Perspectives Section

AHA Annual Meeting

The Annual Business Meeting of the Association was called to order by President C. Vann Woodward at 8:40 p.m. on December 28, 1969, in the Sheraton Hall of the Sheraton-Park hotel in Washington, D. C. Some 1,800 persons were in attendance. In his preliminary remarks Mr. Wood­ward expressed the hope that there would be full debate within reasonable limits, and announced the presence of Mr. George Demeter as parliamentarian.

The minutes of the 1968 Business Meeting were first approved by voice vote. The previously published reports of the Treasurer, Managing Editor, and Executive Secretary were next received and filed, no question concerning them being raised from the floor.

Howard Zinn then requested suspension of the rules for the sake of vot­ing upon a resolution. Request for permission to read the resolution in ques­tion was met by objections from the floor, and the motion for suspension of the rules being put to a vote was defeated by 320 in favor to 620 opposed.

As chairman of the Nominating Committee, Charles Delzell then re­ported the election by mail ballot to the Council of John Hope Franklin and Donald W. Treadgold to regular terms, and Dewey W. Grantham to a 2-year term to replace David Potter because of the latter’s unopposed nomina­tion to the vice presidency. He further announced the election to the Nomi­nating Committee of Brison D. Gooch and Willie Lee Rose to regular terms, and James T. Liu and Geoffrey T. Blodgett for terms to expire in 1970. On behalf of his committee he next nominated David M. Potter as vice presi­dent, and Elmer Louis Kayser as treasurer, and both were elected by voice vote. Finally, he placed in nomination for the office of President both Robert R. Palmer, and, in consequence of receipt by December 7 of petitions supported by 207 signatures, Staughton C. Lynd.

The chair then briefly outlined two difficulties: one, that the requirement of 200 signatures by December 7 (adopted in December 1964 but not properly announced thereafter) had not been made known to the petitioners until only about a month remained; and two, the total of members among the signatures supporting Mr. Lynd’s nomination proved to fall 2o short of the required 200. The chair, acting on prior advice of the Council, ruled that this deficiency of signatures should be waived in view of the unusual combination of circumstances. Mr. Palmer spoke briefly from the floor in support of this ruling, and no dissent was heard. The chair then allowed, for this contested election, 1o minutes for supporting statements on behalf of each of the two candidates. Mr. Lynd accordingly spoke, outlining a res­olution against the Vietnam war and domestic repression which would later be presented, urging a negative vote on the announced constitutional amendments as lacking essential elements of needed reform, and proposing the creation of a special fund amounting to not less than one-third of AHA income to support various urgent projects seeking to alter professional and social structures.

In brief further discussion, John Fairbank spoke against such measures as threatening the independence of the Association as a professional body, in the pluralistic arrangements that characterize our society and that provide a basis for academic freedom. Mr. Palmer rose to assure the assembly that he took Mr. Lynd’s arguments seriously. Eugene Genovese then pointed out that the claim of Mr. Lynd’s supporters to represent the entire Left had never been tested, and presented the argument that the adoption by the AHA of a political resolution would be an invitation to all who disagreed to re­sign their membership in a political purge.

The chair then announced that to save time, and with the permission of both candidates, a standing vote would be called in place of a written ballot. Robert Zangrando, from the floor, protested that the latter would better preserve the integrity of the voting, but by voice vote the ruling of the Chair was upheld. By standing vote Mr. Palmer thereupon was elected 1040 to 396.

Discussion of the announced constitutional amendments opened with consideration of the desirability of limiting debate. Mr. Fairbank’s motion that each speaker be limited to three minutes was adopted by voice vote.

Prior to this actual vote Arthur Waskow urged that in the interests of saving time the amendments all be voted upon in a single vote; voice vote proving inconclusive, vote by show of hands adopted this motion 722 to 194. Arthur Link then moved that debate be limited to 15 minutes on either side, which was amended on the initiative of Mr. Palmer to 2o minutes, and adopted thereupon by voice vote. A motion to table the proposed constitutional amendments until next year was defeated by voice vote.

Urging the amendment removing the requirement of Council approval for membership in the Association, Peter Gay pointed out the fact that in recent years there has never been any such screening, and the desirability of removing any hint of authoritarian control or political test from this part of the constitution. Norman Cantor from the floor asked whether the Coun­cil’s power to fix types of membership would exclude non-professional but interested persons, and the Chair assured him it did not. Mr. Cantor further argued briefly that the Association should not be open to being flooded with new members for political purposes.

