.

The texts include works of historical fiction and interpretation, speeches, diaries, memoirs, biographies, and short stories. Readings also include an introductory essay, which provides context `for the entire
Making Sense of the American Civil War series and for each of the five sessions. The essay was written by the national project scholar who devised this project: Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond, historian of the American South, and digital history pioneer. Professor Ayers also selected the reading materials and topics of conversation for the program.


The following books will be read and discussed in this program:

  • March, by Geraldine Brooks;
  • Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, by James McPherson; and
  • America's War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries, a new anthology edited by Edward L. Ayers and published by NEH and ALA, which will serve as the focus of three of the five discussion sessions.

Topics of conversation

The program is designed as a series of five conversations exploring different facets of the Civil War experience, informed by reading the words written or uttered by powerful voices from the past and present, as listed below.

  1. Imagining War
    • Geraldine Brooks,
      March [2005]
  2. Choosing Sides
    • selections from the anthology:
      • Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" [1852];
      • Henry David Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown" [1859];
      • Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address [March 4, 1861];
      • Alexander H. Stephens, "Cornerstone" speech [March 21, 1861];
      • Robert Montague, Secessionist speech at Virginia secession convention [April 1-2, 1861];
      • Chapman Stuart, Unionist speech at Virginia secession convention [April 5, 1861];
      • Elizabeth Brown Pryor, excerpt from
        Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through his Private Letters [2007];
      • Mark Twain, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" [1885]; and
      • Sarah Morgan, excerpt from
        The Diary of a Southern Woman [May 9, May 17, 1862].
  3. Making Sense of Shiloh
    • selections from the anthology:
      • Ambrose Bierce, "What I Saw of Shiloh" [1881];
      • Ulysses Grant, excerpt from the
        Memoirs [1885];
      • Shelby Foote, excerpt from
        Shiloh [1952];
      • Bobbie Ann Mason, "Shiloh" [1982]; and
      • General Braxton Bragg, speech to the Army of the Mississippi [May 3, 1862].
  4. The Shape of War
    • James M. McPherson,
      Crossroad of Freedom: Antietam [2002]
  5. War and Freedom
    • selections from the anthology:
      • Abraham Lincoln, address on colonization [1862];
      • John M. Washington, "Memorys [sic] of the Past" [1873];
      • Frederick Douglass, "Men of Color, To Arms!" [March 1863];
      • Abraham Lincoln, letters to James C. Conkling [1863] and Albert G. Hodges [1864];
      • Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address [1863];
      • James S. Brisbin, report on U.S. Colored Cavalry in Virginia [Oct. 2, 1864];
      • Colored Citizens of Nashville, Tennessee, Petition to the Union Convention of Tennessee Assembled in the Capitol at Nashville [January 9, 1865];
      • Margaret Walker, excerpt from
        Jubilee [1966];
      • Leon Litwack, excerpt from
        Been in the Storm So Long [1979]; and
      • Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865.

Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War is funded by NEH as part of its We the People initiative, which promotes scholarship, teaching, and learning about American history and culture.

As in all programs funded by NEH, discussions should be characterized by an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. Specifically, they should be conducted without partisan advocacy; respectful of divergent views; free of ad hominem commentary; and devoid of ethnic, religious, gender, or racial bias.

II. Award Information

Fifty libraries across the country will be selected to participate in this program.

Benefits for libraries

Libraries selected for the project will receive the following:

  1. Twenty-five sets of
    March and
    Crossroads to Freedom: Antietam, and fifty sets of the anthology
    America's War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries, to be read in the program.
  2. A $3,000 grant from ALA, with funding provided by NEH, to be used for travel to the orientation workshop for the library project director and the local project scholar, and for project-related programming expenses (e.g., scholar honorarium, publicity, and other support materials). Indirect costs may not be charged to the grant.
  3. Participation in an October 2011 workshop in Chicago, (
    October 13-14) designed for the library project directors and the local project scholars, offering instruction, networking opportunities, and participation in a model program. Two nights lodging for the library project director will be provided free of charge by ALA, with funding from NEH. All other travel expenses for the library project director, and all travel expenses for the local project scholar, must be covered by the $3,000 grant.
  4. A Site Support Notebook for libraries, which will offer resources to assist librarians in planning the series,setting program goals, working with the local project scholars, recruiting community partners, facilitating discussion group meetings, promoting the series, developing thematically related supplemental programs, budgeting, and evaluating the program. Promotional materials, including folders, bookmarks, and five copies of the project publicity poster, will be provided; the materials will also be available in digital format for downloading by libraries.
  5. Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the programs, including participation in an online discussion list for library project directors.

