Historians as Activists


Up Front



Following is a continuously updated list of activities by historians involved in political action in causes related to history education, history budgets, or social and political change.

  • Feminist historians for a new New Deal

  • Historians sponsor petition to protest John Yoo's legal opinions on torture

  • Historians asked to write Congress in support of funds for National History Day

  • NCH asks historians to back $177 million for NEH

  • Historians file brief in SCOTUS in support of DC gun law

  • Historians file anti-discrimination brief at Supreme Court citing history of Reconstruction

  • Academics for Ron Paul

  • Historians are taking an active role in the campaign of 2008

  • Historians for Obama

  • Petititon for historians and other academics killed in Iraq

  • Urgent appeal for Uighur historian and anthropologist, China

  • AHA considers resolutions against the Iraq War, free speech zones, and INMex

  • Historians to ask the AHA to condemn Iraq War practices in violation of"open inquiry"

  • Historians join the protest against the ABC 9-11 docudrama

  • Historians call on congress to save NARA's funding

  • History Coalition Weighs in on Net Neutrality


  • Urgent Action requested for Guatemalan Forensic Anthropologists

  • Historians protest denial of visa to Georgetown University PhD Waskar Ari from Bolivia

  • American Historical Association expresses concern about denial of visa to Georgetown University PhD Waskar Ari from Bolivia

  • Protesting Death Threats to Team Investigating Mass Graves in Guatemala

  • Historians Vow to Oppose the Conservative Campaign to Pressure Universities to Hire Conservatives

  • Historians Denounce Use of Torture by the US

  • Historians Protest imprisonment of a historical novelist by Turkmenistan: The English Section of International PEN and the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) is drawing attention once again to the case of writer Rakhim Esenov (78 years old) in connection with his historical novel, The Crowned Wanderer, set during the period of the Mogul Empire.

  • Grand Ayatollah Yasub al-Din Rastgari: detained in Iran for publishing a book on Islamic history: The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN reported yesterday that Grand Ayatollah Yasub al-Din Rastgari (born [1927]), a leading Shi'a religious leader and scholar, is detained for publishing a book on Islamic history which is allegedly critical of the policies of some historic characters and "denigrates the sanctity" of some Wahhabi sect personalities. The Network of Concerned Historians is protesting the detention.

  • Historians Against the War ... What We Are Doing to Try to Stop the War in Iraq: Historians Against War (HAW) is enthusiastically mobilizing for the September 24 march for peace in Washington, D.C. We encourage other historians to attend the protest and to sponsor activities on your campuses in the period leading up to the demonstration as well as after it.

  • Katrina/Gerda Lerner Letter: "A small group of Madison folks met over the weekend to see if we could contribute some proposals for long-range solutions for the people caught in the New Orleans horror. The attached statement is the result of our thinking. We have made appointments to see our Congress people and would like to present them with as many signatures as possible to the statement, when we see them."

  • Historians Rally for a Turkish Writer on Trial for Comments About Armenian Genocide: The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN reported yesterday that author Orhan Pamuk will be brought before an Istanbul court on 16 December 2005 and that he faces up to three years' imprisonment for expressing an opinion about the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the Kurdish insurrection of 1984-2000.

  • History Action Alert/NHPRC Funding: Late yesterday the House Appropriations Committee voted to restore funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) -- $5.5 million for grants and $2 million for administration related costs, for a total of $7.5 million. This is far better than what was proposed in the presidents's budget, which had zeroed out all funding for both NHPRC grants and administrative support. The History Coalition is asking historians and librarians to contact their senators to request that the funding recommended by the House be increased to $8 million for competitive grants and $2 million for administration and staffing in the National Archives budget.

