AASLH’s Advocacy and Leadership Initiatives
As a professional association for history practitioners and institutions throughout the country, AASLH takes on a major role providing leadership and advocacy for the history field. By building coalitions around key issues, developing and monitoring best practices for the field, and advocating on behalf of the history community with public officials at the national level, AASLH strives to advance the field and to better position history as a critical component of American life. AASLH helps ensure that the field is continually looking towards the future.
In early 2021, state legislatures and local school boards across the United States began enacting laws and policies to severely restrict the teaching in history classrooms of certain subjects, such as race and sex, which some activists claimed were too “divisive.” By July 2021, a rising number of gag orders on teachers were being echoed by book bans directed at schools and local libraries. Initially, such efforts targeted K-12 educators and their students. But the wave of censorship spread to state colleges and universities and had implications for museums and historic sites that provide educational resources for students and teachers.
AASLH and other national organizations have characterized these restrictive state and local policies as outright censorship, attempts to prevent our young people from learning about the full scope of American history. Our position is that we move forward together as a society by learning from the mistakes and successes of the past, not by erasing or ignoring what is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Issue Brief: Educational Censorship in America: Provides a short overview of efforts to censor history and restrict the freedom to learn in classrooms across the country.
Action Guide for History Censorship: Offers a framework for planning how your organization can respond to attempts to censor history education.
Learn from History: AASLH is an inaugural member of this coalition focused on facilitating broad-based, effective communication to oppose the censorship of history education.
More in Common’s report: Defusing the History Wars: Finding Common Ground in Teaching America’s National Story and brief video summary
PEN America reports
- 5 Myths about Educational Gag Orders
- America’s Censored Classrooms
- Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools
National Coalition for History resource page: AASLH is a lead member of NCH, which has compiled a summary of the “divisive concepts” issue and multiple resource sites of use to historians and history educators.
AHA’s Teaching History with Integrity: Provides resources and support for history educators facing intensifying controversies about the teaching of the American past.
NCSS’s The Freedom to Teach: The National Council for the Social Studies has a statement on “School districts, the most active battlefield in the American culture wars today.”
As we approach the U.S. “Semiquincentennial” anniversary in 2026, AASLH is providing key leadership for the history community as we all prepare for this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We are monitoring national, regional, and state commemoration plans as they develop, serving as a clearinghouse of information for history organizations and practitioners at the local, state, and national levels. We are publishing resources to help guide commemoration planning, like webinars, blog posts, and other publications. In addition, we are in communication with other national initiatives, including the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, to help ensure that the values and goals of the history community are represented well in national commemoration efforts. We have also organized a national coordinating committee, facilitating communication and collaboration among major organizations, institutions, and agencies. Finally, we are outlining major goals and themes for the anniversary that can help align the work of a diverse and dynamic field over the next several years.
To learn more about AASLH and the 250th Anniversary, click here.
Each year, the American Alliance of Museums organizes Museums Advocacy Day, a two-day event that brings hundreds of museum professionals from around the country to Washington, DC to advocate on behalf of the field to national legislators.
AASLH sponsors AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day every year and our council meets in concert with Advocacy Day so that council members and staff may participate in the two-day event. We also use the timing and Washington location of Advocacy Day each year to focus attention on planning for the U.S. Semiquincentennial.
AAM and AASLH also cooperate on other important advocacy issues as they arise.
AASLH is a leading member of the National Coalition for History (NCH) and holds a seat on the NCH Policy Board. NCH is a consortium of over 50 organizations advocating on behalf of federal legislation and regulatory issues affecting historians, archivists, teachers, researchers, and other stakeholders. Priorities include federal funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Archives and Records Administration, including the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Parks Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress; the declassification of and public access to federal records; and strengthening of history education.
The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) monitors and takes action on a range of federal funding and policies issues that affect work in the humanities. AASLH is a member of the alliance and works with the NHA to share important humanities advocacy messages with our members.
Launched in February 2019, National Inventory of Humanities Organizations (NIHO) is a searchable online database encompassing 45,700 not-for-profit, for-profit, and government entities engaged in humanities scholarship and/or in bringing humanities knowledge or skills to various audiences. Of these, more than 13,000 public history organizations are represented.
AASLH plays an ongoing advisory role in NIHO. The Humanities Indicators project, which is part of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, created and maintains NIHO. If you know of an organization that is missing from the database, you may nominate it for inclusion using a form on the NIHO site.
Each December, AASLH convenes a gathering of the leaders of state-level history organizations around the country. We also facilitate virtual meetings of this group at other times during the year through Zoom. This group represents the diversity of state organizations, encompassing both public and private institutions with varying sizes and missions. But they share a common scope of responsibilities, and this meeting offers their leaders an opportunity to discuss the challenges facing their institutions and the field, share ideas and questions, and develop creative and collaborative solutions. By bringing together the leaders of these organizations, AASLH provides a venue in which state-level history organizations can think broadly about the future of the field. Founded in 1968 as the State Historical Administrators Council, this group has been meeting annually since its first convening in 1969 in Chicago.
Are you the leader of a state historical organization? Join the SHAM discussion to share ideas and questions with your colleagues around the country. Learn more in the AASLH Community Center or contact dichtl[at]aaslh .org.
- 2023: Tacoma, Washington
- 2024: St. Paul, Minnesota
- 2025: Washington, D.C.
- 2022: Richmond, Virginia
- 2021: Denver, Colorado
- 2020: Online
- 2019: Montgomery, Alabama
- 2018: Boise, Idaho
- 2017: Indianapolis, Indiana
- 2016: Savannah, Georgia
- 2015: San Francisco, California
- 2014: Nashville, Tennessee
- 2013: Santa Fe, New Mexico
- 2012: Denver, Colorado
- 2011: Boston, Massachusetts
- 2010: Portland, Oregon
- 2009: Wilmington, Delaware
- 2008: Washington, D.C.
- 2007: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- 2006: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 2005: Austin, Texas
- 2004: Charleston, South Carolina
- 2003: Reno, Nevada
- 2002: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- 2001: Boise, Idaho
- 2000: Frankfort, Kentucky
- 1999: Tacoma, Washington
. . .
- 1969: Chicago, Illinois
- 1968: Kansas City, Missouri (as “State History Administrators Council”)
AASLH is a key partner in the History Relevance initiative, a coalition of history organizations dedicated to promoting a shared language, tools, and strategies to mobilize history organizations in the United States around the relevance and value of history. History Relevance supports history organizations that encourage the public to use historical thinking skills to actively engage with and address contemporary issues and to value history for its relevance to modern life. The initiative developed the “Value of History” statement, which nearly 400 history organizations around the nation have endorsed. To learn how your organization can endorse the statement and use relevance to shape your work, visit historyrelevance.com