Understanding the Role of the Committee on Minority Historians in the AHA
In 1990, when the AHA established the Committee on Minority Historians (CMH), its stated purpose was to "advocate for a more inclusive profession by representing the interest and concerns of minority historians; to foster an inclusive scholarship that challenges and transforms the practice of history, both substantively and methodologically; to work with other committees within the Association and to support the Association's outreach to public history organizations and K–12 teachers." The CMH was also charged with the responsibility of devoting "priority attention" to investigating what the Association could do "to increase the flow of minority students" into the history PhD pipeline.1
The CMH's five members include one graduate student or early career professional. Members serve for three years. Its 2016 members are Devyn Spence Benson (Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge), Adrian Burgos (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), David A. Chang (Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities), Reginald K. Ellis (Florida A&M Univ.), and committee chair Melissa Nicole Stuckey (independent historian). The committee receives invaluable support from AHA staff members, especially program coordinator Amanda Moniz and executive director Jim Grossman.
During its 26-year history, the CMH has initiated several important projects. These include the establishment in 1992 of the Wesley-Logan Prize for an outstanding book in African diaspora history; the publication of the pamphlet series Teaching Diversity: Peoples of Color and Women of Color; the publication of "Equity for Minority Historians in the Academic History Workplace: A Guide to Best Practices" (2007); and the creation of the Equity Award (2009).
In addition to continuing work on several of these projects, the CMH regularly sponsors panels and hosts a reception and mentoring opportunities for graduate students at the Association's annual meeting. The committee also supports the publication of Perspectives on History articles about the issues and concerns that minority scholars and teachers might encounter in the classroom and workplace. Finally, the CMH regularly collaborates with other AHA committees that have overlapping concerns. CMH-related announcements and publications can be found on its web page.
The current CMH continues to administer the Equity Award. We have especially focused our efforts on increasing the number of nominations for the award by more broadly publishing the call for nominations. We are also assisting in fundraising efforts for the Wesley-Logan Prize. The prize was deemed too important to delay awarding it prior to its full endowment, but it must be endowed to ensure perpetuity. In addition, we are sponsoring three member-developed panels and hosting a reception at the AHA's 131st annual meeting in Denver in January 2017. Finally, we anticipate publishing several articles in Perspectives germane to the concerns of minority members of the Association. We strongly encourage members to submit articles for possible publication.
The Equity Award is presented annually to institutions and individuals who help to reach the goals set out in the AHA's 1996 "Statement on Affirmative Action," which acknowledged the Association's commitment "to diversity in the historical profession" and called on "institutions to recruit aggressively and hire members from groups that have been historically discriminated against." With the award, we seek to honor the dedicated and innovative work being done to promote and support diversity in the historical profession. We also seek to highlight work that may offer blueprints for success in increasing diversity across the profession. Submissions are accepted each spring, and award winners are honored at the annual meeting.
Jointly sponsored by the AHA and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Wesley-Logan Prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book on some aspect of the history of peoples originally from Africa, including their dispersion, settlement, and adjustment, or return. The award is named in honor of pioneer historians Charles H. Wesley and Rayford W. Logan.
As of today, the Wesley-Logan Prize has been awarded to 24 scholars of the African diaspora. The prize's future, however, depends on it becoming fully endowed. With the full support of the CMH, the AHA is renewing efforts to endow the prize and solicits the AHA membership's support to achieve this goal. We encourage all AHA members to invest in the future study of African diaspora history by making a tax-deductible gift to the Wesley-Logan Endowment Fund. Donations can be made online or by contacting Jane Green at email@example.com.
Why Get Involved?
The CMH exists to advocate for diversity in the discipline of history and to support minority members of the AHA. We strongly encourage minority history professionals to join the AHA, participate in its various membership activities, and make use of membership resources. We especially encourage minority AHA members to participate in CMH-sponsored initiatives and activities and to contact committee members with questions, concerns, thoughts, or ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.
Melissa Nicole Stuckey is an independent historian and senior historical consultant for the Coltrane Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation and economic development in Oklahoma's historic all-black towns. She is currently completing a monograph about the early 20th-century black freedom struggle in Boley, Oklahoma.
1. "Committee on Minority Historians," historians.org/governance/cmh; Samuel R. Gammon, "Washington Notes," Perspectives on History, March 1991, 2.
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