As second speaker for the Council, Thomas Cochran spoke in favor of the amendment limiting the voting power of a past president to the single year following his term of office, as a change that would restore within the Council a majority vote to the elected part of its membership.

Mr. Palmer then spoke in favor of the changes embodied in the proposed new Article VI. These would remove finality from actions by the Business Meeting in opposition to the Council, which he argued have proved not a satisfactory way to do business. Mr. Lynd rose to insist that this change was the one most earnestly opposed by his group of historians, and recited a passage of Mr. Palmer’s own writing praising the activities of certain French revolutionary militants. Mr. Waskow then claimed time unused in discus­sion of other amendments and recited the difficulties he felt he had experi­enced in securing publication of a critique against these proposed amend­ments He urged again the need for a more democratically organized Council. Finally, in response to a point of information, Mr. Ward said that over 2700 members had voted in the mail ballot reported by the Nominat­ing Committee, as against about 2200 in the similar mail ballot a year earlier.

John Snell at this point made the formal motion for adoption of the whole group of announced constitutional amendments. [The texts of these amendments, which were in members’ hands in printed form during their discussion and later adoption, are given in full below as an attachment to these minutes.] He then argued for the amendments set forth in the new Article VII, as providing interested members more time to nominate by petition, and as also more liberal in requiring only too signatures. At this point Ralph Fisher, wishing to pro pose an amendment to Mr. Snell’s formal motion, was asked by the chair to wait until the presentations by Council members were concluded.

Arguing for the new Article IX, David Potter explained that it would provide fuller opportunity for members to participate in the amending process, since 100 or more members would be able to initiate action outside of the Business Meeting and apart from the Council.

Members now spoke up for and against Mr. Fisher’s earlier announced intention to amend by striking out the proposed amendment to the first sentence of Article III. Howard Adelson urged the importance of limiting membership to those who have a professional interest in history, as con­trasted with political purposes, and urged that the Council’s failure to screen applicants hitherto was no reason to alter the Constitution. Mr. Waskow here objected that amendment of the proposed amendments point by point would defeat the purpose of the decision to vote for them en bloc, but the parliamentarian explained that the right to amend objectionable parts could not be abridged simply by the agreement to vote finally in a single vote.

The assembly now voted to close debate. The chair announced its ruling that the amendments if passed would take effect as of midnight December 31, on the analogy of the traditional AHA practice with respect to the succession of elected officers. Mr. Potter asked the parliamentarian whether if the amendments were adopted, the possibility of later reconsidering them might be precluded by an immediate motion to reconsider followed by defeat of this motion. The parliamentarian answered that a duly proposed con­stitutional amendment, once passed, could not be reconsidered. After further unsatisfactory discussion of these points of parliamentary law, there were calls for the question, and voting began on the constitutional amendments en bloc. Objection was raised that Mr. Fisher had not had a chance to put his amendment to the amendments, and the chair expressed a wish to allow this. But members from the floor insisted that debate was out of order dur­ing the voting. The vote was accordingly completed, and the constitutional amendments were adopted by a vote of 486 in the affirmative against 205 in the negative.

Mr. Fairbank now moved that the assembly adjourn in io minutes. After brief discussion this motion was replaced by Mr. Zinn’s motion to recess until the following evening at 9:30. A motion to adjourn immediately was thereupon put to voice vote and defeated. Stull Holt moved to change the time to following the end of the presidential address, and this amend­ment was adopted by voice vote. A vote by show of hands then adopted Mr. Zinn’s motion 547 in favor to 190 in the negative. The meeting accordingly recessed at 12:20 a.m.

Mr. Woodward re-convened the Business Meeting again at 10:00 p.m. on December 29 in the same hall, again with an attendance of about 1700. Mr. Potter moved that the assembly set a time limit of 45 minutes for old business and 45 minutes for new business. Mr. Snell moved as amendment to allow the remainder of the first 45 minutes, if any, to increase the time allotted to new business. This amendment was adopted on voice vote, and Mr. Potter’s motion as amended was adopted by show of hands.

The chair announced receipt of an interim report from the ad hoc committee to inquire into the issues raised by Francis Loewenheim in connection with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, saying that copies of this report had been distributed at the opening of the Business Meeting.

Mr. Loewenheim came forward to move the following resolution:

Because the charges made against the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library involve serious questions of public law and ethics, because a considerable amount of evidence has been collected by the Perkins and Leopold committees, and be­cause a preliminary investigation of these charges is now under consideration by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations, Be it resolved, that the Association make available to that committee copies of all the evidence it has collected or will later be collected by the Leopold committee.

