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Friday Highlights at OAH 2018

A group of people hold up their awards and stand together on stage.

OAH 2018 Award Ceremony

This year’s program committee designed a new series of workshops that would be available to all attendees at no additional fee. These eight “Doing History” workshops were envisioned as a way to help members engage broader audiences with high-quality scholarships in a wide variety of settings. “Historians in the Twittersphere” understandably generated lots of advice-sharing tweets.

Yoni Appelbaum (the Atlantic) and Nicole Hemmer (Washington Post’s Made by History blog and the Los Angeles Times) lead the “Doing History” workshop on “Historians Writing for the Public” Friday afternoon. “Niki and I had the pleasure of engaging with several dozen historians interested in sharing their work with wider audiences,” Appelbaum reports. “We tried a somewhat unusual format, breaking into groups in the middle of the session, and asking participants to take a few minutes to set down three ideas they each had for stories they might want to write. And then–the hard part–to share them with the others at their tables. We had to cut that portion off before the conversations had concluded; there were more good ideas circulating than there was time in which to share them. It was a reminder of how much untapped potential there is for public engagement and, hopefully, the first step for many of the scholars who were there on the path to writing for their various publics with greater regularity.”

The “Doing History” workshops will continue on Saturday.

A two-day OAH Film Festival also began on Friday, with a conversation with Cornelius Moore, co-director of California Newsreel. “This conversation was designed to recognize not only California Newsreel’s golden anniversary,” Moore says, “but also our past and present collegial relationships with historians involving our film distribution and production projects.”

“I hope that the OAH Film Festival provides professors with ideas about utilizing films,” he continues. “I am eager to find out what folks in the field will be discussing to generate new collaborations.” For a complete list of films screened, ranging in topics from the environment to racialized violence to student activism and including feature-length documentaries as well as animated short films, please visit

One of several State of the Field sessions to be held throughout the conference, the American Indian History roundtable on Friday focused on the methodologies, theories, historiography, and new scholarship that define and advance the field. A large, enthusiastic crowd showed up for this roundtable, reports presenter Cathleen Cahill (Pennsylvania State University). “Session organizer Kent Blansett (University of Nebraska Omaha) opened with the acknowledgment that we were on indigenous land; Miwok, Wintu, Pomo, Northern Maidu, Nishenan, Patwin and other tribes trace both sacred and political relationships to the lands that define the modern municipality of Sacramento.”

“In general, we concluded that the field is vibrant,” Cahill continued, citing the eight panels on indigenous topics, several individual papers, and a screening of Daniel Janke’s short film How People Got Fire, at this year’s conference. “That lineup suggests that the field has a wide range and that other scholars in U.S. history are taking it seriously. Indeed, the room was packed and an earlier 8 a.m. panel on California Indian history had a large audience as well, despite its early-morning time.”

This session was also featured presentations by Andrew Needham (New York University) and Amy Lonetree (University of California, Santa Cruz).

Graduate student member Holly Guise (Yale University) attended the Friday workshop, “Crafting Your Book Proposal and Attracting a Publisher.” “Melody Herr’s workshop provided key information on putting your best foot forward to create a book description that attracts publishers. She outlined each stage: building a book proposal, evaluating potential publishers, submitting your proposal, and finally navigating peer-reviewed feedback,” Guise said. “Her strategies offered insights on what publishers look for, and she also provided important information on how individuals should navigate the publishing timeline. One particular piece of advice I will remember in the future is that it is okay to submit a few questions to the editor to forward to the reviewers for feedback.

In a new scheduling choice, this year’s conference offered the annual awards ceremony on Friday, preceded by a pre-award reception, with the annual business meeting and Presidential Address to follow on Saturday.

Linda K. Kerber (University of Iowa, emerita) received the 2018 Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award. “For over four decades, Linda Kerber has been a dynamic force in the expansion of American history, women’s history especially, a compelling undergraduate teacher and graduate student mentor, and a spirited institutional leader who has persistently pushed our profession to support scholars and histories as diverse as America’s complex past,” writes the selection committee.

For a complete list of award recipients, visit

Four people sit behind a table addressing a crowd.

“Confederate Monuments: What to Do?” Plenary, April 13, OAH 2018

Friday evening concluded with a plenary, “Confederate Monuments: What to Do?” featuring John Kuo Wei (New York University), Christy Coleman (American Civil War Museum), and Turkiya Lowe (National Park Service). “Historians, like everyone else, have been following the struggles over Confederate monuments and what their future might be,” said session chair and OAH president Edward L. Ayers. “This plenary brought together historians who have been deeply engaged in that work, in hopes of stimulating a town hall conversation. The panelists shared lessons from their range of experiences in previous conversations, in national organizations, and in ongoing work on in communities, and eagerly heard perspectives from attendees.”

For more about the OAH 2018 Annual Meeting, see our highlights from Thursday, highlights from Saturday, and discussion of the Theme Visualizer.