Center Board Member Jim Grossman Named New AHA Executive Director

The American Historical Association announced that Dr. James Grossman, currently Vice President for Research and Education at Chicago’s Newberry Library and National History Center Board member, will succeed Dr. Arnita Jones as the Association’s Executive Director. Dr. Jones will retire at the end of August.

AHA President Barbara Metcalf expressed the enthusiasm of the AHA Council over Dr. Grossman’s appointment: “He is an accomplished scholar, a passionate advocate for history, and a leader in both public humanities and history.” At the Newberry Library he has overseen programs for the general public as well as for scholars and teachers, and has built a strong reputation for bridge-building across fields and disciplines.

Dr. Grossman is the author of Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (1989) and A Chance to Make Good: African Americans, 1900-1929 (1997). He was also project director and coeditor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004), labeled by one prominent urban historian “one of the very finest and likely one of the most durable works of North American historical scholarship in our era.” A collaborative project of the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, and Northwestern University, it involved over 700 contributors, and is now available in both print and digital formats.

Dr. Grossman has been a board member of the National History Center for five years and has directed several of the Center’s history education policy efforts, including the National History Education Clearinghouse. Along with historian Stan Katz, he co-wrote the National History Center’s report “The Role of the History Major in Liberal Education” as part of a grant from the Teagle Foundation.

Current Executive Director Arnita Jones considers Grossman “an ideal person to lead the Association at a time when scholarly societies, higher education and research institutions are confronting many new challenges, including the digital revolution.” His goals for the AHA include enhancing the role of historians in public culture, collaborating with counterparts in other scholarly associations to explore new opportunities opened by innovations in digital communication, and maintaining the AHA’s strong advocacy voice on open access and other issues of importance to historians.

The American Historical Association is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by the Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies and the dissemination of historical research. It is the oldest and largest professional historical organization in the United States, bringing together nearly 5,000 institutions, 118 affiliated societies, and 15,000 individuals, including college and university faculty, public historians, independent scholars, archivists, librarians, and secondary school teachers.

Background on James Grossman

James Grossman is Vice President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library, and Senior Research Associate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and has also taught at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (1989) and A Chance to Make Good: African-Americans, 1900-1929 (1997). He was project director and coeditor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago (with Janice L. Reiff and Ann Durkin Keating, 2004), and coeditor (with Janice L. Reiff and Ann Durkin Keating) of The Encyclopedia of Chicago Online ( He also is the editor of The Frontier in American Culture (1994) and coeditor of the Univ. of Chicago Press series “Historical Studies of Urban America” (32 vols. 1992- ). His articles and short essays have focused on various aspects of American urban history, African American history, American ethnicity, and higher education. His book reviews have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and New York Newsday in addition to various academic journals. A frequent participant in the Chicago Humanities Festival, he has also spoken at the Printers Row Book Fair, and a wide variety of universities and cultural institutions locally and nationwide.

Land of Hope received prizes from the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights and the Illinois State Historical Society. A Chance to Make Good won awards from the New York Public Library and the National Council for the Social Studies. The Encyclopedia of Chicago was honored by the Scholarly Publishers Division of the Association of American Publishers and the Illinois State Historical Society. Chicago Magazine chose Grossman as one of seven “Chicagoans of the Year” in 2005.

Grossman is responsible for the Newberry’s research centers, fellowship programs, educational initiatives, and public programs. His consulting experience includes a broad variety of history-related projects (mostly films and exhibits) generated by the BBC, Smithsonian, Goodman Theater, Field Museum, New York Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Library, American Social History Project, Blackside, and a variety of independent film producers.

Professional service has included elected offices in the American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians, ethics committees for the AHA and the OAH, and Advisory Boards for the AHA, Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University, Illinois Historical Society, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and Chicago Public Library. He has served as Chair of the Board of the Chicago Metro History Education Center and President of the Hyde Park Soccer Club, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National History Center.