Doing History in Polarized Times - Virtual Summit
- Registration Closed
Political and cultural divisions in America today pose great challenges to the history field. While research shows that there is actually broad public support for a full and honest portrayal of American history, there are also basic disagreements that persist. How can our field navigate disputes about the past, build on areas of consensus, and make the most of the transformative potential of the coming U.S. 250th anniversary? Across two afternoons, this virtual summit will explore recent research, emerging strategies, and case studies to help history practitioners work more effectively in today’s fractious discourse. We will also consider the needs of history doers working in this difficult environment and our field’s role in identifying common ground and connecting past and present. View the schedule for the summit below, on the Schedule tab, or download the one-page program as a PDF.
AASLH is pleased to offer a discount for currently enrolled students. If this applies to you, please use the code FEBSUMMIT20# when registering.
SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
Thursday, February 8, 2024
- 12:00 to 1:00pm ET Opening Address
- 1:15 to 2:30pm ET Framing the Problem: American Understandings of History
- 2:45 to 3:30pm ET Trust and Strategy in Communication
- 3:45 to 4:30pm ET Breakout Discussions
Friday, February 9, 2024
- 12:00 to 1:15pm ET More Productive Conversations about History: Lessons from the Field
- 1:30 to 2:45pm ET Supporting History Practitioners in Polarized Times
- 3:00 to 3:30pm ET Virtual Coffee Break
- 3:45 to 4:45pm ET Closing Conversation
Recording and Captioning
This event will be recorded. Registrants of this event receive complimentary access to the recording in their Dashboard. Captioning will be provided for the live event.
How to Register
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Thursday, February 8, 2024 | 12 EST The virtual summit kick offs with an opening address that explores the nature and purpose of whole history, ways to build upon broad support in favor of it, and what we mean by finding common ground and why it matters. At a time when many seem to be existing on parallel planes of reality, the opening address will consider shared approaches for moving forward while providing a frame for the summit’s subsequent sessions.
The virtual summit kick offs with an opening address that explores the nature and purpose of whole history, ways to build upon broad support in favor of it, and what we mean by finding common ground and why it matters. At a time when many seem to be existing on parallel planes of reality, the opening address will consider shared approaches for moving forward while providing a frame for the summit’s subsequent sessions.
James Bryant Conant University Professor, Harvard University, and Director of the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation, Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Danielle Allen is a seasoned leader, public policy and public affairs expert, national voice on pandemic response, and distinguished academic and author. Danielle’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change as board chair for a $6 billion foundation, writing for the Washington Post, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts.
Currently the James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director of the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center, Allen co-chaired the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, formed to explore how best to respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in political and civic life. Its final and bipartisan report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, was released in June 2020 and includes six strategies and 31 ambitious recommendations to help the nation emerge as a more resilient democracy by 2026, the nation’s 250th anniversary. During the height of COVID in 2020, Allen’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in policies adopted in federal legislations and a Biden executive order. Her book Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus, “a trenchant call for reimagining how America functions in a time of crisis” (Publishers Weekly), builds off this scholarship to offer a plan for creating a more resilient democratic polity—one that can better respond to both the present pandemic and future crises.
Allen is also the author of several books addressing the broad history and personal significance of justice and democracy including Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, Cuz: An American Tragedy, and, most recently, Justice by Means of Democracy.
With Justice by Means of Democracy, Allen offers a bold and urgent articulation of a new political philosophy: power-sharing liberalism. At a time of great social and political turmoil, when many residents of the leading democracies question the ability of their governments to deal fairly and competently with serious public issues, and when power seems more and more to rest with the wealthy few, Allen reconsiders the very foundations of justice and democracy. The surest path to a just society in which all have the support necessary to flourish is the protection of political equality, and recognizing this leads to an alternative strategy for the project of political economy. By showing how we all might fully share power and responsibility across politics, economy and society, Allen advances a culture of civic engagement and empowerment, revealing the universal benefits of an effective government in which all participate on equal terms.
Allen’s orientation towards the promise and demands of America’s democracy are on full display in Our Declaration. Inspired by her work in justice and citizenship, and troubled by the fact that so few Americans actually know what the Declaration of Independence says, Allen set out to explore the arguments of the Declaration, reading it with both adult night students and University of Chicago undergraduates. Keenly aware that the Declaration is riddled with contradictions―liberating some while subjugating slaves and Native Americans―Allen and her students nonetheless came to see that the Declaration makes a coherent and riveting argument about equality. They found not a
historical text that required memorization, but an animating force that could and did transform the course of their everyday lives. In an “uncommonly elegant, incisive, and often poetic primer on America’s cardinal text,” Our Declaration brings these insights to the general reader, illuminating the “three great themes of the Declaration: equality, liberty, and the abiding power of language” (David M. Kennedy). With its cogent analysis and passionate advocacy, Our Declaration thrillingly affirms the continuing relevance of America’s founding text, ultimately revealing what democracy actually means and what it asks of us. Our Declaration was awarded the Heartland Prize, the Zócalo Book Prize, and the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize.
