Publication Date

October 3, 2019

Perspectives Section


Post Type


The American Historical Association is committed to advocating on behalf of our global community of historians and safeguarding the centrality of history and humanities education in public life. Throughout the spring and summer, the Association backed federal programs, university departments, and archives facing critical proposed budget reductions or organizational restructuring.

Letter Protesting Cuts to Brazilian Humanities Programs

In March, the AHA signed on to a joint letter authored by the American Philosophical Association and the American Sociological Association in response to President Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s proposal to defund philosophy and sociology programs in Brazil. The coalition emphasized not only the employable skills earned in a rigorous liberal arts education but also the grave danger that defunding such departments poses to academic inquiry and autonomy.

Action Alert to Protect Funding for US National Archives

On May 2, the Association shared an alert with its members in the United States in response to proposed precipitous reductions in the National Archives’ budget and the suggested elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The AHA implored recipients to contact their representatives and members of the House Appropriations Committee and advise against this measure before fiscal deliberations were to begin.

Letter Warning against Stanford University Press Budget Cuts

In May, James Grossman, AHA executive director, wrote to Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and provost Persis Drell to articulate concerns about the impact on historical scholarship as the university’s press faced proposed funding adjustments. Grossman acknowledged the budgetary constraints that all universities must balance, but he cited Stanford University Press’s reputation as a leading publisher of influential works in the history discipline, particularly in the digital era, as vital to maintaining a diverse research community and therefore warranting university investment.

Letter Concerning Restructuring at the University of Tulsa

Grossman also sent a letter to Provost Janet Levit of the University of Tulsa to address the institution’s suggested organizational plan to eliminate a popular MA/MAT program and to subsume the history department under one larger humanities entity, an elimination of independence proposed largely without the input of history faculty. Grossman highlighted the troubling effects often produced by approaches of this nature, including decreases in history enrollments and pedagogical and research quality, and urged the administration to reconsider.

Joint Letter Supporting Congressional Title VI Funding

In May, the AHA endorsed a letter from the Coalition for International Education to Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The 30 signatories commended the bipartisan efforts for re-authorization of the Higher Education Act and encouraged incorporation of Title VI funding into the bill. As the United States’ most multifaceted body of international and foreign language education programs, Title VI is crucial to understanding and engaging in the increased global interdependence of the 21st century.

Joint Letter Endorsing Federal Funding of Foreign Language Programs

The Association joined over 25 other organizations in sending a letter to Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. Following a 43 percent reduction in funding resources since fiscal year 2011, the letter pressed for restoration of such resources for International Education and Foreign Language Studies and articulated the valuable international and employable skills curated by such programs as HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays.

The AHA sent a letter to the University of Tulsa to address the institution’s suggested organizational plan to eliminate a popular program and to subsume the history department under one larger humanities entity.

Letter Regarding Guatemalan Archives

In June, AHA president John McNeill contacted Jimmy Morales Cabrera, president of the Republic of Guatemala, with regard to the future of the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, as the current agreement concerning the housing and access of the collection was to terminate on June 30. McNeill argued that the archives, an indispensable resource of 60 million documents relating to the modern social history of Guatemala and the Americas, should remain under the administrative purview of the Ministry of Sport and Culture and maintain its open access policies, which allow researchers around the world to conduct significant work.

Letter Supporting Hotel Chains’ Refusal to Aid in ICE Arrests

Executive director Jim Grossman commended the CEOs of Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and Marriott International for denying US Immigration and Customs Enforcement the use of hotel space for temporary detention centers during planned raids on immigrant communities. The Association has frequently used these hotel chains for its annual meetings, and the rhetoric and tactics accompanying such raids violate the principles of an organization rooted in creating and advancing a safe, shared, and diverse member space. The letter of support also recognized the importance of immigrants in America’s hospitality industries in both a contemporary and historical context.

Letter Supporting Right to Sign Academics for Peace Petition in Turkey

In July, the AHA was among 27 associations that sent a letter to the judges of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey supporting scholars and academics’ right to sign the Academics for Peace Petition. The coalition noted that the Turkish courts have recently upheld the rights of freedom of expression and assembly in several similar instances and urged that the judges apply this precedent to pending criminal cases concerning signatories of the peace petition.

Letter Opposing Elimination of History Department at Gordon College

The Association also sent a letter to Gordon College in July, replying to a drastic restructuring plan put forth by the administration. The proposal would eliminate the autonomy of the history department with detrimental ramifications for faculty hiring, research standards, and pedagogical practices. Grossman strongly implored the college to reconsider subsuming the history department under an umbrella entity of Political Science, Philosophy, and History.

Statement on Domestic Terrorism, Bigotry, and History

On August 26, the American Historical Association released the Statement on Domestic Terrorism, Bigotry, and History in the wake of several months marked by mass homicides. Recognizing that the statement will probably prompt more questions than it answers, the AHA maintains its responsibility as an organization of historians to recognize “dangers on the horizon, given what we have learned and taught about the histories of bigotry and its implications in the United States and elsewhere in the world.” The statement condemns the invention and deployment of historical narratives created to achieve violent and divisive goals. As of September 3, a total of 42 fellow scholarly and professional organizations have endorsed the letter. See page 3 of this issue for the full text of this statement.

Devon Reich is operations and marketing assistant at the AHA.

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.