News & Advocacy
By providing leadership on current issues, highlighting the work of our members, and bringing the discipline into the public conversation, the American Historical Association is history's most influential and indispensable advocate. Our large membership enhances our influence in legislative and policy arenas, not just in Washington, but wherever we encounter issues regarding access to documents, academic freedom, discrimination, and other challenges affecting the work of historians. At a time of widespread budget cuts, AHA is one of the most important sources of advocacy, reminding policymakers of the importance of continuing to fund the institutions on which history in the United States depends.
AHA Urges Investigation of Destruction of Archives in El Salvador
On January 27, AHA President Jan Goldstein and Executive Director James Grossman submitted a letter, reproduced here, to David Ernesto Morales Cruz, procurador para la defense de los derechos humanos (attorney for the defense of human rights) for the government of El Salvador.
The letter concerns a November 14, 2013, break-in at the offices of the Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niňas y Niňos Desaparecidos (Association for Searching for Missing Children), in which computers were stolen and archival materials burned. The association was founded in 1994 as a nongovernmental organization devoted to locating children who disappeared during the 1980-1992 civil war in El Salvador. The organization collected records on 1,200 missing children; 80 percent of its archives were destroyed in the break-in. There has been speculation that the incident was connected to an upcoming case before the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador challenging the constitutionality of the country's general amnesty law, which prevents prosecutions for human rights violations committed during the civil war.
NEH Funding Under Attack (Again)
Few readers of this blog need to be convinced of the value of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH is the leading federal agency with the mission to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in the humanities-knowledge that is essential to healthy public culture in a democratic society. Each year, the NEH awards hundreds of competitive, peer-reviewed grants to a broad range of nonprofit educational organizations and institutions, and to individual scholars, throughout the country. Grantees include two- and four-year colleges, universities, research institutes, museums, historical societies, libraries, archives, scholarly associations, K-12 schools, television/film/radio producers, and more. These grants help support educational advancement, professional development, and institutional activities for thousands of students, teachers, faculty, and others engaged in the humanities in communities across the US every year.
All this for not a lot of money. The NEH allocation constitutes such an infinitesimal proportion of the federal budget that the average hand calculator won't even delve into the arithmetic (yes, $146,000,000 out of roughly $3,500,000,000,000). Or, as one friend back in the Midwest used to put it, "budget dust." One would think that Congress has better things to do with its time than worry about such pennies.
Apparently, however, many of our lawmakers disagree. The House of Representatives, taking its cue from Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), has placed on the table a budget that doesn't bother cutting the NEH budget, but rather simply eliminates it. Given the politics of budget negotiation currently active on Capitol Hill, most pundits give the Ryan proposal no chance of passing the Senate. Nevertheless, one never knows what will happen to small items when the sausage of compromise starts getting chopped. Given the extreme nature of the Ryan proposal, it is important for advocates of public funding for the humanities to weigh in now. Those of us who consider the NEH important to public culture in the United States need to make our opinion known to our Senators.