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In Memoriam: Robert W. Johannsen, 1925-2011

Robert W. Johannsen, J. G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Illinois, died in Urbana, Illinois, on August 16, 2011, six days shy of his 86th birthday.

Best known for Stephen A. Douglas (1973), his biography of the Little Giant, Johannsen also wrote extensively on Lincoln, the Pacific Northwest in the frontier period, and the U.S.-Mexican War.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Johannsen graduated from Reed College in 1948, after his studies were interrupted by combat service in World War II. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington. After teaching a year at Washington and five years at the University of Kansas, he joined the Department of History at Illinois in 1959.

He attracted hundreds of students to his courses on nineteenth-century American history, the Jacksonian era and the Civil War. He also directed more than 35 dissertations.

In his writings, he endeavored to document the importance of Douglas in his own day. He sought to explain, not to defend, the Little Giant. Conversely, he attempted to moderate the popular, and even the professional, tendency to magnify Lincoln, to lift him beyond his own time and place.

Johannsen published not only a number of books and anthologies but also dozens of articles and reviews. The list of his writings in Politics and Culture of the Civil War Era: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Johannsen (2006) runs to 20 pages.

Johannsen was deeply committed to the study of the past and devoted beyond measure to teaching it. Those fortunate to have known him will always cherish the gentleness, warmth, and civility that pervaded his conversation and demeanor.

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Posted: August 26, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Vincent DeSantis, 1916-2011

VINCENT P. DE SANTIS, noted historian of the Gilded Age, died in Victoria, British Columbia on June 5, 2011 at the age of 94. A faculty member at the University of Notre Dame for over sixty years, he was a native of Birdsboro, PA. where he was born on December 25, 1916 to an Italian immigrant and his American wife. After graduating from Birdsboro High School, he spent two years at manual labor earning money for college. He graduated from West Chester State Teachers’ College in 1941, at which time he entered the Army as a private and served with the 19th Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands. He left the service in December 1945 as a captain.

He used the GI bill to enter graduate school in history at Harvard University and then completed his doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins, studying under the eminent C. Vann Woodward. He began teaching at Notre Dame in 1949 and continued his tenure until 2010, producing fifteen doctoral students and being a favorite undergraduate teacher. He received three Fulbrights for teaching and research in Italy, India, and Australia.

His first book Republicans Face the Southern Question, The New Departure Years, 1877-1897 is the definitive work on southern politics and the freed people in the late 19th century. His textbook, which covered the Gilded Age through the Progressive Period, is widely used in college classrooms around the nation. He meticulously kept a daily diary beginning with his college days in the 1930s. He continued to research and write until his last days, still able to hold his own on the latest historiography.

He was a regular attendee at history conferences and was well known for his ability to tease his friends and colleagues. He could remember jokes about them for years. He also financially supported a variety of individuals and academic institutions.

He was married twice, his first marriage producing four sons. He is buried in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.

John F. Marszalek
Ulysses S. Grant Association
Mississippi State University

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Posted: August 23, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


OAH Announces New Public History Manager

The Organization of American Historians is pleased to welcome Aidan J. Smith as its Public History Manager. Before arriving at the OAH in August 2009 as assistant editor of the Journal of American History, Smith served as reference librarian at the Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts Department at the Wilson Library housed on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smith will begin September 1, 2011.

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Posted: August 5, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


In Memoriam: Elwin F. Hartwig

Professor Elwin F. Hartwig - 1929-2011

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Posted: June 1, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


The Civil War at 150: An OAH Commemorative Project

During the sesquicentennial of the Civil War (2011-2015), the OAH is committed to bringing the best current thinking on this complex era to a wide audience. Our commemoration efforts began in March at the OAH Annual Meeting in Houston and continue with the current issue of the OAH Magazine of History, which focuses on the origins of the Civil War. Read more >

We also invite you to visit our “Civil War at 150” Web site where you can listen to a series of podcasts and explore additional resources as we examine the history of the war from its beginnings through its aftermath. Read more >

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Posted: May 10, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


Minutes of the 2011 OAH Annual Business Meeting

Read brief reports from the OAH President, OAH Treasurer, OAH Executive Director, OAH Executive Editor, and OAH Nominating Board chair, at the 2011 annual business meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Houston, Texas.

