AHA Activities

Report of the 1996 Committee on Minority Historians

Allison Blakely, March 1997

The Committee on Minority Historians continues in its efforts to highlight issues of particular concern to minorities within the profession. The committee members during 1996 were Cynthia Blair, graduate student (Univ. of Illinois at Chicago); Allison Blakely, chair (Howard Univ.); Neil Foley (Univ. of Texas); Yvette Huginnie (Univ. of California at Santa Cruz); Clara Sue Kidwell (Univ. of Oklahoma); Gary Okihiro (Cornell Univ.); and Zaragosa Vargas (Univ. of California at Santa Barbara). Noralee Frankel, assistant director for teaching, women, and minorities at the AHA, has constantly provided excellent support for the committee's endeavors. She has been ably assisted by Rosslyn Rosser and Cedra Eaton. The committee also profited from interaction with Sandria B. Freitag, executive director of the AHA, who attended the committee's meetings and made every effort to advance the committee's objectives.

The committee's discussions and activities centered on five ongoing projects: further development of the AHA Teaching Diversity pamphlet series, initiation of a series of articles for Perspectives about issues that minority scholars and teachers will encounter in teaching history in the 21st century, reaffirmation of the Association's support for affirmative action, panel proposals for AHA annual meetings, and continued promotion of AHA membership fund raising for the annual Wesley-Logan Book Prize.

For the pamphlet series, Antonio Rios-Bustamante of the University of Arizona has ably continued to coordinate recruitment of authors, following up recommendations from the committee. Authors have now been confirmed for all but three of the titles. For the Perspectives series, the committee has secured a commitment from four scholars and is pursuing several others. Concerning affirmative action, the committee drafted a strong resolution, built around existing AHA policy, reaffirming support for affirmative action. This resolution was approved by the Committee on Women Historians for joint sponsorship, endorsed by the AHA Council, and then published in the January 1997 issue of Perspectives. This statement is also available on the AHA site on the World Wide Web and will eventually be accompanied by a selection of related materials bearing upon academic life, thus providing a quick orientation for members and faculties engaged with issues related to affirmative action.

The committee also cosponsored with the Committee on Women Historians a session on affirmative action at the 1997 AHA annual meeting. The session was well received by close to 100 participants. It featured formal papers presented by Joan Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study and by Karen Paget, a public policy consultant and co-editor of The American Prospect. Committee members Allison Blakely and Yvette Huginnie served on the panel as chair and discussant, respectively. The one panel sponsored solely by the Committee on Minority Historians was also highly successful. Caroline Walker Bynum (Columbia Univ.), immediate past president of the AHA, chaired the panel, which was titled "Has 'Minority' History Transformed the Historical Discourse?" Bynum was joined by Patricia Nelson Limerick (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder), Dipesh Chakravarty (Univ. of Chicago), and Winston James (Columbia Univ.). The reception that the committee hosted at the annual meeting was also well attended.

—Allison Blakely (Howard Univ.) is the chair of the Committee on Minority Historians.