  • French Historians Protest: More than 1,000 historians, writers and intellectuals have signed a petition demanding the repeal of a new law requiring school history teachers to stress the"positive aspects" of French colonialism."In retaining only the positive aspects of colonialism this law imposes an official lie on massacres that at times went as far as genocide on the slave trade, and on the racism that France has inherited," says the petition, which has also been signed by one of France's best-loved humourists, Guy Bedos, and a leading film director, Patrice Chéreau. The law of February 23 2005, as it is known, was intended to recognise the contribution of the"harkis", the 200,000 or so Algerians who fought alongside France's colonial troops in their country's war of independence, from 1954-62, before being abandoned to a dreadful fate when the French withdrew - about 130,000 were executed as traitors. But an unnoticed amendment, apparently tabled by MPs with close ties to France's community of former Algerian settlers, added a new clause to the bill. It reads:"School courses should recognise in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in north Africa." Opponents are angry in part because, in the words of one eminent historian, Pierre Vidal-Naquet:"It is not up to the state to say how history should be taught."

  • Historians Sign Petition For History Education: Pulitzer Prize winners Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., David McCullough and Gordon Wood are among the historians and scholars who have signed a petition condemning the"inadequate time given to history instruction" and calling on Congress to amend the"No Child Left Behind" act."Given the emphasis on reading in the `No Child Left Behind' legislation, we recommend the adoption of guidelines to ensure that the texts used to teach reading include a substantial proportion of biographies and other works of history," reads the petition, also endorsed by such leading historians as Bernard Bailyn, Eric Foner and David Kennedy. In addition, the petition calls for more money for teacher training so that schools can offer"intensive preparation in the content of history." (4-19-05)

  • OAH Committee on Academic Freedom: At its March 2004 convention, the OAH established an ad hoc Committee on Academic Freedom. The mandate of the committee was to “investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians’ teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression.” Its mission was not to adjudicate disputes but make its findings known to the membership of the OAH and to report periodically to the Executive Board. Five major areas of concern have emerged in reports that have been brought to the committee’s attention to date. (See also: David Beito, Robert"KC" Johnson, and Ralph E. Luker: Why We Are Dissatisfied with the OAH's Report on Repression.)

  • Nixon Papers: Sixteen historians who were scheduled to speak at a now-cancelled conference at the Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, today asked Congress to suspend plans for the transfer of the Nixon tapes and files from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland to the Yorba Linda facility. The historians informed the members of the U.S. Senate and House committees on appropriations, governmental affairs, and government reform, that"The unprofessional behavior of the Nixon Library leadership calls into question that institution's fitness to join the Presidential Library system. The Nixon Library evidently feels free to toss aside, at its own convenience, its commitments to Whittier College and to the conference participants. A similarly cavalier attitude toward the commitments that the Library has made to the National Archives and to the Congress, in order to gain public funding for the transfer, would seriously jeopardize public access to and long-term preservation of invaluable historical records."

  • Ward Churchill: Historians Against the War (HAW) deplores the current effort by the Governor of Colorado and some members of the University of Colorado's Board of Regents to dismiss Prof. Ward Churchill, apparently for an essay that Prof. Churchill wrote regarding the attacks of September 11, 2001. HAW defends Prof. Churchill's right as a citizen and a member of his university community to speak his mind on issues of public concern without endangering his employment. HAW believes that the very notion that the opinions expressed in a faculty member's works might constitute grounds for dismissal constitutes a form of McCarthyism. We ask the Chancellor and Regents to immediately shut down this"investigation." And we urge our members to contact the following officials, to politely, but firmly express their views on this matter.

  • Coalitions Against Budget Cuts 2006 Anticipating the challenges advanced in the Bush budget, representatives of the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and the Society of American Archivists, met last week and agreed to form a joint task force to focus on advocacy. In addition, the National Coalition for History, together with the National Humanities Alliance, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils will shortly launch the"Humanities Advocacy Network" -- a new legislative action tool that will enable users to take direct action and communicate with governmental officials. You can preview the new website by visiting: http://www.humanitiesadvocacy.org. The network is designed to serve as the central location for advocacy where those who care about supporting our nation's investment in education, research, preservation and public programs in the humanities can get information and undertake action.

  • Crisis in History"We, the undersigned, many of us members of the National Council for History Education (the sole nation-wide membership organization devoted to the improvement of the teaching of history in our schools), submit this statement on the CRISIS IN HISTORY in order to urge the Congress of the United States to expand on the Teaching American History initiative and Senate Bill 2721, the American History Achievement Act."

