History Behind the Headlines

Image of glasses on top of a newspaper

History Behind the Headlines is a webinar series featuring prominent historians discussing the history behind current events. Webinars in this series are generously sponsored by AHA member Jared Brubaker.

Upcoming Events

Check back regularly for future events in the History Behind the Headlines series.

Recordings of Past Events

History Behind the Headlines: Approaches to Teaching Israel–Palestine
December 7, 3 p.m. ET
Moderator: James Ryan (director of research, Foreign Policy Research Inst.)
Panelists: Omer Bartov(Samuel Pisar professor of holocaust and genocide studies, Brown Univ.), Michelle Campos (associate professor of Jewish studies and history, Penn State Univ.), and Katharina Matro (teacher, Walter Johnson High School and American Historical Assn.)

This hour-long conversation helped teachers, at the K–12 and college levels, develop strategies to teach the Palestine–Israel conflict, and many of the attendant sensitive historical topics it entails, in an atmosphere as charged as the present. It might seem that this history is a minefield worth avoiding, but thoughtful and engaged teachers have been teaching such difficult topics in a civil and empathetic way for decades. A panel of historians with relevant expertise discussed classroom strategies and how current events have influenced their approach to teaching, as well as how understanding history and engaging seriously with people who inhabited the past can help our students to better understand current events.

History Behind the Headlines: African American History and State Standards in Florida and Beyond
August 25, 1 p.m. ET
Moderator: Leslie M. Harris (professor, Northwestern Univ.)
Panelists: Edward Ayers (Tucker Boatwright professor of the humanities and president emeritus, Univ. of Richmond), Daina Ramey Berry (Michael Douglas dean of humanities and fine arts, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), and Marvin Dunn (professor emeritus, Florida International Univ.)

This hour-long AHA Online event brought together four scholars of African American history to provide context for Florida's new state standards for K–12 history/social studies education. These standards indicate that the state’s public school students will not see a mention of slavery until they reach the fifth grade. The standards additionally indicate that it is possible to learn about slavery, sharecropping, lynching, Jim Crow segregation, disfranchisement and ongoing systems and practices of racial discrimination without confronting the concept of racism, a word that does not appear in the standards until high school, where it comes up once in 14 pages. The panelists and moderator discussed how these new standards relate to broad narratives of US history.

History Behind the Headlines: Is Global Democracy in Crisis?
August 2 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Moderator: Kenneth Pomeranz (Univ. Professor of Modern Chinese History and the College, Univ. of Chicago)
Panelists: Ruth Ben-Ghiat (professor of history and Italian, New York Univ.), Rafael R. Ioris (professor of history, Univ. of Denver), and Paul Zeleza (associate provost and visiting professor, Siegal Lifelong Learning & Cleveland Coll., Case Western Reserve Univ.

Is global democracy in crisis? How can history help us better understand the forces shaping global politics in the 21st century? These are some of the questions that were explored in this AHA online event. Bringing together leading scholars, this hour-long discussion aimed to contextualize contemporary concerns about waning support for democratic institutions as authoritarian regimes gain popularity worldwide.

History Behind the Headlines: Presidential Records Act
April 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Moderator: Peniel E. Joseph (associate dean for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion; professor of public affairs; Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values; and founding director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Univ. of Texas at Austin)
Panelists: Nicole Hemmer (director, Rogers Center for the American Presidency and associate professor of history, Vanderbilt University), Timothy Naftali (clinical associate professor of history and public service and director, Undergraduate Public Policy Program, New York Univ. and founding director, Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum), and Trudy Huskamp Peterson (certified archivist and former acting archivist of the United States)

This panel, organized by the AHA and the Society of American Archivists, brought together four leading scholars to put recent events surrounding presidential records in historical context. Why is the FBI raiding residences of former presidents and vice presidents? Does any of this matter to anyone other than archivists and historians?

Abortion, Choice, and the Supreme Court: History Behind the Headlines
July 6, 2022, at 3 PM ET
Moderator: Leslie J. Reagan (professor, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
Nancy F. Cott (Jonathan Trumbull Research Professor of American History, Harvard Univ.), Melissa Murray (Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law and faculty director, Birnbaum Women's Leadership Network, New York Univ. School of Law), and Aaron Tang (professor of law, Univ. of California, Davis School of Law)

“Abortion, Choice, and the Supreme Court: History Behind the Headlines,” brought together four leading scholars to place Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in historical context. How did we get here from Roe v. Wade (1973)? Why is history central to this jurisprudence and its implications? This session might be particularly useful for teachers and their students at college and high school levels. 

Russia and Ukraine: History Behind the Headlines
March 4, 2022, at 2 PM ET
Moderator: David Engerman (Leitner International Interdisciplinary Professor, Department of History and Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale Univ.)
Panelists: Serhii Plokhii (Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History and director, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard Univ.), Sergey Radchenko (Wilson E. Schmidt Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies), and Marci Shore (associate professor of history, Yale Univ.)

“Russia and Ukraine: History Behind the Headlines,” brought together three leading scholars to place current events in historical context. With each historian approaching the current conflict from a different perspective, attendees learned about the deeply intertwined histories of Russia and Ukraine, as well as the Cold War and post-Cold War disputes that have led to the Russian invasion. This session demonstrated not only the value, but indeed the necessity of thinking historically if we are to understand the worlds around us. This session might be particularly useful for teachers and their students at college and high school levels. 

Preserving Records: Archives and Presidential Transitions
January 29, 2021
Chair: Sarah Weicksel, American Historical Association
Panelists: Richard H. Immerman (Temple Univ., emeritus; chair, NARA Review Committee, American Historical Association), Trudy H. Peterson (consulting archivist and former acting archivist of the United States), and Gary M. Stern (National Archives and Records Administration)

In this panel, three experts on archives, preservation, and access discuss issues regarding the archival implications of presidential transitions.

Historians Reflect on the 2020 Election
November 13, 2020
Chair: James Grossman (American Historical Association)
Panelists: Marsha E. Barrett (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Jelani Cobb (Columbia Univ.), John A. Lawrence (Univ. of California Washington Center), Heather Cox Richardson (Boston Coll.)

In this virtual conversation, four prominent historians of American political life offer historical perspective on the events, and consequences, of the 2020 election.

Presidential Debates in Historical Perspective
September 26, 2020
Chair: Joanne B. Freeman (Yale Univ.)
Panelists: Kathryn Cramer Brownell (Purdue Univ.), Peniel E. Joseph (Univ. of Texas-Austin), Newton N. Minow (Commission on Presidential Debates)

In preparation for the first 2020 presidential debates on September 29, this panel offers a historical examination of debates for the nation's highest office and connects these historical precedents with the current contest. 

Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape
July 2, 2020
Chair:  Jim Grossman (American Historical Association)
Panelists: David W. Blight (Yale Univ.), Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard Univ.)

Teaching the History of Racist Violence in the High School Classroom
June 19, 2020
Chair: Jacqueline Jones (AHA president-elect)
Panelists: Reginald K. Ellis (Florida A&M Univ., AHA Councilor, Professional Division), Tina L. Heafner (president, National Council for the Social Studies)

The American Historical Association and the National Council for the Social Studies hosted a panel on effectively using the Association’s Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States and how it can be used productively in high school history classrooms. Panelists explored the history referenced in the statement, the context of its authorship, and the opportunities the statement creates for challenging classroom conversations on historical and current events.

Featured Recording

History Behind the Headlines Playlist