Publication Date

August 18, 2020

Perspectives Section


During this time of uncertainty, the AHA has continued to support historians in the invaluable work they do—advocating for both students and history departments in higher education, contextualizing our racist history and what it means for our society today, and encouraging administrators and lawmakers alike to understand the inherent value of history.

Letter to Congress on Further CARES Funding for Higher Ed

In June 2020, the AHA joined 33 other societies in a letter to Congress requesting additional relief for higher education, which has been hit hard by challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter outlined the struggles that universities, especially HBCUs, community colleges, underfunded public institutions, and tuition-dependent nonprofit private colleges have faced in the wake of this crisis, and asked for greater investments in higher education to provide for the common good.

AHA Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States

In June 2020, the AHA issued a statement urging a reckoning with the United States’ deplorable record of violence against African Americans. The killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers stands within this sordid national tradition of racist violence. It is past time for Americans to confront our nation’s past, using insights from history to inform our actions as we work to create a more just society. Ninety-four scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.

AHA Endorses Senate Resolution Recognizing the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial 

The AHA endorsed a resolution introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren on July 2, 2020, recognizing the forthcoming centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. “Everything has a history, including white supremacy and the many forms of violence, coercion, and cultural practices that have legitimated and enforced it,” said AHA executive director Jim Grossman. “What happened in Tulsa was extreme, but not unusual. It is part of our nation’s heritage. We must acknowledge that heritage, learn from it, and do whatever each of us can to ensure that it is just that—heritage, rather than continuing practice.”

AHA Issues Resolution Regarding Affiliations between ICE and Higher Education

The AHA issued a resolution in June 2020 acknowledging credible allegations of serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the US Border Patrol, and encouraging higher education institutions to consult with historians and our colleagues in other relevant disciplines before entering into arrangements with both agencies.

AHA Writes Letter Opposing New ICE Obstacles to Students from Foreign Countries

The AHA sent a letter in July 2020 to the deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, strongly objecting to “modifications” declaring that foreign “students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” Whether driven by nativism or an agenda to pressure higher education to reopen campuses, this ruling is likely to have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of foreign students and the colleges and universities they attend.

AHA Signs on to AAS Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law

In July 2020, the AHA joined several scholarly societies in signing the Association for Asian Studies’ Statement on the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law. The statement expresses concern over the People’s Republic of China’s curtailment of Hong Kong’s freedom and expresses concern that such a law would inhibit academic exchange.

AHA Issues Statement on Historical Research during COVID-19

The AHA issued a statement on July 23, 2020, urging universities to make accommodations for faculty and students whose research has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Sustaining historical research during the COVID-19 crisis,” the statement argues, “requires flexible and innovative approaches to the conduct of research itself as well as to how we gauge productivity.” Recommendations include deferral and extension of research funding awards, increased access to online databases, support for research that does not require on-site research, and incorporation of virtual scholarship in professional evaluations. Forty-six scholarly organizations have co-signed this statement to date.

AHA Writes Letter Condemning Tenured Faculty Layoffs at Canisius

On July 24, 2020, the AHA sent a letter to the president and members of the board of trustees of Canisius College expressing grave concern about a dramatic restructuring of academic departments, drastic reduction of the history curriculum, and termination of three tenured faculty members. The AHA urged the college to reconsider its course of action, asserting that the college’s plan “diminishes the quality of a Canisius degree” and “identifies the college with employment practices that have no place in American higher education.”

AHA Issues Statement on Department Closures and Faculty Firings

On July 27, 2020, the AHA issued a statement urging administrators to “respect the established principles and procedures of faculty governance and consult with faculty from all disciplines at their institution” before making budgetary decisions. The AHA emphasized that “history education must retain its vibrancy and institutional integrity” and that closing or decimating history departments “comes at immense cost to students and to colleges and universities themselves, and to society as a whole.” Twenty-six scholarly societies have co-signed this statement.

Gabriella Virginia Folsom is the communications and operations assistant at the AHA. She tweets @gabby_folsom.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.