Sunday, March 30, 2008

HNN Blogs the OAH

Updated (3/31). I was too busy to blog during the Organization of American Historians meeting in New York this weekend, but Rick Shenkman at History News Network had it covered. His post from Friday, Day 1, includes You Tube video of a panels on History from the Bottom Up, Academic Freedom and the Early Cold War, a paper by Charlotte Brooks on my panel on Race, Political Activism, and the Cold War and a major panel on the anniversary of 1968. He includes a highlight from the conference: remarks by the historian of race and civil rights Manning Marable on his experience in 1968, when he traveled to Atlanta at the age of 17 to cover the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr., for a black newspaper.

Shenkman's superb coverage continued on Saturday, Day 2. The morning began with a panel remembering historian Roy Rosenzweig. HNN's post includes You Tube coverage of panels on The Forgotten War (the Mexican American War), Does liberalism have a usable past?, Conspiracies, and a debate about the meaning of the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A conference highlight was the Presidential Address delivered by Nell Irving Painter, Princeton. Shenkman writes:

A pioneer in whiteness studies, she has taught a course on it at Princeton. She is finishing a long awaited book on the subject. And last night she gave her peers reason to be jealous that they hadn't thought to work on the topic themselves.

The ingredients were familiar. What Americanist hasn't come across Emerson's book on English traits, if only in a used book store? What historian hasn't heard America described as an Anglo-Saxon culture? Who hasn't been told over and over again that Magna Carta was a kind of American freedom charter? But it is Professor Painter who has had the wit to think hard enough about these subjects to construe their role in the making of what she calls the Anglo-Saxon myth.

I am afraid I have bad news for Emersonians. They will never feel the same about Emerson after watching Professor Painter's talk. Brilliant as he was, he came to believe in a kind of ethnic determinism every bit as looney as the daft doctrines of white supremacists or anti-Semites.
Painter's address on You Tube is here.

Coverage of Sunday, Day 3, including Marilyn Young, NYU, Michael J. Kramer, Northwestern and Mark Lawrence, Texas on Vietnam, and Elizabeth Borgwardt, Washington University, on the Geneva Accords and John Yoo is here.