Committee on Minority Historians 2007

During 2007 the Committee on Minority Historians (CMH) spent most of its time and energy to finalize the document entitled “Equity for Minority Historians in the Academic Workplace: A Guide to Best Practices.” The document, which is derived from and based on the concerns expressed in a survey conducted by the CMH of AHA minority members, focused on recruitment and hiring, departmental climate, teaching duties, mentoring, community service, and professional development. The document, along with an article by George Sanchez about the crisis in the historical profession, was sent to the AHA’s History Department and Organization Services Program. Both were published in the October 2007 Perspectives. They will also be posted on the CMH web pages and linked to new web pages that the AHA is developing on equity in the workplace. The document raises concerns about the history profession not being racially diverse as the college student population becomes increasingly Non-Euro American and it offers some suggestions about the ways in which diversity can be achieved in history departments in the next generation.

On March 24, 2007, the CMH met jointly with the Professional Division. The chair reported to the Professional Division that the history profession is less diverse than it was a generation ago. Tools like affirmative action are less available due to legal challenges. One way to increase diversity, it was suggested, is for the historical profession to recruit from American Studies, Native American Studies, or African American Studies since they have more diverse students than those in traditional history PhD programs. The CMH decided to send a 1,000 word statement about the crisis of low minority numbers in the profession to the Task Force on the Future of the AHA.

The CMH also discussed creating AHA Diversity Awards for departments and individuals that increased minority students and faculty. In addition, the committee also discussed the possibility of giving such an award to publishing houses, mentoring, funding institutions, diversified teaching methods and scholarship in the area of diversity. It was agreed that Noralee Frankel will work on language for the proposed diversity award and then submit it to the committee for further discussion.

At its fall meeting, the CMH considered, among other things, a memorandum from Robert Townsend that provided data on sources of minority history PhDs. George Sanchez noted that private liberal arts colleges except for Oberlin were not as prominent as he would have thought. Donald Grinde was surprised that state universities were not as significant statistically as he would have thought. Sanchez noted that 161 foreign institutions awarded minority PhDs their undergraduate degrees (it was noted that 94 percent of white professors in the United States were born in the United States, while non-white scholars tended to be in the 60–75 percent U.S. born range). The committee will continue to ask about qualitative and quantitative data from foundations and other sources like the Department of Education.

At the 2008 meeting in Washington, D.C., the CMH sponsored a breakfast for graduate students and first year faculty, and along with the Professional Division, cosponsored a session on “Equity for Minority Historians in the Academic Workplace: A Guide to Best Practices.”

The CMH thanked George Sanchez, whose term is ending, for his diligent service to the committee. My term is also ending and, on behalf of the entire committee, I want to thank Noralee Frankel for her hard work and unstinting support for the committee’s work.

—Donald Grinde