Publication Date

August 31, 2021

Perspectives Section

News

Post Type

Advocacy

In recent months, the AHA has authored or co-authored seven letters and statements detailing opposition to so-called “divisive concepts” legislation, advocating for tenured faculty, and promoting openness and diversity in history curricula and public discourse. The AHA also signed on to several letters and statements opposing government overreach into classrooms and in support of increased federal funding for international education and foreign language studies.

AHA Issues Letter Regarding Proposed Termination of Tenured Faculty Members at Salem State University

On April 7, the AHA wrote a letter to the president and provost of Salem State University, strongly discouraging them from proceeding with the reportedly proposed termination of four tenured members in the history department. “This drastic reduction in faculty would severely diminish the department’s ability to maintain the impressive pedagogical and research standards that the department sets for itself . . . along with its striking level of engagement with local communities,” the AHA wrote.

AHA Signs On to Amicus Curiae Brief on Records Release

On April 19, the AHA signed on to an amicus curiae brief in Lepore v. United States regarding the release of the records of two 1971 Boston, Massachusetts, grand juries that investigated the Pentagon Papers leak. Although grand jury records are usually kept under seal in perpetuity, the AHA supports the court’s original position that these records can be released as a matter of exceptional historical significance, a precedent the government is working to overturn. Relevant to this case is the AHA’s comment on Rule 6(e).

AHA Signs Joint Letter Registering Alarm about Georgia Voting Restrictions

On April 27, the AHA and nine other scholarly societies sent a letter to convention bureaus in Georgia to “register our alarm and disappointment about the passage of SB 202” and its voting restrictions. “The grave concerns we share about this legislation,” the letter reads, “force us to reconsider whether we can in good conscience bring our meetings to your state. . . . As it stands, it will be difficult for us and our members to consider coming to Georgia in the future should the law remain in place.”

AHA Endorses Letter for Congressional Title VI Enhancements

On April 30, the AHA signed on to a letter from the Coalition for International Education to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and minority leader Mitch McConnell. The letter expressed support for the bipartisan reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the inclusion of enhancements to Title VI in the bill.

AHA Signs On to MESA Statement on Florida Bill

On May 11, the AHA signed on to a Middle East Studies Association statement opposing a Florida bill (HB 233), approved by both houses and awaiting the governor’s signature, that would allow “students to record in classrooms without the consent of their professors” and mandates “the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors to conduct an assessment of the ‘intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity’ at every institution in the Florida College System.” The statement notes that the proposed law “constitutes a legislative intrusion that will have a chilling effect on the free exchange of opinions it claims to enhance” and would limit “students’ abilities to express their views freely in an open environment.”

AHA Endorses Letters for Increased Funding of International Education and Foreign Language Studies

On May 14 and July 1, the AHA signed on to twoletters from the Coalition for International Education to Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Tom Cole and Senators Patty Murray and Roy Blunt, respectively. The letters supported increased funding for the US Department of Education’s international and foreign language education programs and strongly endorsed a bipartisan letter from 116 House members recommending increased funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies, including for HEA–Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs at their FY 2010 levels as adjusted by inflation.

AHA Issues Letter Objecting to Texas Bill

On May 20, the AHA wrote a letter to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the members of the Texas Senate registering strong objection to Texas House Bill 3979, urging them to “reject this misguided, harmful, and unnecessary piece of legislation.” “The actual purpose” of the bill, the AHA writes, “is about whitewashing American history, keeping to the margins (or excluding altogether) such central issues as slavery; forced removals of Native Americans; inequalities based on race, gender, or other characteristics; and other aspects of our past likely to inspire the vigorous discussion that characterizes a good history class. . . . To deny Texas students the opportunity to discuss these issues openly and freely is to deny them their rightful place as citizens of the United States, and of the world.”

National Coalition for History Issues Statement Opposing “Divisive Concepts” Legislation

On May 24, the National Coalition for History (NCH) released a statement opposing the passage of so-called “divisive concepts” legislation under consideration in numerous state legislatures. NCH “deplores the intent of these bills to foment confusion and have a chilling effect on teachers,” the statement said. “We denounce such bills as thinly veiled attempts to place limits on a curriculum which fosters a comprehensive and critical look at our history from a variety of perspectives.” The NCH provides leadership in history-related advocacy. The AHA is a member of the coalition, and AHA representatives serve on its executive committee.

AHA Releases Statement on LGBTQ+ History Curriculum

In response to recent legislative efforts and existing anti-LGBTQ+ laws in several states, the AHA released a statement on May 26 opposing “efforts to restrict the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer history in elementary, middle, and high schools.” “The failure to teach LGBTQ+ history,” the statement argues, “distorts the historical record, harms LGBTQ+ students specifically, and prevents all students from receiving a complete education.” The AHA supports “expanding access to LGBTQ+-inclusive history curricula and greater protections for history teachers who include LGBTQ+ history in their classrooms.”

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

On June 16, the American Association of University Professors, the AHA, 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. As of August 16, 147 organizations have signed on to the statement.

AHA Issues Statement on Threats to Historical Integrity in Texas

In a July 8 statement on the recently enacted Texas House Bill 3979, the AHA “view[ed] with alarm several provisions” in the so-called “divisive concepts” legislation, including those affecting state institutions that present history to the public. “By hindering the professional development of public historians and restricting funding,” the statement says, “this law would prevent state-owned agencies and facilities from presenting accurate views of Texas history, and would hobble fundraising efforts crucial to the vibrant state-sponsored public-history sector.” The legislation “clearly violates” the AHA’s Standards for Museum Exhibits Dealing with Historical Subjects and “will adversely affect not only K–12 students, but all Texans and visitors who want to learn more about the state’s complicated past.” As of August 16, 28 organizations have signed on to this statement.

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Becky West
Rebecca L. West

American Historical Association