She is the recipient of the 2020 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, an award administered by the Library of Congress that recognizes work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes as well as a MacArthur Fellowship and honorary degrees from multiple colleges and universities. For more information on Danielle Allen please visit her on Twitter, at scholar.harvard.edu/danielleallen/home, and explore her page on The Washington Post.
Doing History in Polarized Times - Day 1 / Session 1 - Framing the Problem: American Understandings of History
Thursday, February 8, 2024 | 1:15 EST Why is doing history so challenging today, and what factors are contributing to this difficulty? Is the situation worse than it has been before? And what does recent research tell us about the American public’s understanding of history? The virtual summit’s first panel will provide attendees with a shared foundation of context and evidence to help inform approaches to practicing history in an age of polarized discourse.
Why is doing history so challenging today, and what factors are contributing to this difficulty? Is the situation worse than it has been before? And what does recent research tell us about the American public’s understanding of history? The virtual summit’s first panel will provide attendees with a shared foundation of context and evidence to help inform approaches to practicing history in an age of polarized discourse.
Professor of History
Western Washington University
Johann Neem is a historian who studies early American history and education. His writings have appeared in such venues as the Hedgehog Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, USA Today, and the Washington Post. He is author of the books What’s the Point of College? and Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education. With Joanne B. Freeman, he edited the essay collection Jeffersonians in Power (2019). Neem is currently co-editor of the Journal of the Early Republic.
More In Common USA
Dan Vallone is a national expert and authority on polarization and social cohesion in America. Dan has led some of the most high-profile public-opinion studies of polarization and worked with stakeholders across the political spectrum on efforts to manage the risks and challenges of polarization. Dan regularly speaks about the ways to address polarization and his work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic, C-SPAN, Boston Globe, CNN, Financial Times, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, the Undivided Attention podcast, and a range of other media outlets.
Dan brings a unique set of experiences to his work on polarization and social cohesion. He has has worked in politics at the national, state, and local level; he is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; and he has led large-scale research and strategic communications initiatives on a range of issues.
Dan graduated from West Point, served six years as an infantry officer, and has an MBA from Harvard and a MA in Contemporary China from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
Susie Wilkening (she/her) has over 25 years of experience in museums, including nearly 20 years leading custom projects for museums as well as fielding groundbreaking national research on the role of museums in American society. She is the primary researcher for the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers (in partnership with AAM), and shares her work at museum conferences, with the media, and with the museum field at the Data Stories page of wilkeningconsulting.com.
Modupe Labode (Moderator)
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Modupe Labode is a curator of African American Social Justice History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She taught history and museum studies at IUPUI, where she was also a public scholar of African American History and Museums. Previously, she was the chief historian at the Colorado Historical Society (History Colorado). Labode's areas of interest include histories of monuments and commemoration; Black public art; African American history of the Midwest and West; and public interpretations of Black history at museums and public history sites.
Thursday, February 8, 2024 | 2:45 EST The virtual summit’s second session features two TED talk-style presentations about themes vital to productive conversation: trust and strategy. The speakers will address questions including how to navigate difficult conversations with competing perspectives and what strategic communication is and why it matters. This session will offer skills critical to effective communication across varied scenarios.
The virtual summit’s second session features two TED talk-style presentations about themes vital to productive conversation: trust and strategy. The speakers will address questions including how to navigate difficult conversations with competing perspectives and what strategic communication is and why it matters. This session will offer skills critical to effective communication across varied scenarios.
Chief Executive Officer
Nat Kendall-Taylor, PhD, is chief executive officer at the FrameWorks Institute, a research think tank in Washington, DC. He leads a multi-disciplinary team in conducting and implementing research on public understanding and framing of social issues. A psychological anthropologist, Nat publishes widely on communications research and lectures frequently. He is senior fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, visiting professor at the Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine, and fellow at the British-American Project.
