AHA Highlights Importance of Historians and Historical Perspective in Public Debate
In August and September, the AHA sent letters to the governor of Virginia and the South Dakota Board of Education criticizing the absence of input from qualified historians in discussions about public monuments and history education standards, respectively. The Association also signed an amicus curiae brief for Haaland v. Brackeen in order to provide accurate historical perspective to the Supreme Court as it considers the case.
AHA Sends Letter to Virginia Governor regarding Board of Historic Resources Appointments and Confederate Monuments
On August 3, the American Historical Association sent a letter to Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin affirming the “importance of input from qualified historians” in deliberations about monuments in public spaces. “Your appointments to the Board of Historic Resources and other historical institutions fall within that reference to professional qualifications and democratic decision-making,” the AHA wrote. “A productive conversation requires that all participants act in good faith, with an informed understanding of scholarship and a careful and nuanced appreciation of the historical context.” The letter included a copy of the AHA’s Statement on Confederate Monuments, which “urge[s] communities faced with decisions about monuments to draw on the expertise of historians both for understanding the facts and chronology underlying such monuments and for deriving interpretive conclusions based on evidence.”
The Statement on Confederate Monuments was released in August 2017 following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, that reignited the debate about the place of Confederate monuments in public spaces. The statement addresses the role of history and historians in public conversations about these spaces, emphasizing the qualifications of historians to provide nuanced understanding of the historical context around monuments.
AHA Signs Amicus Curiae Brief in Haaland v. Brackeen
On August 19, the AHA co-sponsored, along with the Organization of American Historians, an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case Haaland v. Brackeen. This brief, based on decades of study and research by professional historians, aims to provide an accurate historical perspective as the court considers the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
AHA Sends Letter to South Dakota Board of Education Opposing Social Studies Standards Revision Process
On September 15, the AHA sent a letter to the South Dakota Board of Education “register[ing] strong concern regarding the social standards revisions process undertaken by the Board of Education in 2022.” The proposed standards, as well as the process by which they were developed, failed to meet the AHA’s Criteria for Standards in History/Social Studies/Social Sciences. “By design, the proposed standards omit any and all forms of historical inquiry in favor of rote memorization. There are no references to the practice of historical interpretation, understanding historical context, or critical thinking,” the AHA wrote. “The AHA’s criteria emphasize that good history education helps students learn to explore issues from various angles; the proposed standards fall far short of incorporating multiple historical perspectives.”
This communication followed letters sent to the South Dakota legislature in February 2022 opposing proposed legislation that would have restricted history education. The legislation did not pass, but similar restrictions against “divisive concepts” and “critical race theory” were put in place through an executive order from Governor Kristi Noem.
Rebecca L. West is operations and communications assistant at the AHA. She tweets @rebeckawest.
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.
Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.