AHA Advocacy

In a wide range of situations, whether involving the rights and careers of individual historians, historical practice in diverse venues, or the role of history in public culture, the American Historical Association has the responsibility to take public stands.  See below for recent AHA actions.

To learn more about how the AHA determines whether to take a public stand, please see Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance (June 2017) and Policies and Procedures for Considering Amicus Brief Requests (January 2020).

AHA Executive Director Jim Grossman's The Megaphone at 400 A Street SE shares the process by which the AHA issues letters and statements and signs onto amicus curiae briefs.

For statements and letters from the 1990s-2018, please visit the AHA's News and Advocacy Archives.


  • AHA Statement on Department Closures and Faculty Firings (July 2020)

    The AHA issued the Statement on Department Closures and Faculty Firings urging administrators to “respect the established principles and procedures of faculty governance and consult with faculty from all disciplines at their institution” before making budgetary decisions. The AHA emphasized that “history education must retain its vibrancy and institutional integrity” and that closing or decimating history departments “comes at immense cost to students and to colleges and universities themselves, and to society as a whole.”26 scholarly societies have cosigned this statement.

  • AHA Letter Condemning Tenured Faculty Layoffs at Canisius (July 2020)

    The AHA sent a letter to the president and members of the board of trustees of Canisius College expressing grave concern about the college’s dramatic restructuring of academic departments, drastic reduction of the curriculum in history, and termination of three tenured faculty members. The AHA urged the college to reconsider its course of action, asserting that the college’s plan “diminishes the quality of a Canisius degree” and “identifies the college with employment practices that have no place in American higher education.”

  • AHA Statement on Historical Research during COVID-19 (July 2020)

    The AHA has issued a statement urging universities to make a series of specific accommodations for faculty and students whose research has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Sustaining historical research during the COVID-19 crisis,” the statement argues, “requires flexible and innovative approaches to the conduct of research itself as well as to how we gauge productivity.” Recommendations include deferral and extension of research funding awards, increased access to online databases, support for research that does not require on-site research, and incorporation of virtual scholarship in professional evaluations.46 scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.

  • AHA Signs on to AAS Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law (July 2020)

    The AHA has joined several scholarly societies in signing the Association for Asian Studies’ Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law. The statement expresses concern over the People’s Republic of China’s curtailment of Hong Kong’s freedom and expresses concern that such a law would inhibit academic exchange.

  • AHA Letter Opposing New ICE Obstacles to Students from Foreign Countries (July 2020)

    The AHA has written a letter to the deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement strongly objecting to "modifications" declaring that foreign "students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States." Whether driven by nativism or an agenda to pressure higher education to reopen campuses, this ruling is likely to have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of foreign students and the colleges and universities they attend.

  • Resolution Regarding Affiliations between ICE and Higher Education (June 2020)

    The AHA has issued a resolution acknowledging credible allegations of serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Border Patrol and encouraging higher education institutions to consult with historians and our colleagues in other relevant disciplines before entering into arrangements with both agencies.

  • AHA Endorses Senate Resolution Recognizing the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial (July 2020)

    The AHA endorsed a resolution introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren recognizing the forthcoming centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. “Everything has a history, including white supremacy and the many forms of violence, coercion, and cultural practices that have legitimated and enforced it,” said AHA executive director Jim Grossman. “What happened in Tulsa was extreme, but not unusual. It is part of our nation's heritage. We must acknowledge that heritage, learn from it, and do whatever each of us can to ensure that it is just that-heritage, rather than continuing practice.”

  • AHA Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States (June 2020)

    The AHA has issued a statement urging a reckoning with the United States’ deplorable record of violence against African Americans, a record that stretches back centuries. The killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers stands within this sordid national tradition of racist violence. It is past time for Americans to confront our nation’s past, using insights from history to inform our actions as we work to create a more just society. 94 scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.

  • Letter to Congress on Further CARES Funding for Higher Ed (June 2020)

    The AHA has joined 33 other societies in a letter to Congress requesting additional relief for higher education hit hard by challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter outlined the struggles that universities, especially HBCUs; community colleges; underfunded public institutions; and tuition-dependent nonprofit private colleges have faced in the wake of this crisis, and asked for greater investments in higher education to provide for the common good.

  • AHA Issues Statement Regarding Historians and COVID-19 (April 2020)

    The etiology of the novel coronavirus is at once scientific and historical. In a statement endorsed by several peer organizations, the AHA emphasizes the importance of historical thinking in understanding the current crisis and urges all institutions that employ historians to be flexible and humane in considering the needs of their employees and constituencies.