Requirements for libraries

All libraries chosen for the project are required to do the following:

  1. Appoint one staff member as the local coordinator of the project. This person must attend the October 2011 project orientation workshop in Chicago.
  2. Recruit the project scholar for local programming. This person is encouraged to attend the October 2011 project orientation workshop in Chicago, but their attendance is not required.
  3. Recruit at least one local partner organization, which can help market the program, reach target audiences, identify and provide access to scholars, create supplemental projects, assist with book distribution, and provide supplemental funding.
  4. Promote the programs to the widest possible public audience.
  5. Schedule programs to take place between October 2011 and May 2012.
  6. Provide a final report to ALA by the June 30, 2012 deadline.

III. Eligibility

Applications are invited from U.S. public, academic, and community college libraries with IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, as well as from state and local government agencies. Individuals and organizations other than libraries are not eligible to apply.

Federal entities are ineligible to apply. Applications from organizations whose projects are so closely intertwined with a federal entity that the project takes on characteristics of the federal entity’s own authorized activities may also be deemed ineligible. This does not preclude applicants from using grant funds from, or sites and materials controlled by, other federal entities in their projects.

Late, incomplete, and ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

IV. Application and Submission information

ALA will accept applications for Small Grants to Libraries: Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War between January 5 and April 19, 2011.

Please review the
Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to

To apply to host the Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War program, you must complete the following seven steps:


1. Log in or register

Before you access the application, you must register to create an application account. To register, you must complete the Project Director Information in step 2 below.

  • 1.A - LOG IN

    If you have already registered, you may log in, using your existing e-mail and password.
  • 1.B - REGISTER

    If you have not yet registered, you may do so now.

2. Complete Project Director Information

To register, you must complete the Project Director Information.

Note: The Project Director is the person completing the online form. He or she will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

To complete step 2, provide all of the information that is requested on the Project Director Information screen. You must then save the information.

One piece of information that must be supplied in this section of the application is the applicant institution’s DUNS number. All institutions receiving an award are required to provide a DUNS number, issued by Dun & Bradstreet. Project directors should contact their institution’s grants administrator or chief financial officer to obtain their institution’s DUNS number. Federal grant or subgrant applicants can obtain a DUNS number free of charge by calling 1-866-705-5711. (
Learn more about the requirement.)

After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in, using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the April 19, 2011, submission deadline.

3. Write the Proposal Narrative

Before you compose the narrative part of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.


    Please write a brief narrative describing your plans for hosting
    Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War
  • Describe your program plan, including overall goals, description of target audience(s), any plans for related programs, and name(s) and role(s) of your partner(s). When possible, include letters of support from partners in Section 4.C.
  • List the project director’s specific experience with Let’s Talk About It programming or other library reading and discussion groups, and/or adult public programming. Attach a vita or biography (up to two pages) for the project director in Section 4.A.
  • Provide the name and title of the local project scholar, the scholar’s highest degree, and his or her discipline. Discuss his or her knowledge of the program’s themes and any previous experience relevant to leading a library-based reading and discussion group. Attach a vita or biography (up to two pages) for the scholar in Section 4.A, and his or her letter of commitment to participate in the project in Section 4.B. (Note: applications without a confirmed project scholar will not be considered.)
  • Describe the publicity efforts that will be used to attract participants. Attach samples of previous or current program publicity materials, if available, in Section 4.D.
  • Describe the methods that will be used to evaluate how well your program met its goals and objectives.
  • Summarize your library’s commitment to and history of adult programming, including previous
    Let’s Talk About It experience and/or other adult public programming. Please provide specific examples of program successes, including attendance figures.