As a facilitator and museum professional, Sarah believes that how we engage matters. She has spent her career training our nation's story tellers - museums, national parks, and cultural centers - to help their visitors better discuss immigration, mass incarceration, gun violence, climate change, slavery, and both reproductive and civil rights. And every once in a while, she works with penguins. Sarah’s projects help audiences grapple with perspectives outside of their own lived experience, using dialogue to connect communities across difference. Prior to launching her own firm, Dialogic Consulting, in 2020, Sarah was a Senior Director at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, worked as the Director of Education at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and was the founding curator of the Arab American National Museum. She serves on the American Jewish Museums Advisory Council and is a member of the Emeritus Council of the American Association of State and Local History.
Doing History in Polarized Times - Day 2 / Session 1 - More Productive Conversations about History: Lessons from the Field
Friday, February 9, 2024 | 12:00 PM Take a deeper look at specific examples of how organizations are improving history discourse. To start the second day of the virtual summit, panelists will explore topics such as techniques for strengthening public communication about history, leveraging existing common ground, strategies for helping history educators and history doers traverse today’s political terrain, and how history organizations can mobilize their communities to advocate for whole history.
Take a deeper look at specific examples of how organizations are improving history discourse. To start the second day of the virtual summit, panelists will explore topics such as techniques for strengthening public communication about history, leveraging existing common ground, strategies for helping history educators and history doers traverse today’s political terrain, and how history organizations can mobilize their communities to advocate for whole history.
W. Todd Groce
President & CEO
Georgia Historical Society
W. Todd Groce is President & CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. Dr. Groce was born in Tidewater Virginia and grew up there and in Memphis, the capital of the Mississippi Delta. He holds three degrees in history, including a PhD from the University of Tennessee. For over 30 years he has been an educator, administrator, and author, leading non-profit institutions in raising over $100 million for education, capital projects, and endowment. Dr. Groce has written and co-edited two books on the Civil War era and over 100 articles and book reviews for publications ranging from academic journals to the New York Times. A frequent lecturer on Southern history, Dr. Groce has made numerous television appearances on C-SPAN, the History Channel, and the BBC. He serves on the board of directors of many non-profit and educational institutions, including the Jepson Scholars Program, which advances global leadership through study at the University of Oxford. Over the past ten years, he has been listed by both Georgia Trend and James magazines as one of the “Most Influential Georgians.” An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys hiking, hunting, and walking old battlefields.
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Chicago History Museum
Thema McDonald has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing communications, leading all facets of brand marketing, including strategic planning, creative content development and production, events, and media engagement. As Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Chicago History Museum, McDonald is responsible for building public and media awareness, contributing to the success of the Museum’s exhibitions and programs, increasing visitor attendance and revenue, and delivering marketing solutions organization-wide. She is committed to developing strategic partnerships within the Museum and in the larger community.
Senior Director of Cultural Resources
National Parks Conservation Association
Alan Spears serves as NPCA’s in-house historian and advocates for the preservation of historic and cultural resources across the United States. His most recent successes include passage of the National Heritage Area Act (December 2022) and the designation of the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument (July 2023). Alan is currently helping to lead a campaign to win designation of a new national park commemorating the life and legacy of Julius Rosenwald. Alan remains the only NPCA staff person ever to be rescued from a tidal marsh by a Park Police helicopter.
John Garrison Marks (Moderator)
Director, Public History Research Lab
American Association for State and Local History
John Marks joined AASLH in 2017 and currently serves as the Director of the AASLH Public History Research Lab and the Senior Manager, Strategic Initiatives. As Director of the Research Lab, he leads AASLH’s field-wide research initiatives about the public history community and the role of history in American life. He also manages several other partnerships, initiatives, and special projects, including leading field-wide planning for the 250th anniversary of the United States and supporting internal survey and data efforts. John is a historian of race and slavery in the United States and Atlantic World and holds a Ph.D. in history from Rice University and a BA from Lynchburg College. He is a native of New Jersey.
Doing History in Polarized Times - Day 2 / Session 2 - Supporting History Practitioners in Polarized Times
Friday, February 9, 2024 | 1:30 EST Fieldwide practitioners in this virtual summit session will discuss how to support history doers in navigating the current climate and how these needs vary based on position, experience, type of organization, and/or identity. The session will also address crucial values and skills that could yield more productive public discourse. Panelists will consider ways to cultivate allies among our audiences and partners to better serve both their and our needs.
Fieldwide practitioners in this virtual summit session will discuss how to support history doers in navigating the current climate and how these needs vary based on position, experience, type of organization, and/or identity. The session will also address crucial values and skills that could yield more productive public discourse. Panelists will consider ways to cultivate allies among our audiences and partners to better serve both their and our needs.
