Conference Wrap Up

The 2022 Conference on American History was a welcome return to in-person meetings. Twelve hundred historians gathered in Boston for the four-day conference and four hundred attended the virtual conference that ran concurrently. In a first for an OAH conference, the opening plenary featured music. Lakota artist Frank Waln, from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, explored the relationship between history and contemporary Indigenous music in a conversation and music with OAH President Phil Deloria. (Session recorded; see information below.)

New this year was the Hub Fair, which provided attendees interested in learning more about careers outside the academy a chance to chat with historians working in a wide variety of careers.

The Exhibit Hall included three special displays: a Native Artisan exhibit on Thursday, where regional Native artisans shared their work and experiences; “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”: New York City, 1980-2000, an exhibition of social protest photography; and Creating a Digital Documentary Edition of a seventheenth-Century Wampanoag Vocabulary, sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Friday evening featured the annual Awards Ceremony where Phil Deloria and President Elect Erika Lee recognized forty-two historians for their work. Elaine Tyler May, University of Minnesota and past OAH president, received the Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award for her contributions that enrich the understanding of and appreciation for American History. Made by History, the Washington Post’s history blog, edited by Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Purdue University, Carly Goodman, writer and historian, and Brian Rosenwald, University of Pennsylvania, were recognized with the Friend of History Award for their outstanding support of historical research and public presentation of American History.

During the Business Meeting on Saturday, April 2, Executive Editor of the Journal of American History, Benjamin Irvin, announced that he is stepping down from the position effective June 30. Managing Editor Stephen Andrews will serve as the Interim Editor.  Also during the meeting, the Nominating Board, chaired by A. K. Sandoval-Strausz, Pennsylvania State University, announced that Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University, will be the next Vice President candidate. At the close of the Business Meeting, Phil Deloria presented Erika Lee with the ceremonial gavel, officially ending his term as OAH President and beginning hers. Professor Deloria’s Presidential Address immediately followed the meeting.

The Opening Plenary, the Award Ceremony, the Presidential Address, and other sessions recorded during the in-person conference are available for viewing for those who registered to attend either the in-person or the virtual conference. The virtual conference content can also be accessed by registrants of both events. If you would like to access the content and did not attend either event, you can still register for the virtual conference here –

Thank you to all the attendees, exhibitors, presenters, and volunteers who made both the in-person and virtual 2022 Conference on American History a success.

Executive Board Action Items

During their meeting on Thursday, March 31, at the OAH Conference on American History in Boston, Massachusetts, the Executive Board took the following actions:

  • Approved Minutes from the Executive Board Meeting held December 2, 2021, on Zoom.
  • Approved the renaming of the Civil War and Reconstruction Prize to the W.E.B. Du Bois-John Hope Franklin Prize once the fundraising for the prize fund has been completed. The name change is in recognition of distinguished scholars who represent the origins and growth of a burgeoning body of scholarship that has transformed our understanding of the Civil War, Reconstructions, and American History more generally.
  • Approved the merging of the OAH Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Historians and Histories and the John D’Emilio LGBTQ Dissertation Award Committee.
  • Approved the proposal to expand the scope of the Richard W. Leopold Prize. In addition to books, prize eligibility will now include other forms of historical scholarship and documentation, including exhibitions and digital history projects.
  • Approved the creation of new membership categories: High School/Undergraduate; Sustaining; Small Departments; History Organizations; and Early Career.
  • Approved a membership dues increase, which will go into effect July 1, 2022.
  • Approved the budget for FY 2023.
  • Approved a withdrawal of $25,000 from the Fund for American History to support the new American History Forum.
  • Approved the 2022 – 2025 Strategic Plan for Fundraising and Development.
  • Approved the 990 – Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax for year 2020.

Future of the Past Webinars

Three Future of the Past webinars are now available for viewing on the OAH website. These webinars explore our diverse history to inform our future. The series engages long-standing but currently urgent debates over the contested meanings of history and focuses on the multiple narratives of our country’s long struggle to enact a more perfect union and engages with recent events so that history can help us better understand the present and inform our shared future. These webinars supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The webinars can be viewed here.

