The American National Biography was first published in 1999, but its story begins much earlier in the twentieth century. In 1927 the American Council of Learned Societies, with funding from the New York Times, published the Dictionary of American Biography, which would consist of twenty volumes by 1936. The DAB project did not end there, however, as ACLS continued to publish supplemental volumes into the 1980s.
That decade of historical scholarship experienced seismic shifts both in the quantity of published research and in diversity of interpretation, as historians more fully integrated the lives of women and non-white people. To reflect this avalanche of pathbreaking work, ACLS teamed with Oxford University Press to begin anew. A decade of work came to fruition at century’s end with the publication of the American National Biography. The twenty-four volumes of the ANB aimed to “reach into every corner of the past to reclaim the lives of thousands of often little-known men and women who have forged America’s distinctive character.” That mission has continued, especially since the ANB moved online. This collaboration between ACLS and OUP now boasts over 22,000 essays that affirm the ANB’s central belief that the history of a nation is best told by the lives of its people.
With this month’s update we’d like to call attention to the American Council of Learned Societies. We’re featuring two new essays on ACLS leaders and opening for free a dozen essays on major figures in ACLS history. For more on ACLS history and the history of the ANB, please check out The First Century, written by Steven Wheatley and Theodora Lurie and published to celebrate the organization’s centennial in 2019. Former ACLS vice president Wheatley served as an invaluable institutional conservator and booster of the ANB and its mission.
The First Century: https://publications.acls.org/The-First-Century.pdf
ACLS History: https://www.acls.org/Our-Work/History
The American National Biography (ANB) is updated regularly throughout the year, giving you access to the most up-to-date and accurate information available. Full access to all biographies is available by subscription.
Discover a full list of entries added this year.