Following the American Civil War, the United States engaged in a process of reconstruction that was not only political and constitutional in nature, but also had serious, lasting cultural and social ramifications for the nation as a whole. During this period, formerly enslaved southern African Americans worked to reunite with families and created communities, while legislatures and courts debated who counted as a citizen and what rights they possessed. Americans were grappling with critical questions: What would freedom look like? What national identity would emerge from war?
By Ethan Ehrenhaft
In 2009, archaeologists uncovered a small copper medallion in a pit at Fort Shirley, Pennsylvania. Dated to the early 1750s, the trinket may have gone unnoticed were it not for the single phrase in Arabic emblazoned on its surface: “No god but Allah.” Its owner was most likely an enslaved person in the service of trader George Croghan. The Fort Shirley medallion has become part of a rare yet influential assortment of artifacts connected to the lives of enslaved Muslims in the United States.
By Ashton Merck
Think tanks, also known as research institutes, advocacy organizations, and policy centers, are often described as “universities without students.” These organizations run the gamut of political orientations, thematic focus, size, and scope, but most share a common emphasis on research and writing—two core features of doctoral programs in history. Thus, working at a think tank seems like a perfect example of the kind of career outside academia that forward-thinking institutions and professional associations, including the AHA, are increasingly encouraging history PhDs to pursue.
Released in September 2017, The Vietnam War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour documentary series, has been widely acclaimed by film critics. In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, Burns addressed the timing of the film, explaining, “You need the passage of time, the triangulation of scholarly information.” And yet, while historians—makers of such scholarly information—were consulted in the making of the series, their voices—and their interpretive disputes—are notably missing on screen.
By Claire Potter and Brian Ogilvie
Chairing a conference program committee is a humbling experience, both because of the fine people in it, and because of the opportunities it provides to encounter thoughtful and engaging scholarship. Building the program of the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, especially, offers an opportunity to see what our colleagues are thinking about across the many fields and subspecialties represented in the Association’s membership. We want to congratulate the 2018 committee for the excellent meeting program in Washington, DC, and are eager to read the proposals we receive for #AHA19.
“Are the humanities in crisis?” For the past decade, this question, and answers to it, has been posed in numerous articles and opinion pieces nationwide. Underlying it is an unspoken lament for a former, halcyon state of humanities education and research. “The State and Future of the Humanities in the United States”—a plenary session at the 2018 AHA annual meeting—however, looked decidedly toward the future: a future that certainly draws upon lessons from the past, but one that must be prepared to tackle and embrace different approaches to education, professions, and the place of the humanities in public life.
“The weather’s been, uh . . . wonderful!” What would you write on a postcard sent from AHA18? What memories have you made over these four frigid days in the nation’s capital? As the 132nd AHA annual meeting comes to a close, AHA Today presents a few attendees’ favorite moments. Do you have a personal highlight from the meeting? Let us know below in the comments section, or on Twitter!
By Kathryn Tomasek
The poster sessions at the AHA annual meeting have evolved from a small beginning in 2006 to a far more prominent set of four Saturday sessions that will be featured in the Atrium of the Marriott Wardman Park. The visibility of these sessions and their number indicates that historians have embraced the conference poster as a vital form of scholarly communication. I welcome this adaptation as a demonstration of the vitality of our discipline. When we integrate this form into our models of research and teaching, we highlight the role of conversation at the center of our disciplinary practice.