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From the 123rd Annual Meeting column of the December 2008 issue of Perspectives on History

New Plenary Roundtable: Election 2008: How "Historic" Was It?

AHA Staff, December 2008

Sunday, January 4 at 8 p.m. in the New York Hilton’s Grand Ballroom

News coverage of the recent election placed a heavy emphasis on the “historic” and “history-making” character of the event; but given the pressure of deadlines in a rapidly unfolding scenario, the media often reduced explorations of the election’s historical significance to a few simple comparisons to past personalities, politics, and events. To consider the election results from a deeper historical perspective, and to analytically examine their context, the Association has added a new plenary session to the schedule for the 123rd annual meeting New York meeting. The session, in the form of a roundtable, will be chaired by Eric Foner (Columbia Univ.). Other participants will include David Levering Lewis (NYU), Alan Brinkley (Columbia Univ.), Julian E. Zelizer (Princeton Univ.), and Jacqueline Jones (Univ. of Texas at Austin). The presentations will be followed by questions and observations from the audience.

The session will try to contextualize the election in three areas:

  1. The progress of African Americans in U.S. politics.
  2. An analysis of the political hurdles that the new administration will face, in comparison to those faced by past administrations.
  3. A world historical perspective on the election, assessing in particular its meaning in relation to the political progress of minorities (ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and so on) in other nations and discussing the question whether it already reflects, or will be, a worldwide phenomenon.

The session is still under development, so stay tuned for more details, which will be posted as they become available, on the AHA’s annual meeting web page and on AHA Today. In the meantime, we hope you will add this to your meeting calendars. The session will be held on Sunday, January 4 at 8 p.m. in the New York Hilton’s Grand Ballroom. (Remember that Monday, January 5 will be the last day of the meeting this year.) We hope you will be there!