By Roger Horowitz
The Business History Conference (BHC), the largest professional organization of business historians in the United States, has cancelled plans to hold its 2018 annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Its decision is in response to the adoption of the HB2 bill by the state government, and the recent rejection of a repeal of the measure by the North Carolina legislature. BHC will instead hold its 2018 annual meeting at the Baltimore Embassy Suites Inner Harbor.
On November 11, the local press in the San Francisco Bay Area reported that a history teacher at Mountain View High School had been suspended for drawing parallels between President-elect Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler in his lesson plan. Longtime teacher Frank Navarro was placed on paid leave apparently following an alleged complaint from a parent about this analogy. We were pleased to see that he was quickly reinstated, and note that the superintendent of schools in Mountain View has stated in a letter to concerned correspondents that the action related to a confidential personnel matter and “I can state that—despite what the headlines say—the teacher’s paid leave was not for teaching a lesson comparing Trump to Hitler.”
On September 20, 2016, American Historical Association executive director Jim Grossman sent a letter to the Texas Board of Education expressing the Association’s “deep concern” about the textbook Mexican American Heritage, proposed to meet the state’s Mexican American Studies curriculum.
In late August the dean of students at the University of Chicago, John Ellison, stirred up a hornets’ nest with a letter to incoming students that specifically denounced “so-called ‘trigger warnings’” and “intellectual ‘safe spaces’” as antithetical to the university’s commitment to freedom of expression. The letter followed up on issues addressed in the university’s widely praised 2015 report on freedom of expression. Its tone, however, is very different from that report, and many observers argue that so is its perspective.
The Oklahoma legislature is considering a multifaceted bill that both rejects the recently revised Advanced Placement US History framework and establishes a statewide curriculum built around core documents and principles.
The pages of the Hill Rag, Capitol Hill’s monthly newspaper, were filled with remembrances of Steve Cymrot last month. Steve, who passed away on November 29, was the founder of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, owner of Riverby Books on East Capitol Street, and the mastermind behind the Capitol Hill oral history project, all of which are projects that he worked on with his wife Nicky.
Historians are uniquely qualified for the important social and educational job of putting current affairs into historical context. We do it in our classrooms, in op-ed pieces, in books and articles, and at conferences and meetings. Sometimes a news item calls loudly for historical contextualization. The restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba that was announced yesterday surely qualifies as one of these.
This week, people around the world recalled conflicts of the past and resolutions for peace. They held ceremonies for the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Remembrance Sunday on November 9, and for Armistice Day and Veterans Day on November 11. On Sunday, Berlin released 8,000 balloons along an eight-mile stretch where die Mauer previously stood. That same day, the Queen visited the memorial at the Cenotaph, and crowds gathered at the Tower of London to view the 888,246 ceramic poppies “bleeding” forth from the tower—representative of the British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in World War I.