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Saturday Highlights at OAH 2018

Several people sit around a round table and engage in conversation.

The Chat Room, OAH 2018

At Saturday’s “Doing History” workshops, participants explored the use of animation, family history, and digital storytelling. They also considered important lessons during “Teaching Historical Thinking Skills,” a session led by Dave Neumann (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) and Mariko Manos (Long Beach Unified School District). “Efforts to engage students in ‘doing history’ focus overwhelmingly on the investigation of primary sources,” said Neumann. “While this approach is beneficial, it has sometimes become the sole alternative to textbook reading. In our workshop, we explored the ways secondary sources can play a prominent role in effective history teaching. Direct exposure to historians’ arguments and interpretive frameworks allows students to encounter historical thinking in action and begin practicing such interpretation themselves. In the process, they learn to recognize the ways present concerns drive the questions that historians ask about the past, which underscores the constructed nature of history.”

The panel “Female Professor: Reconsidering the Hazards of the Woman Historian in Academe,” sponsored by the OAH Committee on the Status of Women in the Historical Profession, was reconfigured as a lively roundtable with the late additions of Holly Miowak Guise (Yale University) and Eileen Boris (University of California, Santa Barbara). “Mary Ann Villarreal, associate vice president at California State University, Fullerton, opened by discussing the report on contingent faculty she coauthored as copresident of the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH); Boris gave the last presentation by reading from an eerily similar report by the American Studies Association in 1988,” chair Barbara Molony (Santa Clara University) reported. Guise discussed her experience as a Native Alaskan grad student and called on us to rematriate (a useful term she introduced from Native American experience) the academy. Moving papers by Andrea Milne (Case Western Reserve University) and Kelly McCormick (UCLA), who were unable to attend, were read as well. The audience discussion was personal and moving. University administrators in attendance offered suggestions for collaborative efforts to overcome the multiple levels of intersectional discrimination. Leaders in the women’s committees of the OAH, American Historical Association, and CCWH agreed to work together on means of implementing progressive changes.

The Chat Room, now its third year, once again provided a relaxed and unstructured environment for lunchtime conversations on a dozen various topics. Katherine Ott (Smithsonian Institution) led the chat “Disclosing in Academia: Transparency, Questions, Experiences” and had the following observations. “Participants talked about the importance of keeping a clear line between being an empathetic professor and a counselor. For students, disclosing documentation status can be an issue that relates to missing classes, stress, and confusion over roster names,” she reported. “One new faculty member told us about how, after he had arrived on campus, another department member insisted that he disclose his political affiliation.”

The best-attended sessions of the day were “Not My President: Questions of Legitimacy” and “State of the Field: Race in the Era of the American Revolution.”

A State of the Field roundtable on “Queer History and Race” focused on how different racial categories—African American, Asian American, Latinx, Native American, white—inform and transform queer history, and in turn how queerness is or is not incorporated into analyses of racial identity. “This really thoughtful and productive exercise highlighted the nuanced ways that scholars in the field of queer history have constructively pushed and learned from the fields of race and ethnic history, as well as the reverse,” observed presenter Julio Capo Jr. (University of Massachusetts Amherst). “Participants addressed how they were constitutive of one another, and also how racialized formations are measured and given currency through tethered ideas of the deviant and normative. This roundtable covered numerous methodological, theoretical, and archival challenges scholars conducting researching in these fields have faced, and offered suggestions for how we can further recover and make visible the queer lives that have for too long been neglected and institutionally erased.” This session, organized by the OAH Committee on the State of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Historians and Histories, was also led by Sarah Haley (University of California, Los Angeles), Christina Hanhardt (University of Maryland, College Park), Amy Sueyoshi (San Francisco State University), and Mark Rifkin (University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

Ed Ayers stands behind a podium with a sign for the OAH Annual Meeting.

OAH President Ed Ayers delivers his presidential address, “Everyone Our Own Historian.” OAH 2018

This year’s conference attendance, reported in the annual business meeting, was 1,600. In her remarks, OAH Executive Director Katherine M. Finley commented on the role that grants have played in helping the OAH reinvigorate, reinvent, and reimagine its work, drawing particular attention to a new grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, honoring retiring Foundation President and incoming OAH President Earl Lewis. This two-year, $300,000 grant will be used to increase the participation of underrepresented groups at the OAH annual meeting, starting in 2019.

At the end of the day, outgoing OAH President Ed Ayers delivered his presidential address, “Everyone Our Own Historian.”


As the exhibit hall closed and booths dismantled, a pallet of book boxes at the side of the hall grew, representing the OAH Book Bridge program. For the past sixteen years, this program has facilitated the donation on the best recent history scholarship from OAH exhibitors to local libraries. This year’s recipients are the CSU Sacramento library and Sacramento Public Library, and a special appeal was made, in light of the last month’s shooting of Stephon Clark, to collect books about guns, policing, and racial violence. For more information about Book Bridge’s history, see

And so #OAH18, the OAH’s 111th conference, drew to a close. C-SPAN3 American History TV recorded and broadcast both plenaries. If you missed a session or want to listen again, stay tuned for more news from our Amplified Initiative. OAH members will be able to access audio files of all sessions whose presenters agreed to be recorded.

“Next year’s annual meeting will take place in Philadelphia, an iconic American city and one so vital to the history of a young nation’s pursuit of independence and freedom,” notes incoming OAH President Earl Lewis (University of Michigan). “Next year the OAH asks its members and various publics to come together to examine the work of freedom because we are not only freedom’s heirs, it is our job to interpret its multiple meanings.”

For more about the OAH 2018 Annual Meeting, see our highlights from Thursday, highlights from Friday, and OAH award winners.