Statement on Diversity and Affirmative Action (updated 2017)

At the request of the AHA Committee on Minority Historians and the AHA Committee on Women Historians, this statement was approved by the AHA Council in May 1996. The AHA is aware that this statement might no longer be consistent with current Supreme Court determinations, and is currently under revision.

The AHA is committed to diversity in the historical profession and recognizes the need for institutions to recruit aggressively and hire members from groups that have been historically discriminated against. This diversification has added to the richness of historical inquiry, and the profession as a whole would be diminished without it. A growing body of literature demonstrates that diversity helps institutions achieve their educational and scholarly goals. Therefore, we continue to support affirmative action and other initiatives for diversity and inclusion.

The Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct and the Guidelines for the Hiring Process have both been approved by Council. The hiring guidelines urge that “at all stages in a search, affirmative action/equal opportunity guidelines should be respected.”

The Council has also approved the Report on the Status and Hiring of Women and Minority Historians in Academia. This document states, “As a consequence of affirmative action policies, the percentage of women and minorities in the historical profession increased dramatically in the 1970s. Since 1980 the number of women has continued to rise while the gains of minorities have leveled off considerably. The American Historical Association remains committed to the goal of enriching the profession of history through the continued diversification of its practitioners. One significant obstacle remains the small pool of minority history PhDs. Every effort should be made to increase these numbers. Given the current underrepresentation of minorities in the larger pool of history PhDs, affirmative action policies are still one of the most effective mechanisms (along with scholarship programs) to remedy the problem of underrepresentation.”

Given the dramatic decline in federally funded fellowship programs in the humanities and social sciences, the impact of abolition of college- and university-level affirmative action programs on financial support for minority students, especially graduate students, would be devastating. The AHA’s policy is thus consistent with the Supreme Court decision Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), which ruled that “the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met,” an opinion the Court upheld in Fisher II, 2016.