  • Budget Cuts The National Coalition for History issued this action alert on Sept. 13: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the FY 2005 Transportation/Treasury spending bill late last week with a level of $3 million for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This represents a $7 million ($300%) cut over the current fiscal year's budget. The Senate action follows the President's recommendation of $3 million, as well as that of the House Appropriations Committee (which also supported the President's request for severely reduced funding).

  • Budget Cuts From the Organization of American Historians ... The future of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission is in jeopardy and we need your help to restore funding to this important historical federal agency. We are sending this email to OAH members in the states whose U.S. senators sit on the Senate Transportation, Treasury, and General Government Subcommittee which has appropriations jurisdiction over the NHPRC. After reading the following message from National Coalition for History Director Bruce Craig, please contact your senator and request his/her support for funding the NHPRC at $8 million.

  • Japanese Internment Historians critical of Michelle Malkin's new book, In Defense of Internment, have formed a committee to protest the media attention being paid to her and her book. The Historians' Committee for Fairness, an organization of scholars and professional researchers, charges that her book represent a blatant violation of professional standards of objectivity and fairness. Malkin is not a historian, and she states that she relied almost exclusively on research conducted or collected by others.

  • Iraq After two weeks of fighting in Najaf, Iraq, Patrimoine sans Frontières solemnly appeals to all of the parties involved to respect the heritage of this Holy site for Shia Muslims. Patrimoine sans Frontières appeals also to the international community to mobilise against this situation which in effect is taking a cultural and sacred site hostage. This site is one of the jewels of Iraqi cultural heritage and its importance for the history of humanity makes it part of the common heritage of all mankind.

  • Iraq in Crisis IraqCrisis: A moderated list at the University of Chicago for communicating substantive information on cultural property damaged, destroyed or lost from Libraries and Museums in Iraq during and after the war in April 2003, and on the worldwide response to the crisis.

  • Saving Antiquities The SAFE online resource that highlights issues related to cultural heritage and its vulnerability to looting and the illicit antiquities trade. To commemorate the anniversary of the ransacking of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, SAFE has relaunched its website (formerly www.safenow.net) with an article about the continued destruction of archaeological sites in Iraq.

  • Budget for the NHPRC The National Coalition for History (NCH) issues an action alert. Based on the funding levels passed by the House Committee on Appropriations for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on 22 July 2004, funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in FY 2005 will be dramatically cut unless history/archive supporters act.

  • Copyright The National Coalition for History (NCH) has joined with over thirty other scholarly and non-profit organizations -- including JSTOR, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Historical Association, the American Sociological Association, the Association of American University Presses, Duke University Press, the Organization of American Historians, and Oxford University Press -- in support of the National Geographic in its legal battle relating to digital preservation and access.

  • NEH Budget The Coalition for History is asking historians to write to Congress in support of an amendment to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Allen Weinstein Controversy continues to mount over the Bush administration's nomination of Allen Weinstein to succeed John Carlin as Archivist of the United States.

  • Gay Marriage The executive board of the Organization of American Historians has approved a resolution opposing"a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples." The resolution was sponsored by Ellen Herman, a historian at University of Oregon. Over 100 members of the OAH signed a statement in support of the resolution.

  • HAW At the annual meeting of the OAH, the executive board approved a resolution sponsored by Historians Against the War (HAW) to investigate alleged instances of repression involving historians. Eric Foner and James Horton signed a HAW petition denouncing the"doctrine of pre-emptive war."

  • National Park Historians rallying to save Minute Man National Historical Park.

  • Middle East Studies Juan Cole: A Big Brother Plan to Monitor Middle East Studies (March 6, 2004)

  • HAW AHA Business Meeting unanimously approves resolution sponsored by Historians Against the War (HAW) affirming the rights of free speech. (January 2004)

  • GESO Over opposition of Yale history department chairman, the AHA Business Meeting approves a resolution critical of Yale's campaign to stop the formation of a union for graduate students; first amendment rights emphasized.

