From the historical profession’s beginnings in the late 19th and early 20th century, freedom has been a dominant theme in research, writing, and public debates on the shape, content, and character of the American experience. Over a century of scholarship and popular discussions have illuminated topics such as the diverse struggles for freedom, the denial of freedom, the limits of freedom, the prospects of freedom, the sources of freedom, the obligations of freedom, the value of freedom, the geographies of freedom, and the meaning of freedom, to name several. Marking the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in British North America, the theme of this program shifts the lens to the “Work of Freedom.” It aims to capture the labor(s) involved in identifying and securing freedom, from the colonial era and founding of the Republic through the recent election of Donald J. Trump President of the United States.
The program committee encourages proposals focusing on research, teaching, and public education that address our theme as creatively and as broadly as possible. Our theme opens up opportunities for scholars working across a variety of temporal, geographical, thematic, and topical areas in colonial North American and U.S. history. We are interested in proposals that probe the theme within the traditional fields of economic, political, diplomatic, intellectual, and cultural history; the established fields of urban, race, ethnic, labor, and women’s/gender history as well as southern, Appalachian, and western history; and the rapidly expanding fields of sexuality, LBGT, and queer history; environmental and public history; carceral state studies; and transnational and global studies across all fields, topics, and thematic emphases.
Moreover, we hope to take advantage of our meeting in Philadelphia, an iconic setting for struggles and debates over the question of freedom, to encourage proposals that explore the interplay of freedom’s work on behalf of African Americans, the poor, workers, and other disfranchised and structurally marginalized groups since people from Africa embarked upon their journey in Jamestown four centuries ago. The committee also welcomes panels, workshops, and roundtables that employ new methodologies, particularly digital humanities technology, that transcend traditional disciplinary and geographic boundaries. Finally, the 2019 Program Committee will reinforce the OAH’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion along myriad lines of difference and historic inequality, including ethnic/racial, gender/sexuality, and institutional affiliation, research/teaching, among others.