Committee on Minority Historians 2011

Prepared by Martin Summers

At our November 30 teleconference, we continued discussion of the two major items that dominated our April meeting: the Equity Award and increasing the presence of scholars of color at the AHA annual meetings.

The committee discussed several substantive issues related to the Equity Award, including refining the evaluation criteria and process, the nomination deadline, and the appropriateness of self-nominations. Following up on our discussion in April, the committee approved language for a paragraph clarifying the criteria for the prize that will accompany the nomination announcement. We also approved the language for guiding questions that writers should take into consideration as they compose their letters in support of a nominee. The paragraph and guiding questions are as follows:

The Committee of Minority Historians seeks to bestow the Equity Award upon individuals or institutions who have demonstrated an exceptional record in the recruitment and retention of students and new faculty from racial and ethnic groups under-represented within the historical profession. Deserving nominees will have records that include such achievements as mentoring, program building, fundraising initiatives, pursuing civic engagement, and enhancing department and campus culture to promote a supportive environment. Nomination letters should emphasize specific outcomes.

    1. How does this individual or institution’s implementation of programmatic, departmental, and/or curricular changes reflect their commitment to the recruitment and retention of minority historians?
    2. How has this individual or institution advanced the establishment of a departmental, campus, or community environment that supports the recruitment and retention of minority historians?
    3. How has this individual or institution actively demonstrated leadership to advance the recruitment and retention of minority historians?

The committee also agreed to recommend changing the deadline from August 1 to May 15. This is an effort to enlarge the pool of nominees, which will be discussed in more detail shortly.

Finally, the committee took up the question of self-nomination. Although at least one member of the committee continues to express concern that the opportunity for self-nomination might be abused by individuals and institutions that are more interested in self-promotion than equity, the general sense of the committee is that this is not a problem at this point. In terms of the individual award, we think it would be difficult to determine which nominations were initiated by the nominee or by someone other than the nominee. In terms of the institutional award, we think it is important that departments and units be able to self-nominate, particularly if the award could assist them in their efforts by raising their visibility within their institutions. The committee agreed to table further discussion about self-nominations and to revisit the issue once the prize starts to regularly attract a larger number of nominations.

We also discussed various strategies for promoting the Equity Award in the hopes of enlarging the nominee pool. In addition to changing the deadline, we proposed the following: sending the announcement to the executive directors of organizations whose membership include large numbers of people of color (such as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Association of Black Women Historians, etc.); marketing to major research centers that may not be connected to universities; distributing flyers at the chairs’ luncheon and through the chairs’ listserv; and circulating announcements through various H-Net listservs.

The other major topic of discussion was increasing the presence of scholars of color at the AHA annual meetings. We continued to bat around some of the ideas that we discussed during our last meeting, including being more proactive in developing co-sponsored panels with African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American history/studies associations. This might require establishing affiliate relationships with more of these organizations. The committee thought that the AHA could work through the Local Arrangements Committees to generate more attendance by scholars of color. Finally, we discussed the possibility of enhancing the Committee of Minority Historians’ presence on social media outlets, such as developing a CMH facebook page.

We concluded our meeting with a substantive discussion about how the AHA can provide better guidance to search committees seeking to diversify their applicant pools. One clear step that should be taken is to refer departments to Equity for Minority Historians in the Academic History Workplace: A Guide to Best Practices (2007) on the CMH webpage. We also agreed that the CMH should advise search committees to circulate job announcements more widely to include interdisciplinary ethnic studies and cognate PhD programs (this could include sending announcements directly to the chairs and graduate studies directors of these programs or posting the announcement to the chairs’ and DGS listservs). Finally, it was agreed that the committee should use the spring teleconference to come up with language for the webpage and Facebook offering guidance to search committees doing network advertising on how to diversify their pool of applicants, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond history PhD programs.