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News in American History

News of the Profession

“News of the Profession” includes announcements of special interest to American historians and practitioners at all levels. Please submit your announcement using this form.

The Annual Richard G. Hewlett Lecture and Dinner

October 23, 2014
Clyde's of Gallery Place
707-7th St. NW, Washington, DC

The Society for History in the Federal Government is honored to present distinguished historian Anthony S. Pitch as featured guest at the annual Richard G. Hewlett Lecture and Dinner. Author of many works on Washington, DC, area, including The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, and They Have Killed Papa Dead!–The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance, Pitch will discuss "The Joys of Researching A Work of Non-Fiction." Embracing his works on the War of 1812 and others, Pitch will reflect on the creative process with an emphasis on the excitement of discovering historical materials in the Library of Congress.

Registration: http://shfg.org/shfg/events/hewlett-lecture/

Posted: September 23, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession


Library of Congress: Main Reading Room Open House on Columbus Day

Twice each year, the Library of Congress opens its magnificent Main Reading Room for a special public open house to share information about how the public can access the Library's resources year-round.. The fall open house will take place on the federal Columbus Day holiday, Monday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Photography, excluding use of tripods, is allowed.

The Main Reading Room is located on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E., Washington, D.C. Reference librarians will be available to demonstrate the Library's online resources and discuss access to the Library's vast onsite collections, including services and collections for use in family history research. No other reference services will be available and all other Library of Congress reading rooms and buildings will be closed.

The Jefferson Building, which will be open to the public between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., also features the incomparable Great Hall and the Library of Congress exhibitions.

Among current exhibitions in the Jefferson building are "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle For Freedom" and "Exploring the Early Americas".

Housed in the Southwest Gallery on the second floor through September 15, 2015, "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle For Freedom" highlight major legal and legislative struggles and victories leading to its passage, shedding light on individuals — both prominent leaders and private citizens — who participated in the decades-long campaign for equality. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom" is made possible by a generous grant from Newman's Own Foundation, with additional support from History®.

"Exploring the Early Americas" is an ongoing exhibit housed in the Northwest Gallery on the second floor. It features selections from the more than 3,000 rare maps, documents, paintings, prints, and artifacts that make up the Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress. It provides insight into indigenous cultures, the drama of the encounters between Native Americans and European explorers and settlers, and the pivotal changes caused by the meeting of the American and European worlds.

Special Gallery talks will take place throughout the day offering a rare opportunity to learn from exhibit curators and experts in the American civil rights movement. At 11 a.m., John Hessler, co-author of Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: 1502 The Claiming of a New World, will discuss that story "of exploration, of bravery, of greed, or law, and the possibility of vast riches." Signed copies of the book will be available in the Library shop at a special Columbus Day discount.

The Library's Young Readers Center (YRC) will celebrate the Columbus Day holiday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. with a program about "Exploring Our World". Young people, who must be accompanied by an adult at all times, will find book displays, activities and crafts about the exploration of land, sea and space. The YRC library of current and classic books, puppet theatre, games and puzzles will also be available.

Unreserved guided tours of the Thomas Jefferson Building will be offered at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Each tour is limited to 40 people and designed to accommodate individuals and families, not large groups. More information about the Library, the exhibitions and tours is available at the orientation desks at www.loc.gov/visit/ or by calling (202) 707-8000. Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ada@loc.gov.

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library's rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

Posted: September 18, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession


Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture Fellowships

The Omohundro Institute is comitted to building intellectual infrastructure. We are a dynamic community of authors, readers, and teachers dedicated to early American scholarship. 

Housed on the campus of William & Mary, the oldest public university in America, and situated in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, the Institute of Early American History and Culture was established in 1943 by the College of William & Mary and the colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The name of benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Malvern H. Omohundro, Jr., was added in 1996 in recognition of their generous support of the Institute. Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize winner and 2009 recpient of the National Humanties Medal as well as a MacArthur Fellow, characterizes the Institute as "one of the crown jewels of the American historical profession."

Omohundro Insitute - NEH Postdoctoral Fellowship
This two-year residential postdoctoral fellowship awarded annually. Scholars in any area of early American studies are eligible to apply. 

Lapidus-OIEAHC Fellowship 
We award up to eight predoctoral fellowships annually to support advanced graduate student research related to Early American and transatlantic print culture.

