Author Archives: James Grossman

About James Grossman

Jim Grossman is Executive Director of the American Historical Association and a member of the History Department faculty at the University of Chicago. From 1997-2010, he was Vice President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught at the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1989) and A Chance to Make Good: African-Americans, 1900-1929 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1997). He was project director and coeditor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2005; and online in 2006). Grossman also was the editor of The Frontier in American Culture (Univ. of California Press, 1994) and continues as coeditor of the series "Historical Studies of Urban America" (Univ. of Chicago Press, 36 vols., 1992- ). His articles and short essays have focused on various aspects of American urban history, African American history, American ethnicity, higher education, and the place of history in public culture. His book reviews have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and New York Newsday in addition to various academic journals.

Land of Hope received awards from the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights and the Illinois State Historical Society. A Chance to Make Good won awards from the New York Public Library and the National Council for the Social Studies. The Encyclopedia of Chicago won awards from the Scholarly Publishers Division of the Association of American Publishers and the Illinois State Historical Society. Grossman was chosen in 2005 as one of seven "Chicagoans of the Year" by Chicago Magazine. Grossman’s consulting experience includes a broad variety of history-related projects generated by the BBC, Smithsonian, and various theater companies, film makers, museums, and libraries.

Professional service has included elected offices in the American Historical Association, ethics committees for the AHA and the Organization of American Historians, and Advisory Boards for the Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University, Illinois Historical Society, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and Chicago Public Library. He co-chaired the Program Committee for the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians in 2005. Grossman currently serves on the boards of the Center for Research Libraries, National Humanities Alliance, National History Center, Vivian G. Harsh Society, and the Coalition of Social Science Associations.


The Value of the Humanities: A Roundtable of Links

Humanists readily understand the “value” of what we teach, study, and write. We too often forget that this is less obvious to many of our neighbors, and have not developed a deep and wide advocacy movement to promote humanistic thinking and work. The AHA, like other scholarly societies, participates in Washington-based coalitions that offer a strong voice on Capitol Hill and relevant agencies, such as the National Archives, the Smithsonian, and even the State Department. But this is not enough at a time when politicians and business leaders across the country have sharply attacked humanistic and social science disciplines as not only frivolous (an old charge as pertaining to the humanities) but also a waste of taxpayers’ money and students’ time.

The Importance of Humanities and Social Science Education

I recommend this morning’s Washington Post a column by Danielle Allen on the importance of humanities and social science education – not in competition with STEM disciplines but as an essential complement to science and mathematics learning. Professor Allen not only explains why students need this breadth in order to excel in any field, but also lays out the opportunities within existing structures of K-12 education to move in constructive directions.

Image courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Stories from the Job Center, and a Few Suggestions

Followers of this blog might enjoy reading this brief narrative of campus and AHA annual meeting job interviews.  The comments following the article are worth a glance as well.  However one might respond to the article and the diverse commentary, I would like to suggest that the author’s experience points to the utility of attending an AHA annual meeting before one is on the job market (academic or otherwise).  We have instituted registration policies and negotiated hotel rates that make attendance more financially feasible for students, especially since transportation costs for the foreseeable future will be defined by fares to a “hub city.”


“Answer the Call of History”: Obama’s Inaugural Address Appeals to the Past

President Obama’s second inaugural offers all Americans food for thought, but it has particular valences for historians. Like so many in this genre, it draws on the past to legitimize particular values, to highlight what has been accomplished (and what has not), and to justify a definition of national character and purpose. Anyone who doubts the importance of historical thinking to these sorts of events need only to ponder the president’s frequent use of the past tense. As much as his focus is “this moment, and we will seize it,” as much as he reminds us that we “affirm the promise of our democracy,” he is actually situating us in the past, “recall[ing] what binds this nation together … an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago.” And what matters is what “history tells us,” at which point his verbs become past tense: “resolved … never relinquished … succumbed … have always understood … .”

Lincoln Links: Historians Debate the New Film

Image courtesy of Touchstone Pictures / Photofest.

In my November 2012 Perspectives on History column, “Lincoln, Hollywood, and an Opportunity for Historians,” I suggested that Stephen Spielberg’s new film offers historians a golden opportunity to engage the general public on issues central to American history and public culture. I was hoping that historians would eschew two temptations that all-too-often cheer our colleagues while leaving nonacademic audiences rolling their eyes: pointing out the inevitable factual inaccuracies; and criticizing the writer and producer for either not making the film we wish they had made or simply being in the film business instead of the history business.

Accreditors Consider Academic Freedom in Evaluating Higher Education Institutions

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the American Association of University Professors have offered an intriguing suggestion regarding the relevance of academic freedom to the quality of education.  Please note in this recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education their recommendation that accreditors consider how well an institution protects academic freedom as an important criterion in their evaluations.