1. Pandemic Labor Organizing and Activism in Historical Perspective

Moderator: Beth English, Organization of American Historians.

Panelists: Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia, William P. Jones, University of Minnesota, Mireya Loza, Georgetown University, and Lane Windham, Georgetown University. (Editor’s note: Due to technical difficultries, Claudrena Harold presented over the phone)

2. The Assault on Democracy from Historical Perspectives: The January 6 Insurrection One Year Later

Moderator: George J. Sánchez, University of Southern California.

Panelists: Anthea Hartig, National Museum of American History; Clarence Lang, The Pennsylvania State University; Erika Lee, University of Minnesota; and Nancy MacLean, Duke University.

3. The Electoral College in American Society

Speakers: Katerina Horska, Director, Legal Affairs and Policy Division, Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration; Alexander Keyssar, the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard University; Max Krochmal, Associate Professor of History at Texas Christian University; and Miriam Vincent, Staff Attorney, Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration.

Historical Organizations Denounce Second Year of “Don’t Say Gay” Bills: Legislation in Multiple States Deepens Threat to Inclusive and Accurate K-12 History

On March 8, 2022, the OAH Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Historians and History and the Committee on LGBT History (CLGBTH) (an affiliate of the American Historical Association), issued a letter denouncing a second year of proposed “Don’t Say Gay” laws targeting K-12 schools, curricula, and libraries. If passed, these bills will profoundly harm students’ rights to an accurate, inclusive, and relevant history education. As shown by states such as California and New Jersey, LGBTQ-inclusive history curriculum can be taught at all grade levels in developmentally appropriate ways.

The OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories and the CLGBTH applaud those political leaders who recognize the profound harm such laws would bring to students, educators, and history education in a pluralistic democracy.

Read the full letter here.

Statement on Graduate Student Organizing

Fueled by pandemic-induced inflation, stagnant stipends, increased fees, and budgetary contractions at campuses across the United States, a surge of graduate student organizing has moved to the center of the national labor conversation. Catalyzed further by long-standing calls for better benefits, equitable and harassment-free work places, and the realities of the shrinking academic job market, graduate students employed by universities in instructional and research jobs are turning to collective action as they seek resolution to these serious issues.

The Organization of American Historians (OAH) recognizes and supports graduate students as integral members of our community of historians. Given their dual status as both historians in training and as workers, the OAH affirms the right of graduate students to organize and bargain collectively in pursuit of improved material conditions of work and equitable treatment at their home institutions.

Graduate students’ dedication, hard work, and contributions remain critical to fulfilling OAH’s central mission of advancing excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history. History departments across the country employ graduate students to undertake a range of instructional and pedagogical tasks, from grading to directing discussion sessions to serving as instructors of record for undergraduate courses. This is essential labor without which these departments, and indeed university systems writ large, arguably could not fulfill their research or educational missions. For the OAH this extends to our flagship publication, the Journal of American History. The production of this journal of record in the field depends in large measure on the work undertaken by our graduate editorial assistants.

While appreciating the very real budgetary pressures faced by university administrations that often shape decision making, the OAH encourages university leaders to engage in solution-seeking dialogue with graduate workers’ representatives, and to refrain from pursuing retaliatory actions against student workers who participate in strikes and other work stoppages. The possible ripple effects of pursuing punitive actions against graduate workers—including cuts in undergraduate courses offerings, increasing difficulties recruiting and retaining students and faculty, and permanent reputational damage—have the potential to further diminish opportunities for academic collaboration, mentoring, and professional development that are essential aspects of graduate education.

The OAH remains committed to advocating for all members of the historical profession, and thus urges university leaders to acknowledge through their actions the value and dignity of the labor performed by graduate student workers in history departments across the country.

On behalf of the Executive Committee,

Erika Lee, President

Beth English, Executive Director