Colonial Williamsburg-Omohundro Institute Short-Term Visiting Fellowships 
These 1-3 month fellowships bring scholars, from advanced graduate students to senoir scholars, to Williamsburg, Virginia, to use the combined scholarly resources of both organizations.

Travel Scholarship Fellowship 
These fellowships are awarded to faculty and graduate students from developing countries so that they may participate in Institute conferences.

All aplication materials and complete information can be found on our website at www.oieahc.wm.edu under Fellowships.

Posted: September 16, 2014
Tagged: Fellowships, News of the Profession


Mack Center Fellowship

The Mack Center enhances teaching by advancing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Administered by FACET, the center stimulates inquiry in SoTL, promotes the results of those inquiries, and fosters educational excellence at Indiana University and internationally.

The Mack Center:
Supports SoTL research by Mack Fellows and other faculty to develop highly effective, evidence-based strategies for enhancing teaching and learning

Sponsors conferences, workshops, and publications that develop faculty members' and graduate students' teaching skills and share knowledge about SoTL

Nurtures the growth of university, state, and global communities of teacher-scholars

The Mack Center collaborates with people and programs worldwide—including FACET initiatives such as the Future Faculty Teaching Fellows Summer Institute and journals—to advance the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Become a Mack Fellow:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Each year the Mack Center selects a group of fellows to conduct ambitious research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and to participate in our community of SoTL scholars.    

Mack Fellows receive $1,000 in initial research funds and $1000 after they complete their project and submit a paper to a scholarly journal.

For the complete call for submissions, follow this link: https://facet.indiana.edu/about/mack-center/call-for-mack-fellow.pdf

If you need additional information, contact, Beth Kern, at (574) 520-4352 or bkern@iusb.edu

Posted: September 10, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession


OAH Statement on the AP Test

The Organization of American Historians supports the Revised Framework for the Advanced Placement and U.S. History Course and Exam. In response to recent criticism of the College Board, the OAH affirms that expert teachers and scholars of good will designed and conducted the extensive process of revision. The OAH is proud to be associated with these dedicated and professional teachers and historians. Many are OAH members.

The adaptations achieved in the U.S. History Course and Exam were guided by a commitment to benefit from previously unavailable sources of information on American history, to enhance student analytic powers in courses, and especially to foster their success in the complex contemporary worlds they will enter. As in all fields of knowledge—science, medicine, and American history—new sources, new methods, and new conclusions build on distinguished earlier research to move the nation to deeper, more advantageous understandings of our past, present, and future.

Our expanding knowledge about America's complex history sometimes pushes against semester and school-year time constraints, and we believe that the revised Advanced Placement and U.S. History Course and Exam arise from a strong commitment to reconcile deeper understandings in American history with classroom realities. We are convinced that both supporters and critics of the revision will benefit from conversations that grapple with our expanded understandings of the American past. We welcome fruitful discussions about the best ways to incorporate enlarged historical findings into the design of courses and tests without overburdening teachers or confusing students. Such dialogues, if approached with respect and good will, can engage and unite Americans who value the study of United States history.

Posted: August 29, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, News of the Organization


9th Annual ASALH Convention

9th Annual ASALH Convention

September 24-28, 2014 at The Peabody Memphis; Memphis, TN 

Civil Rights in America-More than 175 sessions featuring prominent figures in Black cultural studies and special events to include:

Posted: August 28, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession


Valley of the Dams: The Impact and Legacy of the Tennessee Valley Authority

​A SYMPOSIUM AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT ATLANTA
5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia
Saturday, September 20, 2014
9:00 – 4:00

View the new supporting online exhibit Valley of the Dams: The Impact and Legacy of the Tennessee Valley Authority at http://www.archives.gov/atlanta/exhibits/exhibits-tva.html

The National Archives at Atlanta is the repository of approximately 13,000 cubic feet of records documenting the impact and legacy of the Tennessee Valley Authority. These historic sources are ripe for new scholarship and discovery. This year's symposium encourages research in these diverse records, features scholars whose published works were based on these holdings, and promotes the discovery of new scholars from universities and colleges across the Southeast and the nation.

