June 5, 2020
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. Following Mr. Floyd’s death, protests and calls for change and an end to police brutality have risen throughout the United States and internationally. The Oral History Association stands in solidarity with the family of Mr. Floyd, Black Lives Matter, protestors, and communities of color, and we echo this call for change. The killing of George Floyd is not an isolated incident, but another event in a long history of state violence and brutality toward people of color in the United States—a history that predates our country itself.
Institutionalized white supremacy is a disturbingly prominent part of American history, placing barriers to economic, social, and educational equality and creating a criminal justice system which is deeply punitive towards Black Americans. Further, militarized police actions that threaten a free press and freedom of assembly have worked to create a terrible legacy of violence and suppression towards those working to change this country.
As oral historians, we understand that through the stories of people—citizens and activists—we can confront oppression and work to create an equitable and just society. In our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and respect, and to a historical record that documents the experiences of unheard and marginalized voices, we must listen to and amplify the demands of people and communities of color. We must continue to document and expose the injustice so many have suffered for centuries, and develop new projects to expand these efforts.
In this work, it is essential we adopt anti-racist methods and practices. Further, we can and must work to address institutional racism in our institutions and our field, through developing and supporting leaders of color, providing anti-oppression training, and continually working to center the voices and experiences of those most directly impacted by oppression. People of color, whether they be colleagues, narrators, students, or patrons, must be supported and valued. Historical knowledge around police brutality and systemic racism is essential to addressing both, but Black and Brown people must have a clear, equal, and respected role in developing this knowledge.
Many of our members have dedicated their careers to documenting stories of democratic citizen action and how these efforts can enact change. We have a responsibility to understand and celebrate these successful efforts, and to engage in this work ourselves. There are a number of ways we can support current protests and calls for justice: register to vote, sign petitions, support protestors or participate in protests ourselves, donate to groups and funds working to end police violence and systemic racism, call our legislators, and educate ourselves.
As Black Americans and those acting in allyship in our communities, states, and country engage in difficult and transformative work to end police violence and racism, work that will continue long after the current moment, we are committed to supporting them and participating, now and in the future. Black Lives Matter.
The following organizations have endorsed this statement:
Baylor University Institute for Oral History
Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts Program and
Columbia Center for Oral History Research
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic (OHMAR)
Texas Oral History Association (TOHA)
UNT Oral History Program
UW-Madison Oral History Program