  • Historic Site A British businessman intends leading 5,000 archers to a second battle of Agincourt in an attempt to defeat plans for a windfarm at the historic site in France.

  • Enola Gay Historians organizing to protest the new Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian.

  • HAW Historians Against the War rallying in Washington DC to oppose the continued occupation of Iraq.

  • Charles Pickering Historians' Petition Against the Nomination of Charles Pickering, Sr.

  • Saving the Archives Historians rallying to restore funding for Electronic Records Archive, wchich was zeroed out by the Bush administration.

  • Charles Pickering Historians oppose the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.; their petition receives national attention.

  • HAW Radical intellectuals drawn from more than half a dozen groups, including Historians Against the War, issue a call for a meeting in October 2003.

  • Revisionism Prominent historians protest President Bush's disparagement of revisionism.

  • HAW Historians Against the War call for an international force to take over the occupation of Iraq.

  • Ludlow Massacre Historians trying to raise money to restore the desecrated monument to the victims of the Ludlow Massacre.

  • Radicals Radical Academics prepare draft misssion statement.

  • HAW Historians Against the War: Following the end of the Iraq war, HAW decides to focus on opposing imperialism.

  • Funding The Coalition for History urges historians to rally behind the Bush administration's request to fund the"We the People" initiative.

  • Iraq Museum The Baghdad Museum Project: Helping restore the National Museum of Iraq

  • Cuba Anti-War, Social Justice and Human Rights Advocates Oppose Repression in Cuba Campaign for Peace and Democracy

  • Iraq Help Iraqi libraries rebuild by contributing copies of documents. Keith Watenpaugh

  • HAW Historians Against the War Van Gosse

  • HAW Petition to Congress: A Vote Needs to Be Taken on War with Iraq Joyce Appleby

  • HAW Historians' Petition on War with Iraq: Breaking News Joyce Appleby

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    More Comments:

    Dalek S Wu - 9/23/2007

    Historians have the First Amendment right to speak their minds just like any other person.

    That being said, every action--including speaking one's mind--has consequences. Exercising one's First Amendment rights opens one to criticism.

    The problem is when historians misrepresent themselves to be "experts" in fields where they are not. For example, Max Boot and the Kagan brothers have Doctorates in History, but that is absolutely no qualification for them making military decisions. No matter how worshiped a Doctorate is in academia, it is simply no substitute for a Combat Infantryman's Badge, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Purple Heart, or a Medal with a "V" device in the real world.

    This problem is not unqiue to historians. The same thing applies to CEO's and MBA's who try to run militaries and the police. "Downsizing" is a bad idea for the security forces, pure and simple. So are things like COMPSTAT (aka FUDGESTAT) and billionaire Mike Bloomberg cutting the salary of NYPD Officers to 25K a year all in the name of "cutting back big government."

    Nadja Adolf - 2/21/2007

    One would think that historians would have learned from the Belleisles debacle; when one abandons objectivity to support an agenda one loses credibility.

    Historians in the US seem to be evolving into the past biologists of the former USSR - Lysenko and friends created "results" to fit an agenda.

    Peter N. Kirstein - 4/2/2006

    There are those who wish historians would be objective, neutral and non-judgmental of the past or the present. Such an approach does not fully embrace the notion of professional responsibility which is to be an engaged citizen both within and outside the classroom.

    Those of us who have been sanctioned for speech know full well the consequences of acquiescing to intimidation and coercion: more restrictions on academic freedom and fewer historians to challenge the current order. While historians and other academic should be free to pursue and define their own level of engagement in the politics of the day, it is the thunder from the right that wishes to obliterate that choice that is of concern.

    Melissa Nicole Stuckey - 2/8/2005

    To all OAH members:

    On April 1st, 2004, the OAH is set to meet at the Hilton in San Francisco for its 2005 Annual Meeting. UNITE HERE Local 2 representing workers at the convention site has called a boycott against Hilton. The union’s contract expired more than five months ago with management refusing to put an acceptable proposal on the table. One of the key issues at stake is the employers’ attempts to increase workers’ health care co-payments by nearly ten-fold. All of this has taken place during a time when these companies have enjoyed their most robust profit margins since 9/11.