Pre-registration is required.
Registration is free and limited to 200 participants.
To register online, go to: http://www.archives.gov/atlanta/tva-symposium/
To register by email: atlanta.archives@nara.gov

Posted: August 28, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession


NCH Advocacy Roundup

The National Coalition for History has been busy this summer working on a number of public policy initiatives relevant to U.S. historians. Here is a summary of that news from NCH Executive Director Lee White:

Federal Funding for the Humanities:
On July 15, The House Appropriations Committee adopted the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies FY 15 funding bill which includes $146 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The National Coalition for History and the National Humanities Alliance had issued an advocacy alert urging support of increased funding, and the Committee responded by adding to the $138 million amount recommended by the Interior appropriations subcommittee.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission could receive its first increase in six fiscal years in the FY '15 budget, albeit a modest one. Both the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill passed by the House and the one considered by the FS&GG appropriations subcommittee in the Senate include an additional $500,000 for the NHPRC, up to a level of $5 million.

On July 18, the NCH submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education requesting that history and civics education be included as priorities in determining where to focus federal financial assistance through the agency's discretionary grant programs. The Department of Education had proposed repealing its 2010 list of supplemental priorities which would remove history and civics education and replace it with new priorities. The Organization of American Historians and other history groups put out a call urging members to express support of history and civics funding. Thank you to those who responded! More than 1,600 citizens had submitted comments by the July 24 deadline.

National Women's History Museum Commission:
On May 16, the NCH sent a letter to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) regarding bill S.398 which would establish a commission to study the creation of a National Women's History Museum. NCH strongly supports forming the commission, as well as the ultimate goal of building the museum, but expressed concerns that the current legislation leaves out expert historians and the public from the deliberations of the commission and endorses a problematic fundraising plan. The nonprofit group National Women's History Museum, Inc. originally promoted the idea in 1996, but has faced difficulty raising funds and has also been criticized for the quality of the women's history exhibits on its website. In May, a companion bill (H.R. 863) passed the House by a vote of 383-33. S. 398 has not yet been scheduled for markup or consideration by the Senate.

Boston Public Schools History and Social Studies Education
The Boston Public School System on May 30 responded to a letter written by the NCH, giving assurances that its history and social studies department was not going to be eliminated. "We are glad you reached out to us," stated Interim Superintendent John McDonough, "and we are even happier that there is an organization such as yours to advocate for the preservation and expansion of History instruction." Rumors had surfaced on the internet earlier that month, followed by an online petition that went viral throughout the historical community. BPS issued a statement indicating that an upcoming reorganization had been misinterpreted.

To read Lee White's Advocacy Roundup article in full, go to: http://www.oah.org/programs/news/tag/advocacy

Posted: July 31, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Profession


President Obama Honors Three OAH Past Presidents with National Humanities Medals

(Bloomington, Indiana) On Monday, President Barack Obama will present National Humanities Medals to historians David Brion Davis, Darlene Clark Hine, and Anne Firor Scott. All three honorees have served the Organization of American Historians (OAH) as president and are lifetime members. "We join all Americans in applauding the contributions these three individuals have made to their areas of research, and we thank them for their legacy of support to OAH," said Patricia Limerick, OAH President.

Being recognized are:

David Brion Davis is Sterling Professor of American History Emeritus at Yale University, and founder and Director Emeritus of Yale's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. Davis, a member of the OAH since 1956 and currently a lifetime member, served as OAH president from 1988-1989. He is being awarded the medal for "shedding light on the contradiction of a free Nation built by forced labor, and his examinations of slavery and abolitionism." Upon recieving this recognition, Davis noted: "I am deeply honored to join two other OAH past presidents in recieving the National Humanities Medal."

Darlene Clark Hine is Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Hine served as OAH President from 2001-2002 and has served on numerous committees at the OAH. She has been a member since 1974 and also is a lifetime member of the organization. Hine is receiving the National Humanities Medal for "enriching our understanding of the African American experience. Through prolific scholarship and leadership, Dr. Hine has examined race, class, and gender and shown how the struggles and successes of African American women shaped the National we share today." Named in her honor, the Darlene Clark Hine Award is given annually by the OAH to the author of the best book in African American women's and gender history.

Anne Firor Scott is the W.K. Boyd Professor of History Emerita at Duke University. Scott, a member of OAH since 1970, served as its President from 1983-1984 and was awarded the organization's Distinguished Service Award in 2002. Each year, the OAH awards the Lerner-Scott Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women's history. The award is named after Scott and the late Gerda Lerner, a prominent women's historian. The National Humanities Medal is being awarded to her for "pioneering the study of southern women. Through groundbreaking research spanning ideology, race, and class, Dr. Scott's uncharted exploration into the lives of southern women has established women's history as vital to our understanding of the American South." Scott is likewise a lifetime member of the OAH, having first joined the association in 1970.