  • AHA Sends Letter to University System of Georgia Opposing Proposed Changes to the General Education Curriculum (March 2020)

    In a letter to Dr. Tristan Denley, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the University System of Georgia and chair of the General Education Redesign Implementation Committee, the AHA opposed proposed changes to the general education curriculum. The letter from the AHA asserts that the legislative requirement for instruction in the history and government of the United States and Georgia cannot be fulfilled by taking only one course, either in history or political science, and that proper instruction in history can be fulfilled only by trained historians.

  • AHA Signs onto Statement Encouraging Temporary Adjustments to Faculty Review and Reappointment Processes during COVID-19 Crisis (March 2020)

    The AHA signed onto a statement from the American Sociological Association regarding faculty review and reappointment processes during the COVID-19 crisis. The statement encourages institutions of higher education to consider appropriate temporary adjustments to their review and reappointment processes for tenured and contingent faculty, including adjusting expectations for faculty scholarship, limiting the use of student evaluations of teaching, and extending tenure timelines. The AHA also urges all higher education institutions that employ contract and/or part-time faculty to compensate fully for courses already contracted for summer and fall offerings.

  • AHA Encourages Congress to Support NEH during COVID-19 Crisis (March 2020)

    On March 19, AHA executive director Jim Grossman co-signed a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting emergency funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities that would include support for historians whose income is imperiled by current conditions in higher education and other history-focused institutions, professional development relating to classroom and other historical work, and other needs relevant to the COVID-19 crisis.

  • AHA Joins Lawsuit Challenging ICE Records Disposition (March 2020)

    The AHA has joined the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in a lawsuit against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) challenging NARA’s approval of ICE’s records disposition, which authorizes ICE to destroy several categories of records documenting mistreatment of immigrants detained in ICE custody.

  • AHA Supports Release of Grand Jury Records of Historical Significance (March 2020)

    In connection with the amicus brief in Pitch v. United States, which was filed in September 2019, the AHA signed onto a letter to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the United States Courts proposing a revision to Rule 6(e) to specify that the courts can release grand jury records based on historical significance. The proposed amendment would make clear that district courts have authority to order disclosure, in appropriate circumstances, of grand-jury materials of historical significance, and it would provide a temporal limit for secrecy regarding grand-jury materials that are stored as archival records at the National Archives.

  • AHA Expresses Concern over Deletion of Immigration Records (Feb 2020)

    In a letter to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) on February 27, 2020, the AHA expressed concern over reports that EOIR had omitted close to 1,000,000 records from its September 2019 anonymized data release. The missing records include more than 1000 applications for relief filed by immigrants in the course of Immigration Court proceedings, which are not exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

  • AHA Sends Letter to French President Emmanuel Macron with Concerns about Unclear Procedures for Declassification of Archives (Feb 2020)

    In a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, the AHA expressed concern that the change in policy to declassify documents at Vincennes and other repositories in France has rendered many documents inaccessible. The AHA encouraged the development of a clear, efficient, and effective procedure for declassification so that historians and other researchers can access materials of ongoing public importance.

  • Letter of Concern about Risks of NARA Policy Regarding Electronic Records (Jan 2020)

    In a letter to David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, the AHA voiced concern about the NARA policy that directs all agencies to manage all permanent records electronically by December 2022. The AHA argued that hasty implementation of the policy, with a lack of dedicated funding, will impair NARA's mission and have dire consequences for researchers.

  • Letter of Concern about the Proposed Closure and Sale of the NARA Facility in Seattle (Jan 2020)

    In a letter to Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and members of the Public Buildings Reform Board, the AHA expressed concern about the recommendation for the closure and sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle.

  • AHA Statement Condemning the Use of Historical Sites in Warfare (Jan 2020)

    The American Historical Association condemns the use of historical sites anywhere in the world as targets for destruction and as shields for protection. The use of historical sites in warfare is a violation of international law.

  • Letter to National Archives and Records Administration Regarding Alteration of Photograph (Jan 2020)

    The AHA sent the following letter to the Archivist of the United States objecting to the alteration of a photograph on exhibition and praising NARA staff for acknowledging this serious lapse in judgement.

  • AHA Calls on Nicaraguan President to Release History Professor (Jan 2019)

    On January 24, the Association sent a letter to Daniel Ortega Saavedra, president of the Republic of Nicaragua, articulatingconcern about the imprisonment of Professor Ricardo Baltodano Marcenaro of the Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua and the charges leveled against him. The AHA cited the UN High Commission for Human Rights’ inquiry into the case and urged Baltodano’s immediate release.