In response to a request for clarification by Bradford Perkins, Mr. Loewenheim explained that the Subcommittee on Investigations of the House committee referred to has been involved in an extensive review of the matter, as witness various articles in the newspapers. Donald McCoy now spoke against the motion, expressing reluctance to see one of the AHA’s official committees become a tool for the gathering of information for a Congressional subcommittee. He urged that the ad hoc committee be allowed to continue its work pending an explicit request from the subcommittee, which has the power of subpoena. Robert Zangrando pointed to the possibility that some of the information received was privileged information.

Richard Leopold as chairman of the ad hoc committee answered that his committee had not solicited privileged information, but granted that on an issue of such importance to the profession many persons writing in response to the committee’s request probably had written for the benefit of the committee things they might not wish to become a political football for a Congressional committee. Since the House subcommittee could always subpoena the information it might want, and since the ad hoc committee was a joint committee responsible to the OAH as well as-to the AHA, he suggested that the resolution be voted down. Bell Wiley urged against the motion that the matter was primarily a professional one and as approached thus far needed to be treated differently from a public inquiry.

In reply Mr. Loewenheim agreed with earlier remarks that the charges extended far beyond his individual case, and urged that the matter be con­sidered not a narrowly professional one but one of public law and ethics, since the officials and the documents and the publication in question all were public in character. For the profession to withhold evidence from a proper government investigation would border on arrogance.
David Cronon, speaking as one of the co-signers with Mr. Loewenheim of the letter of September 7 to the New York Times, expressed his interest in seeing a Congressional body investigate the charges but also his confidence in the integrity of the Leopold committee. He underlined his concern that no action directing release of the information be taken without concurrence of the OAH and that letters solicited and written by persons who did not have a Congressional investigation in mind not be forwarded except in response to subpoena. Mr. Perkins added that defeat of the resolu­tion would not amount to withholding information, whereas passing the resolution would in fact be promoting a Congressional investigation by implying that the situation clearly needed such investigation. The question being called, the motion was voted down by voice vote.

As second item of old business Mr. Ward called attention to the mimeographed sheets summarizing actions by the Council on December 27, and invited any questions. Mrs. Bernice Carroll asked that the Council’s charge to the new Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession be read, since this would be useful background information for resolutions which the Women’s Caucus hoped to present later to the assembly. On word from Mr. Ward that the text desired was not at hand, since it represented action by the Council in October, Mrs. Carroll with the chair’s permission read the text from her own copy.

Under new business, Howard Zinn now moved the following resolution:

Resolved, that as citizens and historians, we recognize and find intolerable the present direction of the American government. In order to extend the modern American Empire by waging war against the people of Vietnam, the government has increasingly moved to repress political opposition at home. Moreover, the physical and cultural destruction of the Vietnamese people reflects a much older and deeper policy of physical and cultural destruction of the Black community at home, and is now being carried into new versions of racism by the Administration in its betrayal of civil rights and its aid to counter-insurgent police forces in the great cities. The political assassination of the Black Panther Party is the most blatant example. The Justice Department is acting as the domestic Pentagon in this repression.

These murderous policies and the repression which enforces them are in­creasingly restricting our freedom as historians, have turned even our classrooms and gradebooks into channels of conscription and death, have affected the life of our campuses, and have deeply disturbed relations between teachers and students of history. Even more important than the damage they have done to out profession, they are undermining the possibility of self-determination and democracy in the American and world society whose history we study.

We cannot stand by in silence. To do so is to condone the abuses to which history has been subjected in the service of power, to condone a kind of intellectual pacification program. To say nothing at this point in our own history is to express our indifference to what is happening around us. The business of this convention is history. We must renew our commitment to one of the great historic tasks of independent historians in time of crisis:

We must expose to critical analysis and public attack the disastrous direction in which our government is taking us.

We therefore demand the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam, the immediate end of all harassment of the Black Panther Party, and the release of all political prisoners such as the Chicago 8.

Stull Holt made the point of order that this motion stood in contradiction of a resolution adopted at the 1968 Annual Meeting to the effect that the Association, while recognizing the right and obligation of individual members to take public stands on current issues, ought not commit the historical profession to any position on such issues except as directly connected with the promotion of historical scholarship or necessary to preserve profes­sional integrity. The chair responded by ruling that this earlier motion would have to be rescinded before Mr. Zinn’s resolution could be put to any vote. After debate from the floor as to the propriety of one business meeting’s binding a subsequent meeting, and argument by Mr. Waskow that advance notice should have been given of this need to rescind and that the motion explicitly bore upon preserving the integrity of the profession, a number of members discussed the difficulty of the parliamentary requirement of two-thirds majority for rescinding. Mr. Snell ended this discussion by pointing out that only a majority vote was needed to overrule the ruling of the chair. A vote by show of hands being taken, the ruling of the chair was reversed.

