The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have re-ignited debate about the place of Confederate monuments in public spaces, as well as related conversations about the role of Confederate, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist imagery in American political culture. Historians have been a vocal presence in these discussions and the American Historical Association is compiling an ongoing bibliography of the diverse perspectives of AHA members.
Last week, committees in the House of Representatives voted on recommendations for Fiscal Year 2018 budget allocations. Historical works takes place in, or is funded by, a wide variety of federal agencies; the National Coalition for History (NCH) tries to keep track of as many of these as possible. The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) and Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) complement this work with their focus on agencies with broader focus in the humanities and social sciences, but of central interest to historians.
What follows is a mildly revised version of a memo prepared by the National Humanities Alliance relating to the budget proposal recently submitted to Congress by the Trump administration. In addition to housing the National Coalition for History which coordinates activity among history organizations, the AHA is an active member of the alliance. The AHA will keep historians up to date on what is happening here in Washington, DC, and what we would like you to do at various stages. We ask that you act only when we think it’s useful.
This morning the Trump administration released its “America First” budget blueprint. We are not surprised by either the breadth or depth of the recommended cuts, given the rhetoric, rumors, and policy rationales that have circulated through Washington over the past two months. Indeed this expectation has shaped our general “wait until the document lands” approach to action alerts. As we have emphasized before, we ask our members to act only when we think it’s an issue of vital importance and will make a difference.
Facing extensive criticism and litigation of his first executive order restricting entry into the United States, President Donald Trump has issued a revised executive order (#13780), this time citing historical evidence in support of the policy restricting immigration and refugee resettlement. The American Historical Association has applied the discipline’s professional standards to the revised directive and found that it does not pass historical muster. Moreover, like its predecessor EO 13769, the order “stands at odds with the values stated in our nation’s founding documents.”
On February 28th, AHA president Tyler Stovall sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security protesting the recent detainment of Henry Rousso, distinguished historian of the Holocaust in France. Professor Rousso’s detainment at the Houston airport enroute to participation at a conference at Texas A&M University offers a chilling reminder of the importance of rule of law and respect for the rights of not only our colleagues but all travelers to the United States. Because the issue is of vital importance to the ability of historians to do our work, which includes international scholarly conversation, the AHA Council has voted to make the letter an official statement of the Association.
The American Historical Association strongly condemns the executive order issued by President Donald J. Trump on January 27 purportedly “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” Historians look first to evidence: deaths from terrorism in the United States in the last fifteen years have come at the hands of native-born citizens and people from countries other than the seven singled out for exclusion in the order. Attention to evidence raises the question as to whether the order actually speaks to the dangers of foreign terrorism.
Last week a news story appeared in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper with a strong reputation for accuracy, that the Trump administration is considering the elimination of the NEH, along with other cultural agencies. Normally the AHA would not send out an alert based on a single report in a single newspaper. It is clear, however, that the “blueprint” reported in The Hill indeed points to a threat to the very existence of the NEH.