    Complete the table on the application form, indicating proposed dates, times, and projected attendance for the five
    Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War programs.

    4. Upload Supporting Materials


      Upload the vita or biography of the project director and the local project scholar, as described in parts 2 and 3 of the proposal narrative.

      Upload the letter of commitment from the local project scholar, as described in part 3 of the proposal narrative.

      Upload letters of support from any partners you may have identified in part 1 of the proposal narrative.

      Upload any samples of previous or current program publicity materials that related to efforts described in part 4 of the proposal narrative.

    5. Review and Edit Your Application

    The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered, including your Project Director Information and your Proposal Narrative. From this page you can

    • review and edit each section,
    • save the entire application and log out of the system, or
    • move ahead to certify and submit your application.

    6. Certify Authorization to Submit Application

    An application to host the
    Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War program is an application for a subaward from NEH, an agency of the Federal Government. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official, who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

    To complete this section, you must enter all of the information requested.

    7. Submit Your Application

    Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it at any time by selecting the “Submit Application” button. All applications must be submitted by

    11:59 p.m. Central Time on April 19, 2011.
    Applications submitted after that time will be considered ineligible.

    Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review.

    You will receive via e-mail a confirmation of the submission of your application. At the confirmation page you will be able to print out a copy of your application, which you should keep.

    V. Application Review

    Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

    • Clarity and completeness of program plan. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including planned dates, times, and places where programs will be held, and anticipated attendance? How clearly is the program described?
    • Qualifications of the local project scholar. The local project scholar should have a Ph.D. or advanced degree in American history, American literature, or another relevant humanities subject. His or her current or past experience should include teaching history or literature at a college or university. He or she should be engaging and comfortable speaking before and facilitating discussion with adult audiences on humanities themes.
    • The library’s vision of the program. How does this
      Let’s Talk About It program on the Civil War relate to the library’s existing public programs and how will it contribute to the community’s cultural life?
    • Quality of publicity and audience recruitment plan, including explanation of the role of program partners. See the
      Frequently Asked Questions for examples of how partners participate.
    • Commitment to a publicity plan that will make the widest possible audience aware of the project.
    • Evidence of library administrative support for the project.

    Other factors that may influence the final selection of libraries include the following:

    • Location of the sites. The selection committee would like programs to take place in all regions of the country.
    • Size and demographics of the community. The selection committee seeks a mix of communities of different sizes and varied demographics.

    Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the Public Programs Office, American Library Association, at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

    Review and selection process

    Each application will be assessed by a panel of librarians in collaboration with the staff of ALA and NEH.

    Evaluators may take geographical and demographic distribution into consideration when selecting host libraries. The Chairman of NEH will make the final decisions.

    VI. Award Administration Information

    • Application Deadline: April 19, 2011
    • Grant Notification: June 1, 2011
    • Programming Period: October 1, 2011-May 31, 2012
    • Final Report Due: June 30, 2012

    Award Notification

    Applicants will be notified by e-mail by June 1, 2011 of the outcome of their applications.

    Reporting Requirements

    Award recipients will be required to submit an online final performance report to ALA by June 30, 2012.

    VII. Points of Contact

    If you have questions about the program, contact:

    Public Programs Office

    American Library Association

    1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045


    We the People

    National Endowment for the Humanities


    VIII. Other Information

    Privacy Policy

    Information in these guidelines is solicited under the authority of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. 956. The principal purpose for which the information will be used is to process the grant application. The information may also be used for statistical research, analysis of trends, and Congressional oversight. Failure to provide the information may result in the delay or rejection of the application.

    Application Completion Time

    The Office of Management and Budget requires federal agencies to supply information on the time needed to complete forms and also to invite comments on the paperwork burden. NEH estimates that the average time to complete this application is three hours per response. This estimate includes time for reviewing instructions, researching, gathering, and maintaining the information needed, and completing and reviewing the application.

    Please send any comments regarding the estimated completion time or any other aspect of this application, including suggestions for reducing the completion time, to the Chief Guidelines Officer, at; to the Director of the Office of Publications, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC 20506; and to the Office of Management and Budget, Paperwork Reduction Project (3136-0134), Washington, DC 20503. According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB number.