Arguing now for his motion, Mr. Zinn pointed out that historians rarely gathered together with any opportunity to act collectively. At a time like this, for the Association to be silent would be generally understood as a political affirmation in the negative. Being human beings more importantly than historians, those present should want to declare their strong feelings; as historians they should well know what had happened in societies which remained quiet in times of similar threats.

Speaking next for the Conference on Peace Research in History, William Neumann offered the following substitute resolution, emphasizing that it was worded as an action of individuals present at the meeting and not as a resolution committing the Association to any position:

We, historians and citizens in this meeting of the American Historical As­sociation, deplore and condemn the war in Vietnam as ill-advised and immoral; we urge immediate withdrawal from all military involvement; and we further pledge ourselves to a fundamental reevaluation of the assumptions of American foreign policy.

Eugene Genovese spoke in reply urging that, despite the wording referred to, the resolution like Mr. Zinn’s would politicize the Association. Mr. Lynd urged the propriety of resolutions of this type by professional associations, citing resolutions adopted by the American Political Science Association, by the American Sociological Association, and on the day before by the American Philosophical Association-and even by the Senate at Harvard. Though he preferred Mr. Zinn’s resolution as acknowledging the character of the Vietnam war’s place in American policy, he himself would vote for Mr. Neumann’s resolution as more in keeping with the sense of the meeting.

Joseph Hellinger spoke in favor of Mr. Zinn’s motion on grounds that the mention of the Panthers was needed as recognition that repression abroad is no more important than repression at home. A woman member spoke on behalf of members who felt uncertain and reluctant to be forced either to resign or be polarized. Another member argued that both resolu­tions called for adoption of an official history dictating to the minds of members. Stuart Hughes then expressed distress that those who opposed the resolution were being put in the position of seeming to be in favor of the war, and argued that to adopt the resolutions would be to violate the ethics of historians and do what individuals should properly do instead as citizens. Joseph Huthmacher argued against the AHA’s taking a political position, as it never had before, and moved the previous question. In answer to objection, the parliamentarian ruled that this motion was proper. The vote closing the debate by show of hands was questioned and on standing vote the motion failed of a two-thirds majority, 713 for and 528 against.

The chairman, however, announced expiration of the time for debate as previously fixed, and so called for a vote. Mr. Waskow thereupon asked for a chance to move a change into Committee of the Whole for 30 minutes whereupon the vote on the resolution would be taken. With the advice of the parliamentarian, the chair suggested instead a motion to reconsider the previously set time limit and advance it another 30 minutes. Mr. Waskow moved this and the assembly adopted it by show of hands.

Resuming debate, a member urged that the Association had its own politics and that Charles Beard had proved that historians are subjective and influenced by politics in their judgments. Everett Mendelsohn, in support of the Neumann resolution, explained the issues posed by the Harvard Senate as a conflict of fundamental values, between those who felt that a university ought not take a moral stand and others who felt that the issues were of overriding magnitude and character. Edward Fox noted that his­torians in the past have often shown themselves ineffective politicians, and contended that the purpose of history is to contribute to the functioning of democracy by helping citizens understand better their past so as to choose better for their future. He argued that present difficulties of our country are due in part to the failure of historians to educate the citizenry in this sense.

Richard Wade then urged that since the debate showed such a deep divi­sion within the profession, a better course would be to instruct the Council to send the two resolutions to the membership by mail, following the pre­cedent of the Moscow question, with arguments by two advocates for either side. Responding to an objection, the chair pointed out that Mr. Wade’s proposal was in order as a motion, since its intent was to refer the present question to a higher body. Against Mr. Wade’s motion, Mr. Waskow argued that in adopting it the assembly would be ducking its responsibility, much as happened in Germany three decades earlier. Richard Kagan mentioned the passing of a resolution against the Vietnam war by the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars and contended that democracy works best in a business meeting where there can be an active exchange of opinions. Hans Trefousse now urged, as someone who was in Germany in 1933, that passage of the resolutions would be a triumph of the way of repression, just as in those days. Charles Shively contended that to refrain from acting as human beings at this point would be to alienate youth and proclaim the AHA’s moral bankruptcy. Another member urged that adoption of the resolution would not be sufficient cause for the resignation of members.

