The May 28 strategy meeting was initiated by Historians for Peace and Democracy (H-PAD). We see this meeting as contributing to a broad movement of historians standing up for democratic values in a dangerous time. The following is an effort to share our history and experience. (A more detailed version of the history, written in 2017, can be found on the H-PAD website at https://www.historiansforpeace.org/our-history/.)
Until 2017, Historians for Peace and Democracy was known as Historians Against the War, or HAW. It was founded at the January 2003 American Historical Association convention to oppose the impending US invasion of Iraq. Once the invasion happened, HAW changed its focus to ending the occupation of Iraq and restoring civil liberties at home. Membership was defined by signing a brief petition enunciating those two goals.
In 2009 a broader mission statement was adopted, still focused primarily on international issues. Membership in HAW was defined as being in “substantial agreement” with the mission statement and indicating a desire to join. We have never had dues. Messages to our email list are typically addressed to “members and friends” of the organization, and everyone on the email list is considered eligible to vote for members of the Steering Committee (last elected in 2017 after the name change to H-PAD).
Among the high points of the past seventeen years of HAW/H-PAD have been the following:
- Passage by the American Historical Association of a resolution calling for an end to the Iraq war – the first time the AHA had opposed an ongoing US war. The resolution was passed at the January 2007 AHA convention and after a vigorous online debate was ratified by a 3-1 vote of the membership.
- Three national conferences: Austin in 2006 (featuring Howard Zinn as a keynote speaker), Atlanta in 2008, and Baltimore in 2013, with conference participants numbering between 150 and 250.
- With varying success, coordination of efforts to hold teach-ins and other forums on campuses nationwide. This was most successful in the fall of 2006, when more than forty events were held around the country. Our members have continued organizing public events on campuses nationwide during the Trump era.
- Occasional petition drives, such as a HAW-initiated historians’ statement in 2014 opposing US support for Israel’s military assault on Gaza, signed by over 1,500 scholars in the US and elsewhere.
- Panels at some AHA conventions. The best-attended have been panels on the legacy of the Bush-Cheney years (2009), historians’ responsibility regarding Palestine-Israel conflicts (2015), and how to respond to the Trump administration (2019).
- Maintenance of the HAW (now H-PAD) website (historiansforpeace.org) as a resource. Recent additions have included a series of broadsides including on the historical background of current issues (e.g., Ellen Schrecker on McCarthyism and Linda Gordon on the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s) and an ambitious “U.S. Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide” including in-depth histories of most US wars. In the months ahead we hope to greatly expand the number of broadsides and other educational materials, including videos, and are always open to new ideas.
- The email list itself (with 1383 names) is a resource that can be used to publicize activities of historians working for democracy and equal rights, whether or not H-PAD is directly involved. This may be a way in which H-PAD can help to further the goals represented at the May 28 meeting.