  • AHA Resolution Supporting Scholars off the Higher Education Tenure Track (December 2019)

    On December 10 the AHA adopted a resolution in support of scholars off the higher education tenure track and expressed its commitment to support, encourage, and engage the thousands of history scholars currently working off the higher education tenure track in a variety of settings.

  • AHA Pushes for Reauthorization of Title VI College Affordability Act (October 2019)

    The AHA joined 30 other organizations expressing their support for reauthorization of the College Affordability Act, a federally funded Title VI–International Education program. The coalition urged the US House Committee on Education and Labor and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment to continue its bipartisan support for the initiative.

  • AHA Comments on Proposed NLRB Rule Change (October 2019)

    The National Labor Relations Board is considering a rule change that would diminish the right of graduate students at private universities to organize unions. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, "rather than looking at the facts in any case before it, the National Labor Relations Board is aiming to create an overarching rule that would exclude teaching and research assistants from being covered by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act." The American Historical Association opposes the proposed rule change.

  • AHA Defends Emeritus Professor Romila Thapar (October 2019)

    On October 7, AHA President John McNeill sent a letter to Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi to discourage the university’s review of Romila Thapar’s status as emeritus professor. McNeill cited her impressive record of contributions and achievements, including being named an AHA Honorary Foreign Member.

  • AHA Signs onto Amicus Curiae Brief Providing Historical Context to the Decision to Rescind DACA (October 2019)

    The AHA has joined the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality (Seattle University), the Organization of American Historians, and numerous individual historians on an amicus curiae brief supporting respondents in Department of Homeland Security, et al. Petitioners v. Regents of the University of California, et al. Respondents. The brief explains the relationship between the history of anti-Mexican and Latinx racism and the use of related racist code words in the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.In situations involving the rights and careers of individual historians, historical practice in diverse venues, or the role of history in public culture, the AHA has the responsibility to take public stands – including participation in relevant legal proceedings. Everything has a history; in this particular case, the AHA considers it imperative for the court to be aware of the historical context of current efforts to vilify an entire racial group.

  • AHA Signs onto MESA letter to US Department of Education (September 2019)

    The AHA and other academic associations signed onto a letter from the Middle East Studies Association that registered alarm over the US Department of Education's position towards the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, an unprecedented intervention in academic curricula and the autonomy of higher education.

  • AHA Signs onto Amicus Brief in Pitch v. United States (September 2019)

    The American Historical Associationhas signed onto an amicus brief in Pitch v. United States regarding the release of grand juryrecords froma 1946 court case about the Moore's Ford Lynching in Walton County, Georgia. Though grand jury records are usually kept under seal forever, the AHA supports the court's original position that these records can be released as a matter of exceptional historical significance, a precedent the government is working to overturn.

  • AHA Signs onto ASA Statement on Teaching Evaluations (September 2019)

    The American Historical Association signed onto the American Sociological Association’s Statement on Teaching Evaluations. While acknowledging the valuable feedback that student experiences in the classroom can provide, the statement discourages the use of such assessments as a primary factor in faculty promotion, salary increase, and appointment. Studies have shown that student evaluations of teaching are easily biased, particularly towards women and minorities, and weakly related to other measures of teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes. The ASA also provides recommendations of best practices for future collection and implementation of student feedback.

  • Statement on Domestic Terrorism, Bigotry, and History (August 2019)

    The American Historical Association expects the following statement to stimulate more questions than answers. The Association hopes these questions make their way into classrooms, libraries, museums, city council meetings, community centers, and even coffee shops, wherever people are trying to connect with each other to make historical sense of our current moment.

  • AHA Opposes Elimination of History Department at Gordon College (July 2019)

    On July 29, the American Historical Association sent a letter to Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, in response to the college's drastic restructuring plan and the decision to subsume the history department under one single Political Science, Philosophy, and History entity. The AHA vehemently urged the administration to reconsider its decision and highlighted the detrimental effects to faculty employment, pedagogical and research standards, and student learning outcomes.

  • AHA Expresses Support for the Right of Scholars to Sign the Academics for Peace Petition (July 2019)

    On July 24, in a letter to judges of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey, the AHA joined 26 other scholarly associations expressing their support for the right of scholars and academics to sign the Academics for Peace Petition. The letter commended the court's recent rulings upholding protections for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and urged the court to continue these protections as it considers the upcoming criminal cases of the Peace Petition signatories.

