On Politics and the 1968 Annual Meeting
Jesse Lemisch, April 2009
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To the Editor:
David M. Darlington writes, “The 1968 [AHA] annual meeting was moved from Chicago to New York City in protest of the police riot at the Democratic Convention that summer (“123 in 125: A Brief History of AHA Annual Meetings,” Perspectives in History, March 2009). Not really. The AHA was so ardent about guarding what it presented as its political neutrality that it described the change of venue as a matter of convenience, and definitely not protest. Mayor Richard Daley’s cops had teargassed protestors (including me) in the streets of Chicago in August. In December, at its New York meeting, the AHA held a special session on “Professional Organizations and Political Issues,” which put out the “convenience” argument. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. lectured us on the need for “civility,” while Richard Wade explained the impropriety of historians identifying their institutions with their individual political activities (ignoring the fact that he had allowed the use of his name and a photo of himself teaching a University of Chicago class in “Faculty for Daley’s” 1967 campaign literature).
Meantime, upstairs and downstairs in the meeting hotel, two different radical caucuses were meeting. All this was laying the groundwork for the conflicts at the 1969 AHA meeting.1
New York City
1. For accounts of 1968 and 1969 in the AHA, see Jesse Lemisch, On Active Service in War and Peace: Politics and Ideology in the American Historical Profession (Toronto, 1975); Lemisch, “Radicals, Marxists and Gentlemen: A Memoir of Twenty Years Ago,” Radical Historians Newsletter (November 1989).