The American Historian

OAH Executive Board Action

OAH Executive Board

At our Executive Board meeting on July 15, 2020, the Board decided to suspend the name of the Avery Craven Award pending further consideration of the appropriateness of the name.  The interim name will be the OAH Award in Civil War and Reconstruction History.  The change took effect immediately, and at the same time the board constituted a committee to review processes and procedures for OAH awards and prizes.

This action came as a result of consideration of a powerful article to be published in a future issue of The American Historian that laid out the argument for renaming the award.  In response, the Board felt that the major reason for the change is that Craven’s views and interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction was sympathetic to the “Lost Cause” version of that history, and are no longer consistent with the views taken by almost all historians today.  Indeed, the minimization of the role of slavery in bringing about the Civil War is particularly offensive to many current members, especially since the major work of historian Carter Woodson and others at that time clearly indicated that the South defended the maintenance of slavery vehemently.

Moreover, the award is currently “under water,” meaning that the funds raised for the award are no longer sufficient for generating enough revenue to provide a yearly prize.  The OAH, therefore, with its own operating funds, supplements the prize to insure it can be granted.  This gave the OAH Executive Board even more reason to suspend the name of the current award, but continue to honor scholars of the Civil War and Reconstruction by granting an OAH Award for exemplary work in this period.

OAH named awards are intended to honor past scholars and individuals, just as monuments and names put on schools and other buildings honor individuals and their actions in the past.  These honors have real consequences for how an organization honors or dishonors its past and invokes its priorities for those in the present and the future.