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NEH-Funded Project to Look into Idaho’s LGBTQ Population

August 23, 2017

A University of Idaho project chronicling the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Idaho has won support from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).

“Idaho’s LGBTQ Community: Oral Histories” is led by Assistant ProfessorDenise Bennett in the School of Journalism and Mass Media of UI’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. She is working with the Latah County Historical Society and the University of Idaho Library, which has resulted in two fellowships through the Center for Digital Inquiry and Learning, who will be supporting and hosting the digital content. 

The NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. Bennett’s project was one of 245 humanities projects nationwide selected by the NEH in August to receive a total of $39.3 million in grants. UI’s project will receive up to $30,000 in matching support.

“This is important as Idaho historical archives and societies note a distinct lack in LGBTQ content, specifically from rural areas, of which there are many in Idaho,” Bennett said.

The multimedia project examines the experiences and lives of LGBTQ people throughout the state of Idaho. It seeks to preserve history, and examine social, cultural, political and legal issues in Idaho.

Bennett’s project was inspired by the 2016 death of UI alumnus and former employee Steven Nelson. Nelson, who was robbed and beaten to death in Nampa, Idaho, was the victim of what federal prosecutors charged and convicted as a hate crime. Idaho law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as part of its human rights act.

“Steve’s murder being prosecuted federally is an example of Idaho’s marginalization of the LGBTQ community,” Bennett said. “My best friends in Idaho are gay, and I want to share their stories and the stories of so many others who don’t have a voice in this state.”

Bennett started collecting histories in January 2017, including footage of Nicole LeFavour, the first openly gay member of the Idaho Senate. Bennett’s goal is to document the history of an LGBTQ person from each county in the state. She currently has five of the forty-four counties in Idaho represented and is seeking other participants.

Private fundraising is underway so UI can match the $30,000 NEH grant. Bennett has already received other grants to support the efforts, including grants from the Idaho Humanities Council and the Latah Community Foundation. Additional information on donating to the project is available from the UI Foundation at 208-885-4000.  

Bennett has taught documentary film and video production at UI since 2006.

This project, “Oral Histories of Idaho’s LGBTQ Community”, was funded under a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. The total amount of federal funds for the project will be a maximum of $30,000, depending on the amount of matching gifts being received. Non-federal funds for the project will amount to 50 percent of the total cost of the project.

Media Contact:
Kathy Foss
Marketing and Communications Manager
College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, a research and Extension center in Twin Falls, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more than 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more: