Publication Date

December 23, 2020

Perspectives Section

News

AHA Topic

AHA Initiatives & Projects

Geographic

  • United States

The AHA is committed to defending practices that allow historians to conduct their research freely and to access records in archives at home and abroad. In November and December 2020, the AHA urged reconsideration of institutional policies that seek to unduly cut funding for historians and history departments, and opposed policies that undercut the invaluable work historians do.

AHA Sends Letter Opposing Cuts in NHPRC Funding

On November 16, the AHA sent a letter to the US Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government requesting that the subcommittee “reconsider its vote to eliminate funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.” The AHA noted that “the NHPRC provides millions of Americans with ready digital access to materials essential to civic education and an understanding of the documentary basis of American history” and urged a funding level that will “enable the agency to sustain its work on behalf of the nation’s history and heritage.”

AHA Urges Reconsideration of History Program Closure at Guilford College

On November 19, the AHA sent a letter to the president and trustees of Guilford College, noting with alarm “the dramatic restructuring of academic units and program prioritization announced by Guilford College on November 6, 2020, including the elimination of the history program.” The college plans to terminate one tenure-track and two tenured history faculty members “without adhering to its own contractual Faculty Handbook, not to mention generally accepted ethical guidelines.” The AHA urged administrators to reconsider these changes, which are “likely to have serious and deleterious consequences for the practice of historical work and hence the quality of undergraduate education at Guilford College.”

AHA Expresses Concern over Legislative Request to Monitor Teaching of 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory

On November 19, the AHA sent a letter to the Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE) expressing “grave concern about a legislative request that has been circulated to academic units in the Arkansas university system.” The request sought to collect “data on the teaching of ‘The 1619 Project’ and ‘Critical Race Theory’ at public higher education institutions in Arkansas.” “Neither the legislature nor the ADHE,” writes the AHA, “should be monitoring what qualified scholars are assigning to their students, except as part of a bona fide review and assessment.”

AHA Issues Statement Concerning Access to French Archives

On November 23, in solidarity with the French Association of Archivists, the AHA issued a statement urging reconsideration of a policy change by the Secrétariat général de la défense et de la sécurité nationale that renders “some well-known sources, and many others yet to be analyzed, practically inaccessible, even to professional researchers.“ The AHA stressed that “reading and interpreting these sources will be critical to the production of new historical scholarship in the future,” and noted that “Article L. 213-2 of the Code du patrimoine states that, after 50 years, almost all archival documents pertaining to the French state enter the public domain and should be made available without any conditions.” The AHA previously wrote to the French government about this issue in February 2020.

AHA Joins Lawsuit to Protect Historical Records

On December 1, the AHA joined the National Security Archive, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as plaintiffs in a lawsuit intended to prevent valuable historical records from being irretrievably lost. The plaintiffs seek to ensure that the current administration comply with, and the National Archives provide oversight for, the charge of the Presidential Records Act to preserve “complete copies” of presidential records, including relevant metadata of digital materials.

AHA Endorses $1 Billion Senate Bill for Civics Learning

On December 1, the AHA endorsed the Educating for Democracy Act of 2020, which would provide $1 billion per year for the next five fiscal years to improve the teaching of history and civics in our nation’s schools. This bipartisan bill “dramatically increases federal support for civics and history,” according to the CivXNow coalition, and “would ensure an investment required to give youth in our country the civic education they need to become knowledgeable and skilled protectors of our constitutional democracy.”

AHA Endorses Legislation Protecting Presidential Records

On December 17, the AHA endorsed the Promoting Accountability and Security in Transition (PAST) Act, which would clarify and enhance existing law with regards to presidential transition and presidential records. “This vital legislation adds much-needed teeth to the Presidential Records Act,” said AHA executive director Jim Grossman. “Presidential records are the most important and widely-used source for studying how the executive branch of our federal government works, how it has changed over time, and how it might evolve to serve the needs of a new era. Many records of the current administration, however, are currently at grave risk. The Presidential Records Act lacks essential protections for preserving complete electronic records and affords Congress and the Archivist inadequate oversight over presidential transitions, when important records are most at risk. A legislative solution is imperative: the courts have made clear that they cannot act to force compliance until changes are made to the law. The AHA applauds this legislation for guaranteeing the preservation and accessibility of presidential records and furthering the transparency of our federal government—a requirement for a functioning, accountable constitutional republic and the protection of liberty.”

AHA Encourages Microsoft to Allow Editing on Footnotes in Microsoft Word

On December 17, the AHA submitted a comment in support of a campaign to enable commenting on footnotes in Microsoft Word using the Review function. “Adding the ability to comment on footnotes,” explained AHA executive director James Grossman, “would be of tremendous benefit to historians across the world.”

Gabriella Virginia Folsom is the communications and operations assistant at the AHA.

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