One measure of the affection felt throughout the profession for historian James M. McPherson might be the number of students, colleagues, and fans who willingly showed up—many with coffee in hand and suitcases in tow—to celebrate his career at an 8:30 a.m. session on the final day of the AHA’s 126th annual meeting. Panel chair and Clemson University professor Vernon Burton described his mentor and PhD advisor as not only a “famous historian,” but as “America’s historian.”
When not extolling his virtues as a teacher, friend, and battlefield guide, the panel—including historians Catherine Clinton, Judith Hunter, and Thavolia Glymph—praised his 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom as the best single-volume account of the Civil War era.
Every now and then (and especially after the NAEP reports) there is much lamentation about the sad state of history teaching, and all kinds of solutions are proposed, from abolishing the federal Department of Education to assessing teachers and schools more rigorously. But as if to show that an age of historical darkness is not really descending on the schools, and that much can be done without resorting to radical departures, many teachers in different parts of the country are using their ingenuity to teach history in more effective ways, sometimes using simple technological tools to enrich learning in their classrooms.
Dianne Pinderhughes delivered her inaugural address as president of the American Political Science Association on the same evening that Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the Presidency of the United States. Pinderhughes recalled the coincidence during the 126th annual meeting session on “Historians and the Obama Narrative,” sharpening the sense among her audience of just how fresh and ongoing the history of this president remains.
As panelist and Tufts University professor Peniel Joseph quipped, if journalism is the rough draft of history, then what is history itself when it’s being written not in hindsight but in mid-stream?
The AHA’s 126th annual meeting has come to a close. Thank you to everyone who participated in the meeting; presenting, attending sessions, interviewing, exhibiting, tweeting, and more. We hope to see all of you, as well as those who couldn’t make it this year, at next year’s meeting in New Orleans (January 3-6, 2013).
Later this week, AHA Today will be featuring more recaps of sessions as well as a roundup of coverage of the meeting by bloggers and news organizations.
Editor’s Note: Scott Nielson, a senior undergraduate student at BYU, is blogging for the AHA about his experiences attending the 126th annual meeting.
The “Obama narrative” has received much attention from journalists, producing an interesting body of work for historians who are now making the “first draft” from a historical perspective, as James Grossman put it this morning at the “Historians and the Obama Narrative” session.
The various panelists grappled with a few of the pervasive media oversimplifications of the narrative, focusing a large portion of the discussion on racial perceptions and also commenting on elements that influenced Obama’s worldview and political approach.
Incoming AHA President William Cronon called last night’s General Meeting at the 126th annual meeting to order with a welcome to the audience and an overview of the night’s events. First up was the presentation of AHA awards for 2011, which are given to “celebrate the work of extraordinary scholars.” Following the award presentation, outgoing AHA President Anthony Grafton delivered his presidential address.
The extraordinary scholars Cronon noted in his opening were recognized last night through AHA book, article, teaching, public history, digital history, equity, mentoring, film, and scholarly distinction awards.
Editor’s Note: Scott Nielson, a senior undergraduate student at BYU, is blogging for the AHA about his experiences attending the 126th annual meeting. He has also been helping assist AHA staff in various areas around the meeting. See his first post here.