News Topic

Academic Freedom, Advocacy

On February 28, AHA president Tyler Stovall sent a letter to the secretary of homeland security protesting the recent detainment of Henry Rousso, distinguished historian of the Holocaust in France. Professor Rousso’s detainment at the Houston airport en route to participation at a conference at Texas A&M University offers a chilling reminder of the importance of the rule of law and respect for the rights of not only our colleagues but all travelers to the United States. Because the issue is of vital importance to the ability of historians to do our work, which includes international scholarly conversation, the AHA Council has voted to make the letter an official statement of the Association. The AHA continues to fight threats to the free exchange of scholarly ideas.

February 28, 2017

The Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Kelly,

The American Historical Association energetically protests the recent shabby and completely unwarranted treatment of Professor Henry Rousso by American immigration authorities last week. Professor Rousso, a renowned scholar of modern France and the Holocaust, is director of research at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Last Saturday, February 25, he flew from Paris to Texas to give a keynote address for a conference at Texas A&M University, but was held at the airport and nearly deported back to France by customs agents who accused him of trying to enter the country illegally. Only the prompt action of TAMU officials, including the university president, enabled Professor Rousso to complete his journey as planned and give his talk.

The excellence of American universities depends in part on their ability to bring in foreign scholars, from graduate students to senior professors, to interact with their domestic colleagues. The poor treatment of distinguished historians like Professor Rousso constitutes a direct threat to the historical discipline in the United States. Already the ripple effects of this unfortunate action are making foreign colleagues hesitate to plan trips to America. As one history professor in the United Kingdom commented, “Many non-American scholars like myself absolutely love interacting with colleagues in the States because we recognize that there is so much superb research being done there and so many excellent colleagues. We would be really sad if we felt we couldn’t continue to visit the cutting-edge institutions in the States.”

The Rousso case is a clear example of how the recent crackdown on immigration by the Trump administration threatens the free exchange of scholarly ideas. In order to prevent further damage to America’s global scholarly presence, the American Historical Association requests an investigation of this incident, a formal apology to Professor Rousso, and some reasonable assurance that this won’t happen again.


Tyler Stovall, President

The following affiliated societies have signed on to the above statement:
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
Conference on Asian History
Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction
French Colonial Historical Society
New England Historical Association
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing
Society for French Historical Studies
Urban History Association
Western Association of Women Historians
Western Society for French History
World History Association