AHA sessions

Radical History Review Affiliate Sessions for the 2022 American Historical Association Meeting

Formed in Conjunction with Historians for Peace & Democracy


  1. Albert Woodfox and Black Resistance to the Carceral State

Albert Woodfox, the author of Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement will dialogue with Rhonda Williams and Margaret Power about his forty years as a political prisoner at the notorious State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. He will discuss his work with two others, the Angola Three, to form a Black Panther chapter in prison and his struggle for prisoners’ rights. Woodfox’s thoughts and experiences offer a penetrating and scathing insider’s view on the carceral state and an inspirational perspective on his ability to both resist this punitive system and obtain concrete improvements in his and other prisoners’ lives.

  • Margaret M. Power, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL (Chair)
  • Albert Woodfox, Independent Scholar, New Orleans, LA
  • Rhonda Williams, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN


  1. Debating Israel and Apartheid:  Historical Comparisons and Historical Fallacies

Today, we see renewed academic and political attention to the concept and application of “apartheid” as state policy, in large part because of the controversy regarding whether the State of Israel has deliberately pursued such a policy towards Palestinians inside and outside its formal borders. This roundtable will bring together scholars from different historical subdisciplines and geographical foci to consider the formal theorization of apartheid in South Africa, as well as earlier instances (e.g. Jim Crow Mississippi) which influenced that model, and later articulations of state-driven ethnoracial hierarchies.

  • Andor D. Skotnes, Russell Sage College, Troy, NY (Chair)
  • Jonathan Alshech, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC
  • Sean Jacobs, The New School, New York, NY
  • Alex Lichtenstein, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
  • Areej Sabbagh-Khoury, Hebrew University, Jerusalem


  1. Free Speech and Koch Money: How to Defend Yourself and Your Colleagues from the Right’s Campus Culture War
    The roundtable will explore with co-authors Isaac Kamola, a political scientist, and Ralph Wilson, a mathematician, the findings of their forthcoming book, Free Speech and Koch Money: Manufacturing a Campus Culture War. The book demonstrates that the so-called free speech crisis engulfing campuses is manufactured, produced by political operatives, funded by dark-money donors, and intentionally designed to achieve specific political outcomes. Kamola and Wilson will explore the motivations and infrastructure behind the fast-multiplying clashes and open a discussion on how faculty, students and administrators might better respond. Then Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains, will join the conversation.
  • Andor D. Skotnes, Russell Sage College, Troy, NY (Temporary Chair)
  • Ralph Wilson, UnKoch My Campus, Tallahassee, FL
  • Isaac Kamola, Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Nancy MacLean, Duke University, Durham, NC


  1. Gambling with Armageddon, Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis…and China Today

Focusing on Martin Sherwin’s new book, “Gambling with Armageddon,” the participants will discuss diverging perspectives on the evolution US nuclear policy since 1945. An important theme is how that policy has emerged in the present, with particular emphasis on the developing nuclear competition with China.

  • Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra University, Brooklyn, NY (Chair)
  • Martin Sherwin, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
  • Lynn Eden, Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford, CA
  • Fredrik Logevall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA


  1. Radical Biography: Confrontations of Race, Gender, Power and Privilege
    What do the lives of individuals reveal about power and privilege and about the forces that oppose it? Answers can be found in the lives of a refugee from Nazi-occupied Warsaw who became an advocate for people fleeing violence in Central America and Haiti; of a former Black Power-era activist turned US congressman who spearheaded solidarity with African liberation; of an elite Indian diplomat who used her privilege as an ambassador and President of the UN General Assembly to promote peace; and of a young revolutionary leader of 1980s Burkina Faso who fought for social justice before he was assassinated.
  • David Nasaw, Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY (Chair and commentator)
  • “We Do Not Become Refugees by Choice”: From Occupied Poland to California, Teresa Meade, Union College, Schenectady, NY
  • In This Land of Plenty: Mickey Leland and Africa in American Politics Benjamin Talton, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
  • The Most Remarkable Woman: The International Life and Diplomacy of Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Manu Bhagavan, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, New York, NY
  • Thomas Sankara: A Revolutionary in Cold War Africa, Brian Peterson, Union College, NY, Schenectady, NY


  1. Rethinking Civil Rights and Black Politics in the Antebellum North
    Co-Sponsor: African American Intellectual History Society
    This roundtable discussion uses the 2021 publication of Van Gosse’s The First Reconstruction and Kate Masur’s Until Justice Be Done as a starting point for reconsidering Black life and politics in the antebellum North and highlighting new directions in the field.
  • Van E. Gosse, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA (Chair)
  • Kate Masur, Northwestern University, Evanston
  • Christopher James Bonner, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
  • Christy Clark-Pujara, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI
  • Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • Chernoh Sesay, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
  1. Strategic Discussion:  What Role Can Historians and Historically Oriented Intellectuals Play in the Current Crisis?

