The American Historical Association encourages its members to participate in civic culture, as historians. We have created forums at our web site relating to specific issues and events, such as Supreme Court decisions, candidate debates, and major issues relating to higher education. But historians should not wait for an invitation from the AHA to weigh in on conversations in the media, in their communities, and anywhere else that would benefit from the particular insights that historians bring to public affairs. And our members will benefit from seeing what their colleagues have to say. So please send links when you publish something online that relates to any aspect of public affairs.
AHA Guidelines Crucial to Response to Controversial Textbook
September 9, 2016 - AHA Teaching Division Councilor Trinidad Gonzales (South Texas Coll.) and AHA member Emilio Zamora (Univ. of Texas, Austin) are part of a committee that has released a report citing numerous factual inaccuracies and generally poor historical work in a textbook proposed to meet Texas’s Mexican American Studies standard in high schools. Drawing on the AHA’s Guidelines for the Preparation, Evaluation, and Selection of History Textbooks and the Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct to evaluate Mexican-American Heritage, the committee, convened by a member of the Texas State Board of Education, found a lack of “critical dialogue with current scholarship,” which resulted in “a polemic attempting to masquerade as a textbook.” The AHA remains unaware of any role played by professional historians in writing the text; apparently the publisher ruled out participation by scholars of Mexican descent because of concerns that they would be “biased” (quoting news reports). Here at 400 A St. SE we wonder how many of our colleagues born and raised in the United States have authored US history textbooks tainted by their “bias” as Americans.
The committee, convened by Ruben Cortez, the 2nd District representative to the Texas State Board of Education, released its report at a press conference on Tuesday, September 6. AHA members Gonzales and Zamora will also testify in front of the Texas State Board of Education on September 13. You can watch the hearing live online.
Leading Georgetown to Address Legacy of Slavery
September 1, 2016 - Fr. David Collins, SJ, history professor and chair of Georgetown University’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, is grappling with the legacy of Jesuit slave ownership in the nineteenth century and the sale of 272 enslaved men, women, and children to pay university debts. The recommendations made by the working group, influenced by activism from descendents, scholars of African-American history, and members of the Georgetown community, include renaming buildings, reaching out to descendents of enslaved people who built and maintained the university, and extending preferential status in admissions for descendents. Fr. Collin’s reflected on the legacy of slavery at Georgetown in a New York Times op-ed. In May 2016, AHA member Adam Rothman, also part of the Working Group, addressed this issue for AHA Today.
Op-Ed on Teaching Creative Thinking in History Class
August 28, 2016 - In response to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s claim that documentaries can replace trained history educators, Amanda Seligman (history department chair, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) penned an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the importance of true history education. She explains the necessity of teachers who can actively engage students in “[u]nderstanding multiple viewpoints, debating ideas without acrimony, connecting past and present, and collaborative analysis.” By adapting to current debates and student needs, instructors “cultivate qualities that students may deploy at work, as parents, as neighbors, and as citizens in our democracy.”
DOJ Report on African American Rights in Baltimore
August 22, 2016 - Jessica Millward (Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine) writes about the recent Department of Justice Report on police activities in Baltimore for The Conversation. Policing practices of the present, she concludes, echo policies and practices directed at Free Blacks in antebellum Baltimore.
Four Hundred Years of African American History
July 18, 2016 - In a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed, Peter Onuf (Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of Virginia) responds to a congressional proposal to establish the 400 Years of African-American History Commission, concluding that African American history is American history.
Historical Perspective on Terrorism in the US
June 14, 2016 - In a guest column and op-ed published in several newspapers, Jeremy Suri (Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, Univ. of Texas at Austin) considers the technological and cultural shifts that has led to a rise in mass murders in the United States.
Read the op-ed in The Monitor: "COMMENTARY: Societal Changes and Mass Murders Today"