The National History Center of the American Historical Association provides a venue in the nation's capital for all who care about the human past to make history an essential part of public conversations about current events and the shared futures of the United States and the wider world.

Response to COVID-19

In accordance with federal recommendations, the NHC is suspending the WHS lecture series for the foreseeable future. Currently, all events until May 26, 2020 have been postponed. We hope to reschedule all postponed sessions to Fall 2020. Our congressional briefing series will also be postponed.

If you have any questions about upcoming talks or rescheduled events, please contact Rachel Wheatley at rwheatley@historians.org. We appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

Announcing the New Director of the NHC:

Eric Arnesen





Eric Arnesen is the Teamsters Professor of History in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at The George Washington University.   A graduate of Wesleyan University  and the recipient of a Ph.D. in History from Yale University, he is a specialist in the history of race, labor, politics, and civil rights.  Among his books are Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality (2001), which received the 2001 Wesley-Logan Prize in Diaspora History from the AHA and the ASAALH,and Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923 (1991), which won the AHA’s John H. Dunning Prize.  He is also the author of Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with Documents, editor of the 3-volume Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History (2006), The Black Worker: Race, Labor, and Civil Rights since Emancipation (2007), andThe Human Tradition in American Labor History (2002), and co-editor of Labor Histories: Class, Politics, and the Working-Class Experience (1998).  His scholarly articles have appeared in the American Historical Review, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, American Communist History, Labor History, Labor’s Heritage, and the International Review of Social History; he was a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune and his reviews and review essays have appeared in the New Republic, the Nation, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and Dissent.  A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Harvard’s Charles Warren Center, he held the Distinguished Fulbright Chair at Uppsala University in Sweden.   He has served as co-chair of the Washington History Seminar at the Wilson Center since 2013 and is completing a biography of A. Philip Randolph.    

Policy and History in York, PA: College Students Brief Local Leaders

Drawing upon the model of the Congressional Briefing series and some of the examples from the History and Policy Education Program, Corey M. Brooks, Associate Professor of History at York College of Pennsylvania, developed a new course,  “Policy and History in York” for the Spring 2019 semester. His full reflections can be found here.

On a May night in downtown York, Pennsylvania, two blocks from city hall, I sat quietly as seven of my York College undergraduates expounded to politicians and community leaders on the histories of poverty in our community and of policy responses that had in years past attempted (and often failed) to meaningfully alleviate this deep-rooted problem.   Speaking for 90 minutes on subtopics they had selected themselves and researched over the course of a semester, these students together unfolded several key facets of the history of poverty policy in York.   The audience responded with rapt attention, as student research informed and energized attendees, including the city’s mayor, the city council president, the local constituent services director for the area’s U. S. Representative, and the CEO of York County’s official Community Action Agency.   After concluding their prepared remarks, students handled difficult, thought-provoking audience questions with comfort and skill.  Each student stood a little taller later that night as they mingled with local policymakers and college faculty.  In the process, they celebrated their hard work—work that might tangibly contribute to a community in which they now felt increasingly invested.

Welcome to York sign (Public domain)

The group had traveled quite a distance from our first class meeting in January.  At the outset, the students had little idea where they would direct their energies and widely varying experiences with history research, policy analysis, and local community engagement.  Guiding these students from that starting point to the final briefing event was perhaps the most demanding and most fulfilling teaching experience of my nine years at York College of Pennsylvania.  In this new “Policy and History in York” course, modeled on the National History Center’s congressional briefings, I challenged students to conduct the research necessary to become experts on the local history of policies that concern our community.  They then would have to work as a team to build and present a shared briefing for local decision makers.

I conceived of this course for two main reasons. The first was in response to the all too ubiquitous questioning, including (especially) in higher education itself, of the relevance of historical research.  Here was a course in which students would show peers, faculty, and the broader community how historical research could be brought to bear to contextualize current challenges.

Continue reading Policy and History in York, PA: College Students Brief Local Leaders

Recent Congressional Briefing Speaker Recieves Book Award from Organzation of American Historians

Anand Toprani, U.S. Naval War College and recent National History Center talk participant, received the 2020 Richard W. Leopold Prize from the Organization of American Historians. The Leopold prize is given every two years for the best book on foreign policy, military affairs, historical activities of the federal government, documentary histories, or biography written by a U.S. government historian or federal contract historian. See Press Release Here.