The AHA staff returns to our headquarters today, a bit worn from the 2017 annual meeting in unexpectedly snowy Denver, but also energized from the yearly migration of friends, new and old, who bring excitement to our discipline.
On the cover of the December issue of Perspectives is a 1948 political cartoon about that year’s presidential election. Far less iconic than the photo of the victorious candidate holding aloft a newspaper headlining his loss—“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”—Clifford Berryman’s depiction of a gloating Thomas Dewey and an aghast Harry Truman was published about two weeks before the election. “Poll: All Over but the Shouting,” reads one of the notices Truman confronts. The cartoon foreshadows the data obsession and the complacency of many pundits of 2016.
It’s fair to say that historians have assimilated the so-called digital turn in at least some aspects of their work. Many now know how to teach students the critical use of Wikipedia and no longer seek to ban it outright. Some who are fortunate enough to work at institutions with dedicated lab spaces have learned about digital tools available to them in teaching and research. At a minimum, most historians expect some primary sources relevant to their work to be available online.
Sporting a T-shirt reading “I Was a Lesbian Child,” a young woman grasping a handful of helium balloons gazes out from the cover of the new issue of Perspectives on History. Taken in New York City in 1992, Donna Binder’s photograph of an action by an activist group known as the Lesbian Avengers reminds us that efforts to make curricula inclusive have a history.
Like the scent of fresh school supplies, Perspectives on History is back for fall. We’re proud to present our big September issue, featuring a special section, Perspectives on Democracy. Because the topic is far from specific to the United States, and certainly transcends our current presidential campaign, we gathered six historians to tackle it from points of view the world over. Our specialists include AHA past president Barbara Weinstein (Brazil), Peter Zarrow (China), Emily Lord Fransee (Senegal), Charlotte Lydia Riley (United Kingdom), Ramnarayan Rawat (India), and Johann N.
“I grew up reading about you,” historian Clayborne Carson told Terrence Roberts, one of the nine Arkansas teenagers who faced down racist mobs to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The two sat beside each other onstage before a packed audience at the National Museum of the American Indian, there to witness the opening roundtable for “The Future of the African American Past”—a historic conference inaugurating the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, soon to open on the National Mall.
The unofficial slogan of the American Historical Association is “Everything has a history.” Introduced by executive director James Grossman in the December 2015 issue of Perspectives, the phrase now appears on staff business cards and, in its hashtag form, has begun to spread on Twitter. As Grossman put it, “Instead of lamenting the decline of public intellectuals, I propose that most historians ought to be capable of functioning in public arenas, ought to be capable of at least reminding our neighbors that everything has a history.”
The April issue of Perspectives on History arrives near the end of the academic year, when many historians are neck-deep in metrics—grades, course evaluations, funding allocations, and more. So it’s appropriate that several stories in this month’s Perspectives address modes of measurement and their implications.