Teaching History with Integrity

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, courtesy of the Library of Congress. A large crowd of people in front of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.

Confronting Controversies about America’s Past


The AHA, its members, and other historians find ourselves on the front lines of a conflict over America’s past, confronting opponents who are actively promoting ignorance in service of misleading notions of unity. Through Teaching History with Integrity, the AHA leads or participates in several initiatives to provide resources and support for history educators facing intensifying controversies about the teaching of the American past. Historians have a crucial role to play as participants in public deliberations about how to engage students in truthful and rigorous inquiry in history classrooms.

For details about the status of divisive concepts legislation in the United States, see Education Week, Quorum, the American Association of University Professors, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Freedom to Learn

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, courtesy of the Library of Congress. A group of African-Americans carry protest signs in support of civil rights.

The freedom to learn our nation’s history is under siege. In many states, legislators have introduced “divisive concepts” bills that seek to limit history education in ways that would make it virtually impossible for teachers to help students to thoughtfully consider slavery and racism in American historical development. The AHA’s Freedom to Learn initiative educates historians and others on how to advocate publicly for honest history education, responds directly to the bills themselves, and creates resources to help teachers directly affected by these bills think about how to maintain the integrity of their history courses.

Freedom to Learn

Teaching with Integrity: Historians Speak

These videos feature historians describing how exploring America's past honestly in the classroom benefits the nation's students, and how the freedom to learn also strengthens our shared democracy.

Teaching with Integrity: Historians Speak

Mapping the Landscape of Secondary US History Education

This United States mural is at an elementary school in Richmond Virginia down the street from where my parents live. I like how the states don't have political red or blue states, they are just colorful. Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash

Americans care about how their history is taught, but they don't always agree. Since its inception, the American Historical Association has taken a keen interest in how these disagreements shape the practice of history teaching in American classrooms. Mapping the Landscape of Secondary US History Education is the AHA’s multi-stage effort to provide a research-based grounding for ongoing civic deliberations about the teaching of US history in American classrooms.

Mapping the Landscape of Secondary US History Education

For Educators: Explaining Today

Post-it notes of various colors on a gray/green wall. Photo by Patrick Perkins via Unsplash.

In the spring of 2022, the American Historical Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, and New American History hosted a series of listening sessions for K-12 educators and higher education faculty, an opportunity to listen to the concerns of educators concerned about the teaching of US history amidst political controversy. Teachers expressed a need to find inquiry-based learning resources and tools to foster reflective thinking using credible sources, without violating new state laws or local policies. In the spirit of supporting these colleagues, we offer the following resources.

For Educators: Explaining Today

Learn from History

Learn from History logo

The AHA is an inaugural partner of Learn from History, a coalition of 40 organizations that oppose efforts to limit the ability of educators to maintain the scholarly integrity of courses in US history. Among other resources, Learn from History offers toolkits for school system leaders, parents, teachers, and school board members.

“Drawing on careful survey research, and knowledge of what is in fact being taught in American classrooms, the Learn from History coalition seeks to combat deliberate misinformation about the current state of history education and the ways that historians write about and teach the centrality of racism to the evolution of American institutions.”—James Grossman, AHA, and Beth English, OAH

Learn from History

Flashpoints: Free Speech in American History, Culture, and Society

Flashpoints

PEN America and the AHA have developed the Flashpoints event series to present the history of free speech in American democracy to public audiences around the United States. Our goal is to widen recognition of the evolution of the First Amendment in ensuring free speech protections for all Americans and the essential role those protections play in a democratic society. Check out the article in Perspectives on History about the series for more information about the project.

Visit PEN America’s website at the link below to learn more about upcoming events in the series. The next event, Censored: Free Speech & Hollywood, will take place at the Los Angeles Public Library on November 16. 

Flashpoints Series

Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism in American History

Colored pencils in a row. Photo by Kelli Tungay via Unsplash.

In June 2021, the American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America authored a joint statement stating their “firm opposition” to legislation, introduced in at least 20 states, that would restrict the discussion of “divisive concepts” in public education institutions. 

Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism in American History

AHA in the News

A newspaper mid-print in large industrial printer. Photo by Bank Phrom via Unsplash.

AHA staff and Council members have written articles and made public appearances highlighting the challenges teachers and educators face from legislation restricting the teaching of “divisive concepts.”

AHA in the News