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OAH makes it official: Historians join demand that Redskins change their name

Why Historians Should Demand the Redskins Change Their Name By James Loewen

Organization of American Historians calls on Redskins to change name, logo Washington Post News Story 

The Organization of American Historians has approved a resolution introduced at its annual meeting in St. Louis twelve days ago to demand that the Redskins change their name.

OAH President Jon Butler announced today: "This morning [April 29, 2015] the OAH Executive Board met by conference call to review the resolution on the Washington Redskins approved at the 2015 OAH business meeting in St. Louis and voted unanimously to make the resolution effective immediately."

A petition demanding the change was presented at the Business Meeting of the OAH on April 18, 2015. It was approved by an overwhelming vote of the 50 or so members who were present. (See picture at the bottom of this page.) Four people opposed the motion, three abstained.  

The petition was introduced by Lee Formwalt, the former Executive Director of the OAH on behalf of James Loewen, the sociologist and historian and author of Lies My Teacher Told Me.  It was signed by 24 OAH members including two former presidents of the OAH, Eric Foner and Patty Limerick, the outgoing president who presided over the Business Meeting. (She recused herself when the Redskins topic was introduced.) An additional dozen people unaffiliated with the OAH also signed it.  (Click here to see a list of signers.)

Some members at the Business Meeting objected that the petition had been sprung on the members without advance notice.  Sharon Musher, an associate professor of history at Stockton University, indicated that this prevented a broad conversation about the issue. In January Musher was a leader in the successful movement to stop the American Historical Association from considering a resolution critical of Israel at the AHA's Business Meeting. 

In 2013 the OAH adopted rules governing the disposition of controversial social and political issues.  The rules establish four criteria that should be taken into account when the OAH is deciding whether to take a stand.  This is a screen shot of the rules as summarized in the official OAH Minutes:

Musher and others are concerned that supporters of a boycott of Israel could try to take up a resolution at next year's OAH Business Meeting.  That's prompted the extra scrutiny of the Redskins resolution and how it's being handled.  She indicated she supports the Redskins changing their name. 

This is the text of the resolution: "The Organization of American Historians hereby adds its voice to the growing demands by Native American organizations, our sister disciplines, and conscientious people of all ethnic backgrounds, to change the name and logo of the Washington "Redskins."

Click here for the statement in support of the resolution that was prepared by James Loewen and distributed to members as they entered the Business Meeting.