Prior to traveling to the ceremony, Firor Scott recounted a story and valuable advice. Her daughter Rebecca Scott writes, "As you know, the large-scale drafting of men during World War II opened up unusual opportunities for women. In the summer of 1943, the 22-year-old Anne Firor, from Athens, Georgia, was among the 30 women and 5 men chosen for an internship sponsored by the National Institute for Public Affairs, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. They were to take on various tasks in the federal government in Washington, D.C., whose male population had been diminished by wartime service overseas. In the fall of 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt invited the group to the White House for conversation. Now, at age 93, Anne Firor Scott firmly reminds young women of the next generations: 'Whenever someone opened a door of opportunity for me, I just stepped right through it.'"

The medals ceremony will be live-streamed at 3 pm ET on Monday, July 28 at http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/live. The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has "deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities." For more information on these awards, visit http://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2014-07-22.

Posted: July 25, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, Clio's Kudos, News of the Organization


Your Help Urgently Needed--July 24 Comment Deadline

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a list of supplemental funding priorities, and unfortunately, history and civics are not included. This list of supplemental priorities and definitions to be used in awarding discretionary (competitive) grants made by the Department repeals their 2010 list. Please help the OAH and the National Coalition of History salvage history and civic education as priority funding areas. Read the OAH's letter to the Department of Education here. Please comment by July 24 on the importance of funding history and civics education by going here.

Posted: July 22, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges Grant Program

NEH invites proposals for projects that advance the role of the humanities at a community college through curriculum and faculty development on the theme of Bridging Cultures. NEH expects to award five to seven grants of up to $120,000 each. NEH Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges projects create opportunities for community college faculty members to study together while improving their capacity to teach the humanities; enhance or develop areas of need in an institution's humanities programs; and give community college faculty access to humanities resources through partnerships with other educational or cultural institutions.

Bridging Cultures is an agency-wide initiative that encourages exploration of the ways in which cultures from around the globe, as well as the myriad subcultures within America's borders, have influenced American society. NEH welcomes proposals that enhance understanding of diverse countries, peoples, and cultural and intellectual traditions worldwide. Applications might also investigate how Americans have approached and attempted to surmount seemingly unbridgeable cultural divides, or examine the ideals of civility and civic discourse that have informed this quest. In connection with a focus on civic discourse, projects might explore the role of women in America's civic life as well as the civic role of women in other cultures and regions of the world.

We welcome proposals that—in addition to exploring the required Bridging Cultures theme—also examine war and its aftermath and promote discussion of the experience of military service, as outlined in NEH's Standing Together initiative. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NEH at (202) 606-8380 or bccc@neh.gov to consult with a program officer about their proposals.

Guidelines are available at www.neh.gov/grants/education/bridging-cultures-community-colleges.

The deadline is August 21, 2014.

Posted: June 17, 2014
Tagged: Grants, News of the Profession


Call for Proposals: Research and Write a Comprehensive Administrative History of Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic SiteThe Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the National Park Service (NPS) have worked collaboratively for nearly 20 years on a variety of projects that aim to make the presentation of American history at NPS sites and programs as current, nuanced, and effective as possible. The OAH and NPS presently seek a qualified scholar to research and write a comprehensive Administrative History of Manzanar National Historic Site located in Independence, California.

Congress established Manzanar NHS in 1992 after decades of grass-roots efforts and lobbying by Japanese Americans and others, and despite considerable opposition. This project will develop a comprehensive review of more than four decades of highly emotional, political, and controversial efforts to preserve Manzanar as a physical site, as well as a place in memory and history.

As a site of the forced confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II, Manzanar is unique among NPS sites. Manzanar's Administrative History can offer important lessons for preserving civil rights sites, and working with diverse constituencies. The research effort resulting from this project will significantly expand the site's reference and archival files, and provide additional information for park staff, partners, and others.

