OHA Statement on the Banning of Ideas

April 2023

The Oral History Association stands with educators, students, activists and institutions who ask critical questions about U.S. history, and whose work provides the public with true accounts of the past while creating generative discussion in the present. We condemn all efforts, legislative and otherwise, to curtail research and education on the humanity and realities of persecuted peoples and communities in the United States.

For generations, the field of oral history has grounded itself in a set of values that serve to cultivate democratic culture: sensitivity, respect, empathy, humility, open-mindedness. At all levels of our work, we make concerted efforts to achieve equality by dealing openly with the facts of power and the pernicious realities of inequality. With this purpose in mind, the OHA reaffirms its commitment to our methodology’s core strengths towards justice and equality.

We are deeply concerned by the actions of Florida’s Department of Education to limit the teaching of Black Studies and African American History, the Idaho Senate Concurrent Resolution 118 (passed April  2022), Florida law HB 1557 (passed July 2022) and similar legislation around the country. We understand that these attacks on academic freedom are not new and will be followed by others. We commit ourselves to stay engaged, to keep our membership informed, and to provide direct support to those affected whenever possible.


In this spirit, the OHA commits to the following, designed to support our members and their communities, whose scholarship, pedagogy and activism are under threat of harassment, cancellation and criminalization:

  • CREATE SPACE FOR IDEAS & DIALOGUE: If you are a scholar, educator, student or activist practicing oral history who is targeted by anti-intellectual legislation or harassment, or would like to promote your work on these issues, we would love to hear from you. We offer opportunities to publish, present talks to our members, and encourage you to share experiences to mobilize and document the evolution of concerns named in this statement. OHA publications, blogs, social media and annual meetings are resources for keeping the battle for academic freedom in the public eye. To contact us, please write to one of the co chairs of OHA’s Advocacy Committee: Anna Sheftel (anna.sheftel@concordia.ca) or Liz Strong  (elh2166@columbia.edu).
  • PROVIDE SUPPORT: Oral Historians at Risk, an initiative of OHA’s Advocacy Committee, seeks to support oral historians facing political or legal persecution for their work. For more information, visit our page.
  • SHARE EDUCATIONAL TOOLS: OHA will foster and disseminate oral histories and pedagogical resources from an anti racist and LGBTQ+ affirming perspective for academic and grassroots education.

It is challenging to address threats facing academic freedom that are happening at different levels, in school boards, cities and states across America, using different tactics and language. Nevertheless, we believe that together, we can take collective action and organize towards a more just world.

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