Mr. Wade’s motion was now put to a show of hands, and was defeated by 511 to 705. Mr. Neumann’s motion was next put to similar vote and defeated by 611 to 647. Finally, Mr. Zinn’s motion was put similarly and failed by a vote of 493 to 822.

Adjournment was then moved and adopted by voice vote at 1:00 a.m.


Amendments Proposed by the Council

The first of the six amendments to the Constitution referred to above was to amend the first sentence of Article III to read:

Membership in the Association shall be open to any person interested in the promotion of historical studies.

A second amendment was, in Article V, Section 2 (c), to replace the words “for the three years” with the words “only in the year,” and to delete the final three words “and no longer.”

The third amendment was to add a new Article VI of the Constitution, as follows:

Article VI, SECTION 1. The Council shall call an Annual Business Meeting, open to all members of the Association.

SECTION 2. Although the action of the Council shall be final in mat­ters vested in it by Article IV, Section 5, and in exercise of appointive functions under Article V, Sections 2 and 3, in all other matters any action by the Council shall be final unless the next Annual Business Meeting votes not to concur. Any action voted by the Business Meet­ing shall be final unless the next meeting of the Council votes not to concur. In such cases of nonconcurrence, final action shall be determined by a mail ballot to be distributed to the membership of the Association within sixty days after such act of nonconcurrence. The decision of the membership shall be final and shall be published by the Council.

SECTION 3. The Business Meeting, by a majority vote, or one hundred or more members by petition, may initiate proposals to the Council of any kind concerning the affairs of the Association. All proposals shall be considered by the Council. If any such proposal is not accepted by the Council, it shall be referred to the decision of the membership by means of a mail ballot as indicated in the preceding section.

The fourth amendment was to renumber Article VI as Article VII and to replace Section 2 with new Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 as follows:

SECTION 2. The Nominating Committee shall nominate, by annual mail ballot, candidates for the offices of President, Vice-President, and Treasurer, the elected members of the Council, and the members of the Nominating Committee. The Committee shall invite and give due re­gard to suggestions from members of the Association of candidates for each of the vacancies4:’to appear on the ballot. It shall announce the nominations to the membership not less than seven months before each Annual Meeting.

SECTION 3. Nominations may also be made by petitions carrying in each case the signatures of one hundred or more members of the As­sociation and indicating in each case the particular vacancy for which the nomination is intended. Nominations by petition must be in the hands of the Chairman of the Nominating Committee by three months before the Annual Meeting. In distributing the annual ballot by mail to the members of the Association, the Nominating Committee shall present and identify such candidates nominated by petition along with its own candidates, having first ascertained that all candidates have consented to stand for election.

SECTION 4- On the annual ballot, the Nominating Committee shall pre­sent at least one name for each of the offices of President, Vice-President, and Treasurer, and two or more names for each vacant membership on the Council and on the Nominating Committee, as well as the names of any persons nominated by petition as above specified.

SECTION 5. The annual ballot shall be mailed to the full membership of the Association at least six weeks before the Annual Meeting. No vote received after the due date specified on the ballot shall be valid. Election shall be by majority or plurality of the votes cast for each vacancy. The votes shall be counted and checked in such manner as the Nominating Committee shall prescribe and shall then be sealed in a box and deposited in the Washington office of the Association where they shall be kept for at least one year. The results of the election shall be announced at the Annual Business Meeting and in the publications of the Association. In the case of a tie vote, the choice among the tied candidates shall be made by the Annual Business Meeting.

The fifth amendment was to replace the present Article VIII with the following Article IX:

Article IX. Amendments to this Constitution may be proposed by the Council, by the Annual Business Meeting, or by petition to the Council of one hundred or more members. Amendments thus proposed shall be made known to the membership through one of the Association publications, or by other means, at least six weeks before the next Annual Business Meeting; and shall bC placed on the agenda at that meeting for discussion and possible revision. Acceptance or rejection of the amend­ment shall thereupon be ‘determined by mail ballot of the membership.

The sixth amendment was to make the corresponding adjustments in other parts of the Constitution, as follows:

Reduce Article IV, Section 4, to the single sentence: “The President, Vice-President, and Treasurer shall be elected as provided in Article VII.”

In Article V, Section 1 (b), remove the specification of “Section 2.”

In Article V, Section 2, preface the present text with “The first obliga­tion of the Council shall be to promote historical scholarship. To this end,” and replace the last two sentences with the single sentence: “The Council shall report to the membership on its activities, through the publications of the Association and at the Annual Business Meeting.”