John M Lawlor Jr. is professor emeritus at Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pennsylvania. He lives in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, and has been a member since 1972.
In the past year, historians have frequently been called upon to make meaning of news. From Confederate monuments and statues around the country to President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive orders, historians have answered the call to provide historical perspective and analysis. As AHA executive director Jim Grossman wrote recently in Perspectives, the assumption that “historians should have a voice in public culture and in public policy” is a guiding principle for the AHA’s agenda.
By Kaete O’Connell
Last winter while leafing through the Official File at the Truman Library for material on Herbert Hoover’s 1947 economic mission to Germany, I was struck by a vibrant burst of color. The monochrome of telegrams and correspondence was replaced by colorful sketches of chickens, Lifesaver candies, and a family of beans marching to a can for preservation. The drawings were bound together with thank-you notes penned by young recipients of US food relief. German children clearly appreciated the “gift” of food, pleasing occupation officials keen to capitalize on American charity.
By Ethan Ehrenhaft
Even before its use as a hashtag during the most recent presidential campaign, the phrase “drain the swamp” had a much more literal meaning to the residents of the District of Columbia. DC’s origins date back to 1791 when Congress approved purchase of land for a federally controlled capital. The district initially encompassed 100 square miles—most of which was covered by thick forests and insect-infested bogs. Upon arriving in 1800, Abigail Adams described DC as “a city only in name” in a letter to her sister.
The current controversy over Confederate monuments is about how we remember the past and interpret its meaning. These issues are the stock in trade of historians, and many have written op-eds and done interviews with reporters for national and local news outlets. Others have given talks to civic groups, testified to government agencies, and spoken at public forums. The American Historical Association has issued a widely endorsed statement on Confederate monuments. Last week, the National History Center brought the issue to Capitol Hill as a congressional briefing.
Every week, AHA Today showcases a new grant, fellowship, or scholarship of interest to historians which has been posted to our free Calendar. This week we are featuring the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society.
Joseph Reidy is a professor of US history and associate provost at Howard University. He lives in Laurel, Maryland, and has been a member since 1982.
Wen-Qing Ngoei is an assistant professor in the History Program at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and has been a member since 2014.