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Posted: May 9, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


Jay S. Goodgold Appointed OAH Treasurer

On April 15, 2011 the OAH Executive Board voted unanimously to approve the five-year appointment of Jay S. Goodgold as the next treasurer of the Organization of American Historians.

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Posted: April 19, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


Action items from the Fall 2010 OAH Executive Board Meeting

At its fall 2010 meeting at the Hilton Washington in Washington, D.C., on November 13-14, the OAH Executive Board took the following actions:

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Posted: April 16, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


An Open Letter to OAH Members in Wisconsin

In an open letter to Wisconsin members, OAH Past President David Hollinger, the Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History at the University of California, Berkeley, shares his thoughts on the collective bargaining situation in Wisconsin and its impact on the 2012 OAH/NCPH Annual Meeting in Milwaukee.

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Posted: April 14, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


OAH Executive Board Approves Standards for Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Faculty

At its 2011 annual meeting, the OAH Executive Board approved five standards and best practices for how colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education should employ and utilize nontenured and non-tenure-track history faculty.

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Posted: March 31, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


OAH Speaks out on Academic Freedom

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians issued a statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon.

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Posted: March 30, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


Save Teaching American History Grants
Contact Your United States Senator Now!

The Organization of American Historians is asking you to email letters to your U.S. Senators as soon as possible regarding saving the Teaching American History (TAH) Grant Program and Civic Education funding (through competitive grants). Legislation is currently being drafted in the Senate that would fund federal programs for the rest of this fiscal year, FY2011.

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Posted: February 18, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


OAH Launches Online Career Center

The OAH is pleased to announce the opening of the OAH Career Center, a new benefit for OAH members. Individuals wishing to make professional career connections may browse available jobs, or use advanced search tools to target positions by keyword, location, and other criteria. To get started, visit:

More information is available at: http://careers.oah.org/

Posted: February 16, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


OAH Seeks New Treasurer

Applications and nominations are now welcome for the office of Treasurer of the OAH. The late Robert Griffith, who served admirably in the post, was forced by illness to resign effective January 1, 2011. Jay Goodgold is serving as Interim Treasurer until a new Treasurer can be found.

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Posted: February 16, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


Minutes: 2010 OAH Business Meeting

The OAH President presides at the annual business meeting of the Organization of American Historians, which takes place each spring during the annual convention. In addition to hearing reports from the president, executive director, treasurer, executive editor, and nominating board, the membership welcomes to office the newly-elected officers and board members. Read the minutes from the meeting at

More information is available at: http://www.oah.org/about/papers/reports/

Posted: February 8, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


In Memoriam: Otis Pease

Professor Otis A. Pease, September 6, 1925 - September 16, 2010, was a member of OAH since 1953.

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Posted: February 7, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Robert Griffith

As his colleagues, we remember these gentle and generous ways as we mourn the loss of Robert Griffith, professor and chairman of the history department at American University in Washington, D.C. and OAH Treasurer, who passed away on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at the age of sixty-nine.

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Posted: February 7, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


Publishing Begins with Oxford University Press

January 2011 marks the beginning of the OAH's publishing partnership with Oxford University Press. In addition to publishing the Journal of American History and the OAH Magazine of History each quarter, Oxford University Press will assume the online hosting of both titles from the History Cooperative. Follow this link to access the December 2010 issue of the Journal of American History online:

More information is available at: http://www.journalofamericanhistory.org/issues/972/

Posted: February 2, 2011
Tagged: News of the Organization


In Memoriam: Dr. Robert J. Rusnak

Long time OAH member, Dr. Robert J. Rusnak, passed away November 21, 2010.

More information is available at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune/obituary.aspx?n=robert-jay-rusnak&pid=146822720

Posted: January 20, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam


In Memoriam: Dr. Craig Wollner

Dr. Craig Wollner, Portland State University, Oct. 17, 1943 - Nov. 20, 2010.

More information is available at: http://obits.oregonlive.com/obituaries/oregon/obituary.aspx?n=craig-evan-wollner&pid=146922016

Posted: January 20, 2011
Tagged: In Memoriam