United States shows up in list of countries where historians' free expression has been threatened

Historians in the News

This is the 23th Annual Report of the NCH. It contains 145 pages of news about the domain where history and human rights intersect, especially about the censorship of history and the persecution of historians, archivists, and archaeologists around the globe, as reported by various human rights organizations and other sources. It mainly covers events and developments of 2016 and 2017. This circular is sent to 2848 historians and others interested in the past all over the world.

The following 106 countries are covered in the report: Albania; Algeria; Angola; Argentina; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Canada; Central African Republic; Chile; China; Colombia; Congo (Democratic Republic); Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; France; Gambia; Germany; Ghana; Greece; Guatemala; Guinea; Haiti; Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Ivory Coast; Jamaica; Japan; Kenya; Korea (North); Korea (South); Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Libya; Macedonia: Malaysia; Mali; Mauritania; Mexico; Montenegro; Morocco/Western Sahara; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nigeria; Norway; Oman; Panama; Peru; Poland; Portugal; Russia; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia/Kosovo; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; South Sudan; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Swaziland; Sweden; Switzerland; Syria; Taiwan; Tajikistan; Tanzania; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Venezuela; Vietnam.

Previous NCH Annual Reports, covering the years 1995 to 2016, can be consulted on the NCH website.


In early May 2016, Daniel Browning, a professor of religion and history at William Carey University, was dismissed despite his tenured status, reportedly because his views were too liberal and not in line with Baptism. William Carey University was a private Christian liberal arts college in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mississippi Baptist Convention. More than 500 people signed a petition in support of Browning.

On 12 May 2016, students at Stanford University held a demonstration at the History Corner to protest the history department’s decision to deny tenure to Aishwary Kumar, an assistant professor of non-Western intellectual history, saying that the history department undervalued traditions of thought from the global south. Paula Findlen, the head of the history department, stated that she respected students’ desire to support Kumar.

On 24 June 2016, an invitation to Shimon Dotan, award-winning filmmaker and member of New York University’s graduate school of journalism, to screen and discuss his documentary The Settlers at an international conference entitled “The Place of Religion in Film” at Syracuse University (SU) in March 2017, was suddenly withdrawn. The documentary chronicled the history and present state of the religious settler movement in the West Bank, where more than 400,000 Israeli Jews lived on occupied land. The SU Religion Department wrote to Dotan that it was warned that “the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] faction on campus will make matters very unpleasant for you ... if you come.” The film portrayed the settlements in a negative light and was skeptical toward many settlers.

When in September 2016 the CIA declassified documents about the United States-supported military coup in Chile in September 1973, it continued to withhold information on what it knew about planning for the coup and what intelligence it shared with then President Richard Nixon. The section on Chile of the Presidential Daily Brief dated 11 September 1973 (the day of the coup) was completely censored, as was an entire page on Chile provided to Nixon on 8 September 1973, even though thousands of once-sensitive intelligence records from the coup period have already been declassified since at least 1999. 

In mid-September 2016, the University of Berkeley, California, canceled a so-called DeCal history course, Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis, taught by undergraduate student of peace and conflict studies Paul Hadweh ([1994−]). According to the syllabus, the course would “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism,” as well as “the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine.” The course was initially approved by Hatem Bazian, an Islamic scholar at Berkeley, by the Ethnic Studies department’s head and by Berkeley’s Academic Senate. After an article in the Jewish- American newspaper The Algemeiner, entitled “UC Berkeley Offers Class in Erasing Jews From Israel, Destroying Jewish State” on 8 September 2016 and after the Amcha Initiative (an organization to protect Jewish students) sent a letter to the chancellor signed by 43 organizations saying that Hadweh “intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action to eliminate it,” the class was canceled. This, in turn, caused an uproar and after the course’s name was changed into “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Inquiry,” it was reinstated. Hadweh reportedly received death threats for trying to teach his class. 

On 10 November 2016, Frank Navarro (1951−), a history teacher at Mountain View High School, Bay Area, California, and expert in Holocaust history, was suspended and put on paid leave after a parent complained in an email over a lesson in which he examined parallels between the rise of President-elect Donald Trump and German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Navarro was not allowed to see the email nor go over the lesson plan to determine what the parent found problematic. The suspension lasted five days (originally seven). In class, Navarro had told his students that Hitler’s persecution of Jewish people bore “remarkable parallels” to Trump’s campaign rhetoric about Muslims, Latino immigrants and black Americans.

 On 10 November 2016, twenty students of the Armenian Students Association at California State University, Northridge, boycotted a lecture about Turkish leader Atatürk by George Gawrych, the Baylor University Charles Boal Ewing chair in military history. They turned their backs on Gawrych and repeatedly chanted “Turkey guilty of genocide” and “genocide denialist.” Many Armenians felt that Gawrych’s award-winning 2013 book The Young Atatürk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey praised a leader who had denied the Armenian genocide. The lecture, organized by the Association of Turkish Americans of Southern California (ATASC), was stopped.

 On 21 November 2016, Turning Point USA (an organization that supported conservative youth activism) launched a “Professor Watchlist” to expose academics with a “radical agenda in lecture halls.” An archived version of the webpage described its mission as “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Among the historians on the list of about two hundred academics were Frank Barajas, Juan Cole, Bruce Cumings, Gerald Horne, Carol Lasser, Norman Markowitz, Joan Neuberger, Gabriel Piterberg and Heather Cox Richardson. Others, such as Peter Dreier and Jennifer Adair, were on the list for being inspired by the work of “radical” historian Howard Zinn or for putting it on a reading list. The list was condemned for its many errors and for its chilling and intimidating effect on free expression. Since the website launch, professors have posted on social media to stand in solidarity with those on the list and to report their own politically motivated work to the site. In a much shared Facebook post, Richardson complained about her being mentioned on the list and her name was removed on 23 November 2016. In an open letter of solidarity of 8 December 2016, more than a hundred faculty members at the University of Notre Dame, including four historians and four art historians, wrote that they wanted their names added to Professor Watchlist, saying that those listed were “the sort of company we wish to keep.”

Read entire article at Network of Concerned Historians

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