Immigration legislation might be “dead for the year” in the House of Representatives, but it will be front and center at the American Historical Association’s 2014 annual meeting.
A few years ago I suggested at a conference on working-class history that it was time to put aside the argument “they had agency,” when examining any group of people.
The American Historical Association has joined a group of individual distinguished historians in signing an amicus brief in US v. Windsor, a case before the Supreme Court contesting the validity of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As is so often the case in legal contexts, the details can get lost in the swirl of broader issues and we want to clarify some important aspects of the AHA’s decision.
Editorial note: Responding to a report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) on reading assignments at two Texas universities, Elaine Carey, AHA vice president, Teaching Division, and James Grossman, AHA executive director, wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education that attracted a response from, among others, Samuel Goldman writing for the American Conservative.
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.
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.
As a historian, not to mention as the executive director of the AHA, I was pleased to read in the New York Times yesterday that President Obama listens to historians and discusses history but is “no history buff.” He appears to be serious in thinking about the past and how he can learn from it, rather than being merely satisfied with a handful of anecdotes. Moreover, he certainly included distinguished and thoughtful scholars in the sessions described in this article.
Last night’s debate began with a reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. My inner (or perhaps not so inner) AHA geek immediately jumped to recent efforts to make accessible to the public government documents relating to that event that are still classified. But I also was drawn to recent reflections (here, and here) on whether flawed historical interpretations have yielded equally flawed policy lessons – conventional wisdoms that were on display once again last night. It’s all about manhood and steely resolve, rather then the subtleties and occasional humility of collaboration and negotiation.