[As the largest organization of professional historians in the
world, the AHA condemns the recent deployment of histories invented in
the interest of bigotry, violence, and division.]



 American Historical Association 
 August 26, 2019
Perspectives on History

	* [https://portside.org/node/20841/printable/print]

 _ As the largest organization of professional historians in the
world, the AHA condemns the recent deployment of histories invented in
the interest of bigotry, violence, and division. _ 

 Signs like the one in this undated image were displayed at various
restaurants and other pubic accommodations under a system known as
"Juan Crow" laws., Russell Lee / Dolph Briscoe Center for American


Shortly after the November 2016 presidential election, the American
Historical Association noted with dismay the “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

That was the first time the AHA had issued a statement in response to
an election. We were well aware of the dangers of seeming to be
entering a political realm, venturing beyond our mission of promoting
historical work, historical thinking, and the professional interests
of historians. But we were equally aware of the responsibility we bear
as part of the institutional matrix of civil society. As teachers,
researchers, and citizens, historians bring to civic culture the
values of “mutual respect, reasoned discourse, and appreciation for
humanity in its full variety” that we emphasized in our 2016
statement. _As historians_, we recognized the dangers on the horizon,
given what we have learned and taught about the histories of bigotry
and its implications in the United States and elsewhere in the

And now, in the wake of mass homicide in Pittsburgh, El Paso, and
elsewhere, our fears are being realized. These events rest on a long
history of racist and xenophobic domestic terrorism, evident when
taking a historical perspective but too seldom recognized in public
discourse. Too few Americans, for example, frame the Ku Klux Klan
within the context of a history of racially oriented terrorism that
must be named and contextualized if we are to learn from the past and
do better in the future.

The lack of public awareness of domestic terrorism’s place in
American history stands in stark contrast to frequent contemporary
references to immigration and immigration policy. The United States
has traditionally prided itself on being “a nation of immigrants.”
This phrase is aspirational, but the historical reality is more
complicated. Other than relatively recent immigrants, African
Americans’ ancestors were brought here by force, and enslaved for
generations. For many other people, the United States has been a land
of hope and opportunity. Millions have come to our shores since the
16th century, some of them fleeing poverty and oppression, others
displaced by war or economic collapse. Some intended to stay, some
wanted only to earn enough to return to their home countries with
added resources. Their struggles for respect and inclusion, although
often marked by hostility and bigotry, have expanded and democratized
our country’s definition of what it means to be American.

Increasingly in recent years, policy makers, political commentators,
and even terrorists themselves have been drawing on and twisting
history to oppose the expansive democracy immigration has helped to
build. Many of them adopt the dark vision of early 20th-century
exclusionist politics, which insisted that some people could never be
real Americans. Some of them create a mythic “white” past rooted
in a misreading of medieval Europe. And to one extent or another, many
replace the nation’s complex experience of migration with dangerous
talk of “invasion,” language that led directly to the El Paso
assault and the deaths of 22 people. The rhetoric also elides the
history of North America’s indigenous people, who are the only
residents who can legitimately claim to have been “invaded.”

As the largest organization of professional historians in the world,
the AHA condemns the recent deployment of histories invented in the
interest of bigotry, violence, and division. Many critics of white
nationalism have admirably insisted that “this is not who we are.”
If the statements of white nationalists do not reflect who Americans
are or want to be, they do compose an undeniable part of our
collective past. Those aspects of the nation’s heritage should be
exposed and overcome, rather than ignored or celebrated. Knowledge of
history can help Americans achieve that goal.

_The following societies have endorsed our statement on domestic
terrorism, bigotry, and history:_

American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association 
American Catholic Historical Association
American Journalism Historians Association 
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH)
Association for Jewish Studies (Executive Committee)
Association of College & Research Libraries
Business History Conference
Chinese Historians in the United States
Committee on LGBT History
Coordinating Council for Women in History
Dance Studies Association
Disability History Association
International Society for the Scholarship on Teaching and Learning in
Immigration and Ethnic History
Labor and Working-Class History Association
Latin American Studies Association
Medieval Academy of America
Middle East Studies Association
National Council on Public History
North American Conference on British Studies
Oral History Association
Organization of American Historians
Rhetoric Society of America
Shakespeare Association of America
Sixteenth Century Society and Conference
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study
Society of Civil War Historians
Southern Historical Association 

	* [https://portside.org/node/20841/printable/print]







 Submit via web [https://portside.org/contact/submit_to_portside] 
 Submit via email 
 Frequently asked questions [https://portside.org/faq] 
 Manage subscription [https://portside.org/subscribe] 
 Visit portside.org [https://portside.org/]

 Twitter [https://twitter.com/portsideorg]

 Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/Portside.PortsideLabor] 




To unsubscribe, click the following link: