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News in American History

OAH Members Respond to the Redskins Name Debate

During the business meeting at the 2015 OAH Annual Meeting, members voted to pass the following resolution asking the Washington Redskins to change their name. 

The Organization of American Historians hereby adds its voice to the growing demands by Native American organizations, our sister disciplines, and conscientious people of all ethnic backgrounds, to change the name and logo of the Washington "Redskins."

In a subsequent meeting, the OAH Executive Board voted to let the resolution stand as passed by the membership.

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Posted: June 6, 2015
Tagged: Advocacy

OAH Members Named as Dean at Shoreline Community College and appointed Policy Research Manager with the American Civil Liberties Union

Amy Kinsel has been named Dean of Social Sciences, Library and Parent Child Center, at Shoreline Community College. Read more here.

Megan French-Marcelin, PhD, U.S. History, Columbia University, has been appointed Policy Research Manager with the American Civil Liberties Union as part of the ACLS Public Fellows program. Read more here

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Posted: June 5, 2015
Tagged: Clio's Kudos

OAH Members Honored as Pulitzer Prize Winner and Finalist

OAH member Elizabeth A. Fenn, an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in history for her work, Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People (2014). Fenn's study explores the history of the Mandans, a Native American tribe in the Dakotas. She holds the Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Chair in Western American History. Fenn is also the coauthor, with Peter H. Wood, of Natives and Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina before 1770 (1983) and the author of the award-winning Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 (2001).

Sven Beckert, also an OAH member, was nominated as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Empire of Cotton: A Global History (2014), which argues that slavery was crucial to the dynamism of the industrial revolution. He is the Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University.

Please join us in congratulating OAH members Fenn and Beckert on their accomplishments!

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Posted: May 1, 2015
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession, Clio's Kudos

OAH Members in the News

Congratulations to the three current OAH members who have been named ACLS Fellows for 2014-2015!

OAH member and University of Vermont Associate Professor of History Felicia Kornbluh is featured in a video on the significance of the 1964 New York World's Fair and the civil rights protest that took place on its opening day. Watch "Forgotten Conflict" here.

More Clio's Kudos here>>

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Posted: April 25, 2015
Tagged: Clio's Kudos

OAH Lecturer Sven Beckert Awarded 2015 Bancroft Prize

OAH member and lecturer Sven Beckert has been awarded the 2015 Bancroft Prize for his book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History. The Bancroft Prize is an annual award given out by Columbia University. The candidates "are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American history and diplomacy."

For more information on Professor Beckert's book and for more information on the Bancroft Prize, click here.

Posted: April 17, 2015
Tagged: Clio's Kudos

OAH Executive Committee Issues Statement of Opposition to Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act"

On Thursday, March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" despite exceptionally strong protests of the Republican Mayor of Indianapolis, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis), Visit Indy (the Indianapolis convention bureau), churches, and many individuals presenting multiple petitions. As the statements of these individuals and groups indicate, the Act does not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Indianapolis and Bloomington residents or of Indiana's many other cities that have worked hard to welcome residents of many backgrounds and views, creating a highly diverse state. The OAH Executive Committee has issued the statement below regarding the Act and is writing the Governor and the leaders in the Indiana House and Senate indicating its strong disapproval of this Act.

"The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, strongly urges the Indiana Legislature and Governor Mike Pence to repeal the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' signed into law March 26, 2015. The Act carries alarming potential for abuse in the form of discrimination on many grounds--religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. The OAH strongly condemns any legislation that can be employed to discriminate against any person, whether on the basis of 'any exercise of religion' or simple personal ethnic or racial prejudice. The OAH Executive Committee urges the immediate repeal of this Act to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all residents of the State of Indiana and visitors to the state."

An article was written in The New York Times on the reactions of Indiana citizens and businesses. That article can be read here. 

The Organization of American Historians is an external agency of Indiana University and is housed on the Bloomington, IN campus. The President of IU, Michael McRobbie, issued a statement about the passing of the new law. It can be read here.

In an unusual move, the Indianapolis Star on March 31, 2015 placed an editorial on its front page demanding that this bill be fixed - read more here.

Earlier articles in the Indianapolis Star about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act":

The text of the new law can be read in full here.

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Posted: March 28, 2015
Tagged: News of the Organization, Advocacy

In Memoriam: Camille Guérin-Gonzales

Professor Camille Guérin-Gonzales, a long-time OAH member, recently passed away on February 24. 

She earned her doctorate at UC-Riverside in 1985, writing the dissertation that eventually appeared in book form, Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939. Her real love was teaching, which she did at University of Colorado-Boulder, Oberlin College, University of Michigan, UCLA, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UCLA, she was among six founding faculty members of the César Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. She joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 2001, retiring in 2014.

Memorials may be made to Workers' Rights Center of Madison, Somos Un Pueblo Unidos of New Mexico, Human Rights Campaign, or Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

Professor Guérin-Gonzales' full obituary can be viewed here.

Posted: March 17, 2015
Tagged: In Memoriam

OAH Amicus Brief Filed in Same-Sex Marriage Case

The OAH has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case, James Obergefell, et al. vs. Richard Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Public Health. Written by OAH member George Chauncey, professor of history and American studies at Yale University, the brief focuses on the history of discrimination against gays. Opening oral arguments are expected to be heard in the last week of April, with a decision to be issued the last week of June. 

Read the brief in full.

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Posted: March 9, 2015
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession, Advocacy

In Memoriam: Jann Warren-Findley

Public historian and OAH Member Jannelle Warren-Findley passed away on February 4, 2015. Dr Warren-Findley earned her Ph.D in American Studies from The George Washington University and was a Fullbright scholar, teaching in both Sweden and at the University of Maryland in England. She was an Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University for more than 20 years. Dr Warren-Findley served as President of the National Council on Public History and on the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians. She was also one of the founding directors of the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites in 2004 and served until 2007.

Here full obituary can be viewed here.

The National Collaborative for Women's History Sites 'In Memoriam' can be viewed here.

Posted: February 18, 2015
Tagged: In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Otto H. Olsen

Otto H. Olsen, a scholar of Reconstruction, African American and civil rights history, passed away at age eighty-nine on December 4, 2014, in Gainesville, Florida. A graduate student of C. Vann Woodward, he wrote a pathbreaking study of Albion W. Tourgée, the "carpetbagger" lawyer civil rights advocate who organized bi-racial coalitions and fought for black civil rights during Reconstruction in North Carolina (Carpetbagger's Crusade, 1965); edited an important collection of documents, titled The Thin Disguise (1967), on the monumental 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson; and authored influential articles on the incidence of slave ownership and on various aspects of Reconstruction in North Carolina. His edited collection Reconsruction and Redemption in the South (Louisiana State University Press, 1980) surveyed Reconstruction in the various southern states. Otto earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins. He taught at various universities before accepting a position at Northern Illinois University, where he spent the majority of his faculty years.

His students remember Otto as much for his sterling personal qualities as his scholarship. Otto had provided dangerous service in the merchant marine during World War II. As a graduate student at Columbia he resisted conformity and worked for labor rights and black equality during the McCarthy era. Of Norwegian descent and of humble, working-class origins, he championed social justice issues throughout his life. In his retirement years he wrote a critique of Cold War mythology but also put the legacy of Presidency of John F. Kennedy in a positive light. To us and his other graduate students, Otto modeled a politically engaged intellectual who was a master of the craft of historical research and writing. He remained a supportive mentor and friend throughout his life. Otto combined humanism, humility, and humor with challenging political insights. He is sorely missed. Otto Olsen is survived by his wife Corrine M. Olsen and two children and grandchildren and a sister.

Michael K. Honey, University of Washington Tacoma
Joseph P. Reidy, Howard University


Posted: February 17, 2015
Tagged: In Memoriam

Actions of the OAH Executive Board, Fall 2014

The OAH Executive Board held its fall meeting November 1–2 in St. Louis, Missouri, and approved several agenda items including the minutes from its spring meeting, the Committee on Committees' recommendations for appointments to OAH service and award committees, and an update to the 1990 statement on session participant diversity at the OAH Annual Meeting. Read more>>

Posted: January 27, 2015
Tagged: News of the Organization

OAH Mourns the Passing of Past President and Distinguished Member Carl N. Degler

Past President and Distinguished Member Carl N. Degler passed away on December 27, 2014. Professor Degler began his career at Vasser College before moving to Stanford University in 1968. He was one of two men invited to be founding members of the National Organization of Women in 1966. And in 1972, his book Neither Black nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States won the Pulitzer Prize. He was president of the OAH from 1979 to 1980. Professor Degler's obituary can be viewed here.

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Posted: January 17, 2015
Tagged: In Memoriam

OAH Issues Statement Regarding Steven Salaita

The OAH Executive Committee was authorized to prepare a statement addressing Steven Salaita’s termination at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After preparation of the statement, the OAH Executive Board approved sending the statement to the Chancellor at the University of Illinois and representatives at the American Association of University Professors.

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Posted: December 16, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, News of the Organization

The OAH Strongly Urges Support of the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014

The Organization of American Historians strongly urges support of S. 2712, the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2014, recently sponsored by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois to allow adjunct, contingent and other part-time faculty to participate in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. As it currently stands, the PSLF program encourages graduating students to apply for and continue to work full-time in public service jobs.  After making 120 payments (10 years of student loan payments) graduates may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program while employed full-time by selected public service employers in such careers as the military, public education, public health and law enforcement.

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Posted: October 23, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, News of the Organization

In Memoriam: Victor Greene

Victor R. Greene, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Emeritus Professor of History, died on September 5 at the age of 80. A noted scholar and teacher in the fields of American immigration, labor, and popular culture, Professor Greene earned a B.A. cum laude in History from Harvard University (1955), an M.A. in History from the University of Rochester (1960), and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania (1963). Before joining UWM in 1971, Professor Greene taught at the University of Notre Dame and Kansas State University. At UWM, he served on a number of important campus committees, and generously donated to the UWM Foundation and its programs that benefit students. He established a fund in honor of his own hero, former Milwaukee mayor Frank P. Zeidler, an annual award presented to a history master's student interested in American history. Recognizing Professor Greene's long dedication to undergraduate learning, the History Department created the Victor Greene Award to honor the best paper written in a History capstone course. Read More>>

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Posted: September 11, 2014
Tagged: In Memoriam

OAH Statement on the AP Test

The Organization of American Historians supports the Revised Framework for the Advanced Placement and U.S. History Course and Exam. In response to recent criticism of the College Board, the OAH affirms that expert teachers and scholars of good will designed and conducted the extensive process of revision. The OAH is proud to be associated with these dedicated and professional teachers and historians. Many are OAH members.

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Posted: August 29, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession, News of the Organization

From the OAH President: "Professors—I Need Your Help!"

Patricia Limerick (Photo courtesy of Honey Lindburg)I am eager to do what I can to deepen public appreciation of you and your work. To pull this off, I need your help—which I will beg for a few paragraphs from here.

On February 15, 2014, The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof started his column by using sixteen words to flatter academics, and then using eleven words to wound and dismiss them. "Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors," he said. And then he moved in for the kill: "but most of them just don't matter in today's great debates." Read more >

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Posted: May 21, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession

In Memoriam: Felix Armfield


We wish to thank our colleagues at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History  (ASALH) for allowing us to share this remembrance of Professor Felix Armfield, professor of history at Buffalo State, The State University of New York. Armfield was a longtime member of the Organization of American Historians, joining in 1996, and he served on the OAH Committee on Public History from 2001-2005.

May 6, 2014

Felix ArmfieldIt with great sadness that the ASALH family announces the loss of our former Executive Council member, Dr. Felix Armfield. Felix was an active and dedicated life member of ASALH and had been a member of the association for over thirty years.

A dedicated teacher-scholar, Dr. Armfield has been recognized for his teaching and service at Western Illinois University and Buffalo State College. Most recently, he was awarded the Hero Award from the Disability Services Office, The Students' Award for the Promotion of Respect for Diversity and Individual Differences, and the William Wells Brown Award from the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier.

Dr. Armfield was an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He was very passionate and dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the fraternity. His most recent publication, Eugene Kinckle Jones: The National Urban League and Black Social Work, 1910-1940, honors the legacy of this important Black leader of the early twentieth century, but it also honors the legacy of one of the jewels of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Felix Armfield is survived by his father, Jasper Armfield, Jr. (Shirley), Belvoir, NC; his grandmother, Mrs. Christine Armfield, Greenville, NC; his sisters, Kimberly Armfield, Upper Marlboro, MD and Sandy McKenny, Fredricksburg, VA; one brother, Jeffrey Armfield (Venetia), New Haven, CT; his loving godmother, Shirley Hunter, Greenville,NC; and a family of aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins, and loving friends, including Quince Brinkley, Jacqueline McLeod, Bonita Durand, Ron Stewart, Diane "Cookie" Williams, and Bettye Gardner.

Services will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2014. The viewing/wake will be held at noon and the funeral will follow at 1 p.m. EST at Holly Hill Free Will Baptist Church, 755 Porter Road, Greenville, NC 27834 where Bishop James E. Tripp, Jr. presides. The burial will be at Burial Dancy Memorial Cemetery.

Expressions of sympathy can be sent to his grandmother, Ms. Christine Armfield, 563 Lake Road, #104, Greenville, NC 27834.

Felix possessed an unwavering commitment to his alma mater, 'dear ole NCCU', and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Therefore, instead of flowers the family requests that you send donations to the Felix Armfield ASALH-NCCU Fund that will support NCCU students' continuous participation in the ASALH. You may send your donations to: The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2225 Georgia Avenue, Suite 331, Washington, DC 20059. E-mail: info@asalh.net

Sylvia Y. Cyrus, Executive Director
Association for the Study of African American Life and History


Posted: May 8, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, In Memoriam

In Memoriam: William Pencak

William PencakWilliam Pencak, professor emeritus of history at Penn State University, distinguished historian of early American history, historian of Pennsylvania, and twice editor of Pennsylvania History, died December 9, 2013, in Atlanta, Georgia, of cardiac failure following heart surgery. He was a member of the Organization of American Historians since 1975.

A native New Yorker, William Pencak received his BA from Columbia University in 1972, with an MA the following year and a PhD in history in 1978. The years that followed included scholarly production on a phenomenal scale. His first books, War, Politics, and Revolution in Provincial Massachusetts (1981) and America's Burke: The Mind of Thomas Hutchinson (1982), focused on New England, while his third, For God and Country: The American Legion, 1919-1941 (1989) explored a twentieth-century topic for a very special reason: he wrote the book that a friend had set out to do, prior to his untimely death.

The publications that followed would reveal the polymath mind that Bill Pencak possessed. His score of single-authored or edited volumes ranged from the intricacies of early American ethnicity, culture, and conflict to film studies, opera history, and semiotics. In the last decade, much of his intellectual passion focused on the history of early American religion. His Jews and Gentiles in Early America, 1654-1800 (2005) took him into the reconstruction of an oft-overlooked segment of colonial society, as well as giving him the chance to focus on his own heritage. The ideas he wrote of in that book led to new avenues to explore in the classroom. He taught classes in Jewish studies prior to his retirement from Penn State's University Park campus, and following his retirement he accepted a position as Bert and Fanny Meisler Visiting Professor of History and Jewish Studies in the Department of History at the University of South Alabama. At the same time he wrote the chronological successor volume to Jews and Gentiles, he was also working on a biography of Bishop William White, Pennsylvania's first Episcopal Bishop.

Bill Pencak's passion for Pennsylvania history was a central focus of his career. He coedited the massive Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth as much to engage in a history that fascinated him as to have the chance to work with his friend Randall Miller and numerous other friends. Service to community and commonwealth were always at the center of his life. A decades-long stalwart of the Philadelphia and McNeil Center for Early American History's Friday seminars and Zuckerman salons, he is remembered for his intense intellectual engagement of presenters as well as the sense of humor and love of good fellowship that he had there. Those characteristics combined ideally in the two periods in which he edited Pennsylvania History. He expanded its readership and scholarly focus during his first term as editor, including creating the annual Explorations in Early American Culture in partnership with the McNeil Center. In 1998, he honored me by inviting me to serve as his coeditor. Later, this work would lead to the creation of the new journal, Early American Studies, where he continued to serve as senior consulting editor until his death. While he took a few years off from journal editing to pursue other projects, he returned to helm Pennsylvania History a few years later. When news of Bill Pencak's sudden death spread throughout the academic community, stunned colleagues around the country responded with a similar statement: Bill Pencak was the first major scholar who noticed their – our – work, and he was the one who helped craft rough prose into numerous first published articles.

It is hard to sum up the warmth, the kindness, the sense of humor, and other personal attributes that were my dear friend Bill Pencak. Falstaffian in size and personality, he shared Dr. Samuel Johnson's passion for friendships, wit, and good conversation. His generosity in providing hospitality for emerging scholars was unsurpassed. He routinely drove to conferences so he could give free transportation to young members of the profession who could not afford airfare. On a personal level, we thought of him as a member of our family, and I will always remember Bill sitting on my couch, watching TLA Video VHS tapes for his The Films of Derek Jarman, assisted by our yellow Lab (he always joked she enjoyed film history, too); spreading out the illustrations for one book or another on our coffee tables and floors; sitting up to all hours discussing the history profession and its practitioners; and driving to professional meetings, listening to CDs of Julianne Baird and his other favorite opera performers. As I write this, a line Franklin used to remember one of his best friends comes to mind. He was a "Gentleman of some Fortune, generous, lively and witty, a Lover of Punning and of his Friends." Hundreds of grieving friends now mourn Bill's untimely passing.

Bill is survived by his mother, Harriet Pencak, and husband Vincent Parker. His father, only brother, and nephew preceded him in death.

George W. Boudreau, Penn State Harrisonburg

Posted: May 8, 2014
Tagged: In Memoriam

OAH Executive Board Endorses Revisions to Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment Standards

At its 2011 spring meeting on March 17-20, the OAH Executive Board endorsed standards and "best practices" developed by the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment (CPACE) prescribing how colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education should employ and utilize non-tenured and non-tenure-track history faculty.

At its spring meeting in 2014, the OAH Executive Board endorsed the CPACE's revisions to the standards which are designed to more clearly distinguish teaching from nonteaching contingent historians, andindicate "best practices" that apply specifically to nonteaching contingent historians. Read more >

Posted: May 7, 2014
Tagged: News of the Organization, News of the Profession