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Advocacy Briefs: AHA Statements Make an Impact

AHA Staff, January 2018

In the past few months, the AHA has released statements both on the importance of historical thinking in the public sphere and on the need for historians to be able to pursue their work without undue and unforeseen financial burdens. It was joined in these efforts by thousands of individual historians and dozens of historical and scholarly organizations. The AHA is gratified to report on the impact of these statements.

AHA Joins Associations in Opposing Tax on Student Tuition Waivers

Following an alert to members on November 7, the American Historical Association joined our colleagues in 33 other scholarly associations to oppose the proposal to tax graduate student tuition waivers as income. The associations, representing diverse disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, recognize both the burden this change would place on graduate students living on modest stipends and the devastating effects this would have on higher education. At press time, the AHA was pleased to learn that the proposal was dropped from the final version of the bill that passed.

AHA Statement Influences Dallas Task Force on Confederate Monuments

On August 24, two weeks after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dallas mayor Michael S. Rawlings organized a task force to evaluate the city’s public art and to make recommendations about removing or relocating commemorations to the Confederacy. The task force relied heavily on the AHA’s Statement on Confederate Monuments, which was released on August 28, 2017, to craft its response. The task force also conducted multiple public briefings on the history of the so-called Lost Cause and on the history of Dallas during the era of Jim Crow.

Jennifer Scripps, director of cultural affairs for the city of Dallas, found the AHA’s statement “extremely valuable” in providing an authoritative counter to community concerns about “erasing history.” Scripps compared using the AHA’s statement to a parent relying on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. At a hearing on the issue, Dallas city council member Omar Narvaez pointed in particular to the AHA’s recommendation that “it’s time to reconsider these decisions.” The AHA’s reputation as a “prestigious, well-known organization” and “the authoritative body for historians,” said Scripps, gave weight to the statement and the task force recommendations that applied them to the Dallas context.

While the task force completed its charge, the Dallas City Council voted on September 12, 2017 to remove the city’s Robert E. Lee statue. The task force issued its final recommendations, which were in line with the principles set out in the AHA’s statement, to city leadership on September 29. After a contentious public hearing on November 1, the mayor slowed down the process, postponing the final vote on the task force’s recommendations to 2018, in order to allow the city manager time to compile a detailed report on the costs involved. Learn more about these deliberations at dallasculture.org/confederatemonuments.


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