    The employers in San Francisco continue to treat their workers unjustly. They locked-out workers for 5 weeks, and during that period 4300 UNITE HERE members were forced out on the street without pay. Employers also threatened to cancel their workers’ health insurance benefits. Were it not for the efforts of Gavin Newsom, the Mayor of San Francisco, who negotiated an end to the lockout and persuaded some private insurers to extend coverage to UNITE HERE members during the holiday season, the lockout might well still be going on, and those 4300 workers and their families would not have health insurance. When the lockout ended, many UNITE HERE members had already received eviction and foreclosure notices. The negotiated “cooling off” period has long since expired and employer recalcitrance has made a resolution to the dispute distant at best. The boycott is still likely to be in place by the time of the annual meeting.

    We cannot cross boycott lines: the more business that comes to these hotels during the boycott, the less incentive employers like Hilton have to settle with their workers. On the flip side, the more business employers lose during the boycott, the more likely they will be to settle. As an organization, we have an ideological, philosophical and moral obligation to honor the union boycott.

    If the OAH agrees to work with UNITE HERE staff and move the convention to nearby San Jose, we will be able to honor the boycott and still hold a successful annual meeting. Moving to an alternate meeting site in San Jose will mean that the attendees will not have to change their plane reservations nor will the Friday off-site programs have to be cancelled. Buses can be arranged to do all the walking tours, etc. that have been planned for Friday. Even though the OAH has not committed to moving the meeting, the meeting planner will be inspecting the San Jose site on February 15th if union negotiations are not solidified by this time.

    As OAH members, we must show our support for moving the convention. The OAH already has a union preference and a precedent for moving the annual meeting. In St. Louis a few years back we moved the 2000 annual meeting out of the Adam’s Mark Hotel in protest over discriminatory practices. This action was very effective. One month after we moved the meeting, Adam’s Mark agreed to pay 8 million dollars to plaintiffs represented by the NAACP as well as to four historically black colleges and universities in Florida.

    We call on the Organization of American Historians to honor Local 2’s boycott of the Hilton and work with the staff UNITE HERE to secure an alternate site in San Jose.

    Please go to http://www.PetitionOnline.com/geso2005/petition.html and sign the petition in favor of moving the meeting.

    You can also send emails to OAH President James Horton (horton@gwu.edu) and OAH Executive Director Lee Formwalt (lee@oah.org) and encourage them to do the right thing.

    Please forward widely.

    Jay Driskell and Melissa Stuckey, Yale University.

    DeWayne Edward Benson - 2/6/2005

    I don't know where this history should be introduced, very likely middle grades. That I am aware, this history is taught at no level, except perhaps in some dark-recesses of an apparently some little known college.

    This history being a violation of the U.S. Constitution passed back and forth between Democrat and Republican parties for the past 65 years. This would mean at the approval of the United States SUpreme Court, meaning that all three branches of US government are involved in a violation of the Constitution.

    The topic of lesson being that this nation and citizens have lived under "Emergency War Conditions" for the past 65 years, and essentially no one being aware of the fact.

    This Emergency condition due to DEM/GOP Executive-Office use of "Emergency War Powers", this done by posting of "Executive Orders" into the Federal Register, these becoming the law of the land. An interesting situation involved here, the Constitution authorizes only the Legislative or Congress powers to make laws.

    Presently there are suppose to be three (3) wars still in effect using this power. Another interesting point is that the Constitution gives (only) Congress the power to "Declare War", although Presidents up to George Bush have begun wars, at times desguised as "Police Actions."

    Perhaps this would best be taught in relation to President Lincoln, who because of a divided Congress (without quorum to operate), required Lincoln to take extraordinary messures to keep government operating, by issuing executive orders. Or perhaps Franklin Roosevelt, who illegally began this Emergency War Powers again.