  • AHA Supports Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott Refusal to Aid in ICE Raids (July 2019)

    On July 15, the AHA sent letters to the CEOs of Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and Marriott International, hotel chains the Association regularly uses for its annual meetings. AHA executive director Jim Grossman applauded the companies' refusal to allow US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to utilize hotel space as temporary detention centers during the announced raids on immigrant communities.

  • AHA Expresses Concern about Access to the Guatemala Policía Nacional Archives (June 2019)

    On June 13, the AHA sent a letter to Jimmy Morales Cabrera, president of the Republic of Guatemala, urging continued access to materials in the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN). The agreement concerning housing of the archive expires on June 30, 2019, and the AHA urged officials to permit the archive to remain in its current location and to continue the program of lodging digitized copies with the government of Switzerland and the University of Texas at Austin.

  • AHA Signs onto Letter of Support for Federal Funding of International Education and Foreign Language Program (May 2019)

    On May 28, the AHA joined other scholarly and professional organizations in sending a letter to Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. The letter advocated increased funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies and articulated the sought-after international skills curated by such programs as Title VI and Fulbright-Hays.

  • AHA Endorses Coalition for International Education Letter for Congressional Title VI Funding (May 2019)

    The American Historical Association signed onto a letter from the Coalition for International Education to Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The letter expressed support for the bipartisan re-authorization of the Higher Education Act and encouraged incorporation of Title VI funding into the bill.

  • Letter of Concern over Departmental Changes at University of Tulsa (May 2019)

    On May 14, the AHA sent a letter to the University of Tulsa provost Janet Levit urging the university administration to reconsider its radical restructuring plan for the humanities. AHA executive director Jim Grossman articulated worries over both the plan’s impact and the manner in which deliberations and decisions were conducted without input from key disciplines.

  • AHA Sends Letter of Concern to Stanford University (May 2019)

    On May 8, AHA executive director Jim Grossman sent a letter to Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and provost Persis Drell to voice concern for the proposed reduction in funding for Stanford University Press, a leading and primary publisher of fundamental and influential works in the historical discipline.

  • AHA Signs onto Letter Protesting Cuts to Humanities Programs in Brazil (March 2019)

    The AHA joined 12 organizations in signing onto a letter issued by the American Philosophical Association and the American Sociological Association in response to Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s proposal to defund philosophy and sociology programs in the country.

  • AHA Signs onto Letter Protesting Alaskan Budget Cuts (March 2019)

    On March 4, the American Historical Association joined 32 other professional societies in sending a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and several other congressional representatives of the state of Alaska to express deep concern over the proposed $134 million reduction in state funding for the University of Alaska. The consortium of organizations highlighted the multifaceted consequences for Alaskan constituents and urged state leadership to reconsider.

  • AHA Urges Historians and Californians to Take Action (February 2019)

    On February 28, AHA leadership alerted members and other historians in California to a new plan at California State University, the nation's largest university, to cut core requirements for U.S. history and civics courses. The Association urges our community to contact Governor Newsom and other state legislators and implore them to reject this proposal put forth by the CSU General Education Task Force.

  • Letter Protesting Michigan Mayor’s Termination of Journal Editor’s Contract (Feb 2019)

    On February 11, AHA executive director Jim Grossman sent a letter to Mayor John O’Reilly of Dearborn, Michigan, protesting the dismissal of Bill McGraw, editor of the city’s historical commission’s journal, for publishing an article about Henry Ford's anti-Semitism.

  • AHA Maintains Support for the Separation of Hungarian Politics and Academic Inquiry (Feb 2019)

    On February 11, the AHA sent a letter to the leadership of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to reaffirm its support for the autonomy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The AHA cautioned against reforms that would subject academy funding to approval from ministerial authorities. The separation of the Academy’s research institutes and publications from politics is a crucial cornerstone of the institution’s international integrity and the credibility of its historical scholarship.

  • AHA Expresses Concerns about Potential Impact of Plan S on the Humanities (Feb 2019)

    The AHA fully supports broad access to the resources required to create new knowledge and share it as widely as possible. However, concerns about the principles set out in Plan S have led the AHA to write a letter to Coalition S members regarding the potential for harm to humanities scholarship.

  • Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance (June 2017)

    The Council of the American Historical Association issues a statement on when it has the right to take public stands in defense, most of which has to do with the rights and careers of individuals, considered as historians. (Created 2007; Updated 2017)

  • Policies and Procedures for Considering Amicus Brief Requests (January 2020)

    The AHA may consider requests for endorsing amicus briefs that coincide with the AHA's Guiding Principles for Taking a Public Stance. Such requests may be submitted by members of the Association, litigants, or other scholarly associations.