The Virgin Islands Humanities Council is a latecomer among state humanities councils. As part of the national effort to make public humanities programs available to citizens who might otherwise not have easy access to them, the first humanities councils were established in 1971. In 1981 the NEH invited a group of Virgin Islands citizens to submit a planning proposal for the establishment of a public humanities program for the Virgin Islands. A one-year planning grant was awarded in October 1982. During the following year, the group reviewed the territory's resources, consulted with humanities scholars and developed a full funding proposal for the Council program.
The Humanities Council became operational in May 1984, and has since functioned under successive two-year program grants. Initially, the Council concentrated its work on developing the community grants program, which involves a competitive regranting of funds to community organizations and cultural institutions for public humanities projects. However, the council has expanded its services as it now offers a number of additional services. As a result of this effort, the Virgin Islands Humanities Council received special commendation from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The 1985-87 and 1987-89 grant cycles were characterized by continuous outreach and technical assistance to project applicants, attracting an increasing number of regrantees. Today, the Humanities Council is recognized throughout the Virgin Islands as one of the most valuable outlets for promotion of things cultural.