The AHA Establishes Two Equity Awards

AHA Staff, November 2009

The American Historical Association has established two awards to be given annually to institutions and individuals who help to reach the goals set out in the AHA’s 1996 statement on equity, which acknowledged the Association’s commitment “to diversity in the historical profession” and called on “institutions to recruit aggressively and hire members from groups that have been historically discriminated against.”

According to the U.S. Census the proportion of the current U.S. population that is African American is slightly more than 13 percent; yet, as data compiled by the AHA shows, African Americans make up only 5 percent of the history faculty in the nation. Latinos, who constitute almost 14.4 percent of the current U.S. population, make up less than 3 percent of the history faculty. The percentage of Asian American and Native Americans within the history profession more closely approximate their proportions in the total U.S. population, but there still remains a need to increase their presence as well across the academy. It is imperative, as the 1996 statement declared, that the historical profession takes seriously its duty to remain open and available to its changing constituencies.

The two equity awards—one for individuals and another for academic units—are intended to further these goals. The awards can be conferred for new initiatives or for sustained efforts. These equity awards are meant to recognize and publicize individuals and institutions that have achieved excellence in recruiting and retaining underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the historic profession. While the awards are honorary and have no monetary component, winners will receive a certificate of recognition that specially honors their efforts to secure and sustain diversity in the profession.

Those eligible for the individual award are historians who have demonstrated an exceptional record in the recruitment and retention of students and new faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented within the historical profession. Their record might include such achievements as mentoring, program building, fundraising initiatives, pursuing civic engagement, and enhancing department culture to promote a supportive environment.

Eligible for the institutional award are such units as, for example, departments of history, public history programs, and interdisciplinary programs and research institutes. Eligible units within colleges and universities will have demonstrated an exceptional record in the recruitment and retention of students and new faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented within the historical profession. Such units may have taken advantage of university and community resources to diversify their students and faculty or to provide professional experience through teaching, research, postdoctoral, or internship programs.

Individuals or institutions can nominate themselves or be nominated. The AHA’s Committee on Minority Historians will serve as the selection committee that will review the nominations to make the awards. The nominations should include: (1) A cover letter of not more than 1,000 words, describing the new initiative or sustained effort. Each letter of nomination for the institutional award must specify the academic unit being nominated and include the name and address of an individual in the academic unit that can be contacted. (2) A minimum of three letters supporting the nomination. These letters can be from students, former students, parents, colleagues, and others. There is no set proportion or formula on the “right” mix of letters. Individuals organizing nominations should solicit a cross selection as appropriate to address the essential elements noted above. Maximum length of letters is 500 words.

The first set of these equity awards will be presented at the 125th annual meeting of the American Historical Association scheduled to be held in Boston in January 2011. To be considered for this set of awards, nominations should be received by the Committee on Minority Historians by August 1, 2010. Nominations will also be accepted on a rolling basis to be considered for future years.

Nominations should be sent electronically or by paper to Noralee Frankel, Assistant Director for Women, Minorities, and Teaching, American Historical Association, 400 A Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889. E-mail: Noralee Frankel. Questions about the equity awards may be addressed to Noralee Frankel with “Equity Awards” in the subject line.