 Learn more >

Posted: June 11, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


Southern Quarterly Call for Papers: Photography and the Shaping of Southern Culture

The Southern Quarterly (SoQ) will publish a special issue on photography and the shaping of Southern culture in the summer of 2015. It seeks submissions that relate photography to any other aspect of culture in the South, with both terms broadly defined as in the new southern studies. Subject areas might involve considerations of photography and the other visual and performing arts in the South, photography and southern literature, as well as photography in relation to the geography, history, sociology, and anthropology of the region. Specific submissions could consider individual photographers in the South, particular photographs of southern subjects, vernacular and documentary photography, photos and popular culture in the South, the use of real and fictive photographs in southern poetry and fiction, as well as the photography of landscape and townscape, politics and conflict, or race and class in the South from the Civil War to the present. Submissions relating to these themes of the special issue may include scholarly essays of about 5,000 words plus documentation, reviews of pertinent publications, unpublished interviews with relevant figures, related archival materials, portfolios of southern photographs, and original poetry employing photographic tropes.

SoQ does not consider multiple submissions or work that has been approved elsewhere. All submissions must arrive before January 1, 2015, and should follow the SoQ guidelines, which are available online at: http://www.usm.edu/soq/guidelines.htm.

Email submissions of MSWord documents to SouthernQuarterly@gmail.com are preferred over postal delivery. For more information visit http://www.usm.edu/soq

Posted: May 28, 2014
Tagged: Calls for Papers, News of the Profession


From the OAH President: "Professors—I Need Your Help!"

From the OAH President
Patricia Limerick

Patricia Limerick is the incoming president of the Organization of American Historians. This is her inaugural column which appeared in the May 2014 issue of OAH Outlook, the membership newsletter of the OAH. 


Patricia Limerick (Photo courtesy Honey Lindburg)I am eager to do what I can to deepen public appreciation of you and your work. To pull this off, I need your help—which I will beg for a few paragraphs from here.

On February 15, 2014, The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof started his column by using sixteen words to flatter academics, and then using eleven words to wound and dismiss them. "Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors," he said. And then he moved in for the kill: "but most of them just don't matter in today's great debates."

Traditionally and conventionally, the first stage in reacting to Kristof's column is to go on the defensive. When he says, "To be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant," scholars are supposed to respond, "That's not fair! You should not have said that!"

We're going to skip that stage. If we go on the defensive and instantly dismiss claims such as the one Kristof makes, we give aid, comfort, and affirmation to our critics, effectively proving the point that we are thin-skinned, prickly, and ill-suited for the world of public conversation.

Let's not do that. Our approach in 2014 is going to be quite different—and dramatically more productive. In our first move, we will surprise Kristof by earnestly thanking him for his kind recognition of the resources of intelligence and insight scholars hold. The headline for his column, after all, was "Professors, We Need You!"

In our second step, we surrender defensiveness (we will genuinely feel better without it!) and acknowledge that Kristof offers observations worth taking to heart. When he writes, "Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience," it is really not tenable to respond, "There is not an ounce of evidence to support that claim!"

"A related problem," he writes, "is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose." There, again, it would not be entirely workable to say that he made that up from whole cloth. Or, to put this another way, it probably will not advance our cause to say that Kristof performs and reproduces neoliberal and hegemonic discourse by undervaluing the linguistic, cultural, and theoretical turn of historicizing experience.

And now, in our triumphant third step, we tell Kristof, in a kindly tone that stops well short of reproach or smarminess, that he has fallen behind the times and not kept up with the world around him. Surely, as a journalist, he does not want to be rushing to get "yesterday's news" into print; on the contrary, he will want to acknowledge that he has fallen far behind in tracking and noting new trends.

Kristof, in other words, labors—and writes—in darkness when it comes to a grounded knowledge of the everyday lives of hundreds of historians working in multiple institutions, locales, and enterprises.

So let's help the poor fellow out. And here's where I need your help.

I need to hear from historians employed at universities and colleges who travel back and forth across the borders of the academic world.

Public historians, do not race to your laptops! I am very aware of your important roles in the world, and with a year as OAH President, I will get to celebrating you soon. But Kristof's column took aim at professors, and indeed, the caricature of academics who do not venture out of their ivory towers burdens us with our weakest flank.