What role can historians and historically oriented intellectuals play in confronting imperialism, white supremacy, climate destruction, patriarchy, and other emergencies? This session will feature brief video screenings and presentations on the ways that scholars and educators are using their skills to help empower workers, students, and grassroots organizations. Most of the session will consist of a collective strategy discussion.

  • Kevin A. Young, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (Chair)
  • Diana Sierra Becerra, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
  • Panel of leading H-PAD and radical history-oriented activists


  1. Teaching Contemporary Controversies in the Secondary School History Curriculum

Secondary school history teachers and university-based teacher educators discuss how they use the study of the past to help students understand contemporary crises and an examination of contemporary cries to deepen student understanding of history. This approach to teaching history can involve risks and difficult choices in today’s highly charged political climate. Teachers explain strategies they use to engage students in a critical examination of the past.

  • Barbara Winslow, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY (Chair)
  • Adeola Tella-Williams, Uniondale High School, Uniondale, NY
  • Pablo Muriel, Alfred E. Smith High School, Bronx, NY
  • Chris Dier. Chalmette High School, St. Bernard Parish, LA
  • Cynthia Vitere, South Side High School, Rockville Center, NY

Alan Singer, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

  1. Year One of the Biden Administration:  Where Do We Go from Here?

January 2022 marks one year from the attempted seizure of the Capitol by white nationalists backed by President Trump, and the inauguration of an administration committed to restoring democracy, the rule of law, and mutual respect and fairness. This roundtable of scholars and activists will focus on evaluating this very consequential year, focusing on what the Biden Administration has done, could have done, and should do, to reconstruct a new and better United States. It will also interrogate the role of the progressive movements that played a central role in the battles of 2016-2020: where do we go from here?

  • Barbara Epstein, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA (Chair)
  • Alexander Aviña, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
  • Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, DC
  • Kellie Carter Jackson, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MD
  • Nancy MacLean, Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Gabriel E. Winant, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL



  1. The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s

(AHA Panel Co-Sponsored by RHR)

This panel will consist of a roundtable discussion about the transformation of the academic community during the long sixties that takes as its point of departure Ellen Schrecker’s forthcoming book, The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s (University of Chicago Press, fall 2021). As the first analytical overview of American higher education’s most turbulent decade, this work deals with a subject – the academy – that not only should interest all AHA members, but also has contemporary implications for our entire profession. This panel, composed of scholars and activists from different generations who have studied and/or participated in the events chronicled in The Lost Promise, will discuss the largely unstudied connections between the political, social, and intellectual movements that roiled the nation’s campuses from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.

Until politics intruded, the late 1950s to the mid-1960s was considered the golden age of academe — at least for white men. Generously funded and viewed as essential for national security, economic growth, and social mobility, academia shed some of its earlier elitism and embraced an ostensibly egalitarian mission. It also grew exponentially – a development that, along with the social and political turmoil of the following decade, created an unprecedented crisis. Seeking a more democratic university, some students and faculty members challenged their schools’ systemic racism and complicity with the war in Vietnam. Others pushed for educational innovations, while developing fields like Black, Women’s, and Third World Studies. In some cases, activists embraced the confrontational tactics that made their campuses front-page news – and sparked a backlash that transformed the once revered university into the beleaguered institution we now inhabit.

Among the questions the panel will explore are the following: Did higher education actually have a golden age? How did the pressure for a more democratic university manifest itself and what was its impact? How did the academy relate to the state during the height of the Cold War? How did the 1960s transform the academic profession and its notion of academic freedom? Finally, how does a broader perspective on the academy in the sixties help us understand not only those turbulent years, but also the subsequent course of higher education and American political culture?

Panelists will approach these and other questions from perspectives based on their own experiences and scholarship.

  • Ellen Schrecker will discuss what she hopes The Lost Promise can contribute to our national conversation about higher education and its pivotal role in the 1960s.
  • Sociologist Richard Flacks will offer insights about his experiences within the academic New Left.
  • [To be determined] will address some of the crucial racial issues that challenged the university.
  • Historian Jeremy Varon, a current activist and founder of the journal, The Sixties, will assess the current state of scholarship on that period.