The AHA Council, at its January 5, 2017, meeting, approved the following statement:
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.
An unusually bitter and divisive election has been followed by continuing evidence of polarization to the point of harassment seldom seen in recent American history. Historians can say with confidence that this is not our nation’s finest hour. Language previously relegated to the margins has moved out of the shadows, emboldening elements of American society less interested in a more perfect union than in division and derision.
The AHA Council approved a letter to US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, requesting a timely recommendation to the White House regarding a National Monument in Beaufort, South Carolina, in recognition of Reconstruction. The proposed monument would be the first in the National Park Service to expressly represent the history of emancipation and Reconstruction. The significant historical events that transpired at Beaufort make it an ideal place to tell this critical story of experimentation, potential transformation, accomplishment, and disappointment.
AHA president Pat Manning sent a letter to Polish President Andrzej Duda expressing concern over the government’s treatment and potential prosecution of Jan T. Gross, professor of history at Princeton University. The celebrated historian of the holocaust is facing a libel investigation from Polish authorities for publishing historical accounts of Poles killing Jews during World War II. The potential actions, according to Manning, represent “a serious threat to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and impartial historical scholarship” in Poland.
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 American Historical Association, as a member of Scholars at Risk, and also as a scholarly body concerned with and committed to protecting the working environments and rights of historians across the world, endorses in full the statement issued by Scholars at Risk calling for an ongoing dialogue about and the restoration of legal rights to academics in Turkey. (Update, 7/26/2016: The AHA has also joined more than 20 other scholarly societies and the American Council of Learned Societies in a letter expressing similar concerns and objections.)