If you are a historian based in academia and also engaged in the world beyond the borders of your campus, please write me. Tell me who you are, what your field is, what you teach, what you write about, and what sort of activity—working with K–12 teachers, giving public lectures, participating in the design of museum exhibits, advising nonprofits, talking to reporters, writing op-ed pieces or blogs, etc.—you engage in outside your university or college. If you involve your students in these enterprises, all the better—please let me know about how you may have, for instance, hitched up the writing and research assignments in your class to the public benefit.

Years ago, I ran into a very academically qualified historian at an airport. "You're in town for research?" I said to him, thinking I was declaring the obvious. "Actually," he said, "I'm here working with a tribe on a water rights case."

I know that there are hundreds of OAH members who have similar stories. I also know that I cannot patrol the concourses of airports looking for them.

"I write this in sorrow," Kristof ended his column, "for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses."

We now have the opportunity to relieve his "sorrow" and to deepen his admiration for "the wisdom found on"—and actually transported and distributed far from—"university campuses."

If you will help me out by writing and telling me about your work, you will position me to bring enlightenment and encouragement to the folks who, like Kristof, characterize us without knowing us.

OAH President Patricia Limerick is the faculty director and chair of the board of the Center of the American West and a professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder. Readers may contact Limerick at historians@centerwest.org. Photo courtesy of Honey Lindberg.

Posted: May 21, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


The National Coalition for History Provides Comment on Proposed Legislation Creating Women's History Museum

On May 7, 2014 the US House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 863 to create a "Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum." The resolution, introduced by representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), passed in the House by a vote of 383-33. The Senate is now considering the companion bill, S. 398, sponsored by Susan Collins (R-ME), to create a commission to study the creation of a proposed women's history museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The legislation is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee which has not yet scheduled a markup of the bill.

The National Coalition for History (NCH) and its member organizations, which includes the Organization of American Historians, is concerned that the proposed eight-member bipartisan commission does not include any professional historians, and through its partnership with the  the OAH supports the amendments, outlined in the letter below, to strengthen the proposed legislation.

The NCH is also concerned that the legislation calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum (NWHM), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, in raising funds for the construction of the museum. Naming a specific nonprofit organization in the authorizing legislation inappropriately implies endorsement of the NWHM. (The NWHM has been mired in recent controversies, from the quality of its scholarship, to its ability to raise the needed funds.) In fact, the NWHM to date has only raised $14 million of the estimated $400 million it would cost to design and build the museum.

Finally the NCH suggests amending the proposed legislation to include a public comment component. 

The National Coalition for History has sent the following letter to Senator Collins and to the cosponsors of S. 398.



National Coalition for History 
400 A Street SE
Washington DC 20003
tel. 202 544-2422 ext. 116
http://www.historycoalition.org

May 16, 2014

The Honorable Susan Collins
United States Senate
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Collins:

The National Coalition for History (NCH) would like to comment on S. 398, the "Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum Act of 2013." NCH is a consortium of over 50 organizations that advocates on federal legislative and regulatory issues. The coalition is made up of a diverse number of groups representing historians, archivists, researchers, teachers, students, documentary editors, preservationists, political scientists, museum professionals and other stakeholders.

NCH strongly supports the bill's intent of creating a commission to study the issue, as well as the ultimate goal of building a National Women's History Museum. Nevertheless, we have concerns with the bill in its current form, and would like to offer some constructive amendments to strengthen the legislation.

NCH is very concerned that the bill, as written, does not stipulate that any professional historians be appointed to the eight-member bipartisan commission. Any project to create a new national history museum should involve professional historians with expertise in women's history from the outset. Interpreting the past is vital to democratic debate and civic life, and scholars experienced in investigating and interpreting the past should be part of that process.

NCH is also concerned with Section 4(b)(2)(A) of the bill, which calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum (501)(c)(3) (NWHM) organization in raising funds for the construction of the Museum. It is unusual for the authorizing legislation for a museum commission to include the name of a specific non-profit in the section dealing with developing the fundraising plan. This was not the case with laws authorizing other new museums on the National Mall, including the National Museum of the American Latino, on which S. 398 is based. To include the NWHM in the language of the bill may be misinterpreted to suggest an endorsement that we feel is inappropriate. The NWHM has been mired in controversies regarding many aspects of its activities, from the quality of its scholarship to its ability to raise funds.  While we recognize the hard work the organization has done to bring the project this far, NCH recommends a fresh start if this important endeavor is to proceed towards a successful outcome.