The American LGBTQ+ Museum
Ben Garcia (he/him) has worked for 20 years to help museums become places of welcome and belonging for all people. He started as a gallery guide and educator, moved on to exhibition development, and then served in middle- and upper-management administrative roles, before joining the American LGBTQ+ Museum as Executive Director. He has presented and published regularly on creating structural equity in museums through transparency, accountability, fair labor practices, and by adding missing voices and perspectives. Ben graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with a B.A. in Art and from Bank Street College of Education with an M.S. Ed. In Museum Leadership.
President & CEO, Thomas W. Haas Endowed Chair
Strawbery Banke Museum
Linnea Grim joined Strawbery Banke in 2023 after most recently serving as the vice president of Guest Experiences for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, a private nonprofit that owns and operates Monticello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Grim has 23 years of experience working in leadership positions at nationally relevant historic sites, history organizations, and in the Office of the Curator at the Supreme Court of the United States. She spent the last 16 years at Monticello serving as Hunter J. Smith Director of Education & Visitor Programs and Manager of Interpretive Programs prior to joining Monticello’s executive team in 2021. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from The College of William and Mary, and a Master’s degree in history museum studies from The Cooperstown Graduate Program.
Nicole A. Moore
Director of Education
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Nicole A. Moore is a public historian and consultant with over a decade of museum experience. Her passion has been helping historic sites and museums strengthen their interpretation of the enslaved through workshops and training sessions, interpretive planning, and exhibition review. In her current role, Nicole serves as the Director of Education at the National Center for Civil Rights in Atlanta, leading a multi-year expansion of educational content developed by and for The Center. Engaging audiences that range from K-12, to Fortune 500 C-suite executives and professional sports teams, Nicole urges groups to seek ways to protect the civil and human rights of all. Her publications include chapters for Interpreting Slavery and Interpreting the Civil War for Museums and Historic Sites, as well as Radical Roots: Public History and a Tradition of Social Justice Activism. A proud Charlotte 49er, Nicole received her BA in Psychology, and MA in History with a concentration in Public History from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Rick Noguchi (Moderator)
President & CEO
Rick Noguchi is the President and CEO of California Humanities, the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the humanities in California. Previously, Rick served as the chief operating officer at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles, where he led the strategic direction of the museum and oversaw programs, development, and communications. He has an MFA in creative writing and an MBA in organizational development and he is a published poet (The Ocean Inside Kenji Takezo), children’s book author (Flowers from Mariko), and an avid surfer.
Friday, February 9, 2024 | 3:45 EST Speakers in this final session will tie together the various themes of the virtual summit, consider takeaways and lingering questions, and discuss how the summit’s lessons can be put into to practice in the field. The speakers will also consider the history field’s role in handling disagreements about the past and its connection to the present. Finally, the panel will explore the context and transformative potential of the 250th.
Speakers in this final session will tie together the various themes of the virtual summit, consider takeaways and lingering questions, and discuss how the summit’s lessons can be put into to practice in the field. The speakers will also consider the history field’s role in handling disagreements about the past and its connection to the present. Finally, the panel will explore the context and transformative potential of the 250th.
Daina Ramey Berry
Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts
University of California at Santa Barbara
Dr. Berry is Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Berry is an historian, a “scholar of the enslaved,” and a specialist on gender and slavery as well as Black women’s history in the United States. She is the award-winning author/editor of six books. Her most recent publication, A Black Women’s History of the United States, co-authored with Kali Nicole Gross, is an empowering testament of Black women’s ability to build communities in the face of oppression, and their continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism. Dr. Berry completed her BA, MA, and PhD in African American Studies and U.S. History at the University of California Los Angeles.
Professor of History of Education and Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education
University of Pennsylvania
Jonathan Zimmerman is Professor of History of Education and the Berkowitz Professor in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman is the author of Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed.) and eight other books. Zimmerman is also a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, the New York Review of Books, and other popular newspapers and magazines. Zimmerman taught for 20 years at New York University, where he received its Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008.
Ramin Ganeshram (Moderator)
Westport Museum for History & Culture
Ramin Ganeshram is the Executive Director of the Westport Museum for History & Culture in Westport CT. A culinary historian focused on BIPOC foodways in colonial North America and the Caribbean and Early Federal America, she is a chef and journalist educated at Columbia University Graduate School of journalism. Ganeshram is noted for her work surfacing the hidden history of Hercules Posey, the chef enslaved by George Washington. She has been recognized in evolving the Westport Museum from a small, local house museum to a regional history Museum focused on making history whole through inclusive interpretation.