Finally, we are concerned that there is no clear provision in the legislation to require the commission to seek, or provide the opportunity for, public comment. While seeking public input may be implied, it is too important to leave to chance. The commission's report can only be enhanced by involvement from the broad spectrum of citizens with an interest in the Museum.

To summarize, the National Coalition for History recommends three amendments which we feel will improve the bill:

  1. Section 3(c)(1)(B) describing the qualifications of commission members should be amended to include the language, "professional historians with expertise in women's history."
  2. Section 4 (b)(2)(A) of the bill, which calls for considering a role for the National Women's History Museum organization regarding fundraising, should be deleted.
  3. Include a mandate that the commission seek public input as part of its deliberations.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments. The National Coalition for History and our member organizations stand ready to assist the commission to ensure that we achieve the ultimate goal of creating a world-class National Women's History Museum.

If you have any questions, please contact Lee White, the Executive Director of the NCH at 202-544-2422, x-116 or lwhite@historycoalition.org.

Sincerely,

John Dichtl, NCH Policy Board President
Lee White, NCH Executive Director


Posted: May 20, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


OAH Executive Board Endorses Revisions to Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment Standards

At its 2011 spring meeting on March 17-20, the OAH Executive Board endorsed standards and "best practices" developed by the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment (CPACE) prescribing how colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education should employ and utilize non-tenured and non-tenure-track history faculty.

At its spring meeting in 2014, the OAH Executive Board endorsed the CPACE's revisions to the standards which are designed to more clearly distinguish teaching from nonteaching contingent historians, andindicate "best practices" that apply specifically to nonteaching contingent historians. Read more >

Posted: May 7, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


"U.S. History Textbooks Today and Tomorrow" is Our Editor's Choice Selection for March 2014

Debates over what belongs in U.S. history textbooks have long reflected conflicts over whose stories belong at the center of the national narrative. Especially for K–12 textbooks, those conflicts have mirrored concerns about the cultural and political cultivation of young citizens. The Journal of American History recently convened a "virtual" panel of textbook authors, college teachers, and a publisher to discuss the present and future of U.S. history college textbooks. Read the current installment of "Textbooks and Teaching," which is our Editor's Choice selection for March 2014.

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession


OAH Members Receive 2013-2014 ACLS Fellowships

American Council of Learned SocietiesThe American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announced that OAH members Jacob S. Dorman (University of Kansas), and Margaret O'Mara (University of Washington) were awarded fellowships for 2013-2014. Dorman received the ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship for his project, "Black Orientalism: Representing Islam in American Popular Culture and African American Religion," and O'Mara received the ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for her work, "Silicon Age: High Technology and the Reinvention of the United States, 1970-2000." These two ACLS fellowship programs, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, support scholars who are embarking on ambitious, large-scale research projects at critical stages in their academic careers. Learn more by visiting ACLS online >

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, Clio's Kudos


OAH Members Awarded Prestigious Bancroft Prize in History

March 13, 2014. Columbia University announced today that two acclaimed works by OAH members will be awarded the 2014 Bancroft Prize.

Please join us in congratulating Ira Katznelson, Columbia University, and Ari Kelman, University of California, Davis. Katznelson is being recognized for his book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (Liveright Publishing Corporation / W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), and Kelman for his book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Professor Katznelson is Columbia University's Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, and president of the Social Science Research Council. A graduate of Columbia College, he holds a PhD in History from Cambridge University. His books include Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013), Liberal Beginnings: A Republic for the Moderns (2008; co-authored with Andreas Kalyvas), When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (2005), and Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust (2003).  

Professor Kelman is in the department of history at the University of California, Davis. In addition to A Misplaced Massacre, he is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans. Kelman's essays have appeared in Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Journal of American History, among others.

Congratulations Professors Katznelson and Kelman!

Read the complete story in the March 13, 2014 issue of Columbia University's On Campus blog.

Posted: March 14, 2014
Tagged: Clio's Kudos, News of the Profession


Open Discourse and Academic Freedom

Alan Kraut

From the OAH President

Alan M. Kraut
February, 2014

Historians must possess the right to speak freely on any subject they choose, to engage in free and open scholarly discourse with each other on any subject, and to travel without barriers for conferences and research, with rights of entry and exit wherever and whenever they choose. Without such academic freedom we cannot do our work. The Organization of American Historians (OAH) has always advocated such freedom. Indeed, our mission statement in the OAH Constitution says that we encourage “wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of all practitioners of history.”

The very diversity of perspectives that enriches academic disciplines complicates issues when a professional organization considers taking a public stand on issues not directly related to how its members do their work, especially divisive issues. “Ripped from the headlines,” a successful formula for television programs and movie scripts, is far more problematic when it comes to the agendas of professional organizations of scholars and teachers of American history.

During the past year the OAH confronted issues requiring serious consideration of the criteria applicable in deciding when and how an academic association might weigh in on public issues of the day.

In the spring of 2012, the OAH was asked by several of its members to support an amicus curiae brief in Windsor v. United States, one of the cases that successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The OAH Executive Board engaged in considerable debate over whether it should lend its support to the brief. In the end, the decision was made to support the brief, the historical analysis largely framed by an OAH member, George Chauncey. The reason was best expressed in the language the OAH crafted for the brief: “The OAH strongly recommends that prior to its decision this Court avail itself of the rich and extensive historical scholarship that exists to understand the history of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” The brief quoted former OAH president Kenneth M. Stampp who wrote, “With the historian it is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.” In the Windsor case, American history could illuminate the issue and the OAH could support offering Chauncey’s historical expertise.

At the next OAH Executive Board meeting, we discussed the conditions under which the OAH should take a stand on a public issue in the future. OAH past president David A. Hollinger offered thoughtful criteria that were reflected in the motion passed by the board that public policy issues would be considered in the light of two criteria: “1) The case should be one of which the relevance of knowledge claims about American history is extremely high, and 2) the degree of consensus among professional historians about knowledge claims at issue is extremely high.” As the board considered the matter, its members came to believe that the amicus brief offered a remarkable professionally informed history of antigay discrimination in the United States representing a high degree of consensus among American historians on important historical patterns.

A different kind of challenge emerged in the summer of 2013. A number of e-mails from 2010 written by then Indiana governor Mitch Daniels were made public in which he described historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History as “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.” In one e-mail Daniels also asked, “Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?” No evidence emerged that Daniels pressed the case or that Zinn’s work was ordered excluded from all K–12 syllabi, but the revelation was chilling because it came from a sitting governor and because Daniels subsequently became president of Purdue University. (Zinn had passed away in 2010.)

While scholars might honestly disagree over the quality of Zinn’s work, there could be little disagreement over the academic freedom officially embraced by the OAH. As president of the OAH, I issued a statement saying that the “OAH supports the academic and intellectual freedom of all faculty members.” I then requested that the OAH staff post on our Web site a letter from several Purdue faculty members as well as all subsequent communications from any parties who wished to discuss the issue. It was the duty of the OAH, it seemed to me, to serve as a free and open forum for all those who wished to discuss any aspect of the controversy concerning censorship and the quality of the work of one of its members. Respect for diversity of opinion by establishing a forum for free and open discourse is in my view what responsible academic organizations owe to their members and their discipline in such instances.

More recently, several academic organizations in the United States voted to boycott Israeli universities as an intervention in the complicated politics of the region. Members of the OAH may honestly disagree over those politics, but perhaps we can agree not to advocate academic boycotts as instruments to protest the policies of a foreign government. While boycott supporters claim that they seek to cripple Israeli institutions and the Israeli government, not the scholars whom these institutions employ, the practical effect is likely to prove quite the opposite. Will there be litmus tests on advocacy of Palestinian rights or opposition to the sitting government in Israel to determine which Israelis may join in U.S. historians’ conferences and research projects? And who will judge? Personally, I find institutional boycotts—which necessarily impact fellow historians and dialogue about history—an affront to academic freedom and, therefore, repugnant. More than one hundred university presidents and the American Association of University Professors have condemned such boycotts. It is my hope that those organizations adopting the boycott will rescind their support in the interest of the academic freedom they profess to value. Greater contact, not less, between Israeli and Palestinian historians has never been needed more than at the present. Seminars and conferences in the United States are excellent venues for increased intellectual exchange. Those of us who hope to heal the world by challenging injustice can have no better medicine in our pharmacopeia than the insights derived from history and free, open historical discourse. Boycotts spread the infection.


Alan M. Kraut is OAH President and the University Professor of History at American University. This article appears in OAH Outlook 3 (February 2014). 

Posted: February 18, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Organization, News of the Profession