California Past and Present Highlighted at Upcoming Conference

SACRAMENTO- California past and present will be in the spotlight when U.S. historians from across the nation convene in Sacramento next week, as a featured part of the annual conference of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), April 12-14. More than 1,700 OAH members—scholars and teachers of U.S. history as well as museum curators and other public history practitioners—are expected to attend.

From Baja to San Francisco, from the state’s indigenous and immigrant roots to its twentieth-century religious and punk cultures, and from communism to the Reagan years, OAH member historians will examine and discuss various eras, geographies, and facets of the state’s past. Tours will also invite conference attendees out into the community to explore Locke and Oak Park, Sutter’s Fort, the Stanford mansion, Old Sacramento, and the California State Railroad Museum, among other locations.

Three eminent historians will launch the conference by speaking about “California and the Nation: Past, Present, and Future” on Thursday afternoon, April 12, from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., at the Sacramento Conference Center. They are:

  • Former OAH president Vicki Ruiz, a 2014 National Humanities medalist and a specialist in Chicano/Latino studies and history at the University of California Irvine;
  • Waldo E. Martin, the Alexander F. & May T. Morrison Professor of American History & Citizenship and a specialist in African American history at the University of California Berkeley; and
  • T.J. Stiles, author of two Pulitzer Prize-winning books, Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America (2015) and The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (2009).

Together, Ruiz, Martin, and Stiles will examine not only how California and the nation have responded to one another over time but also how their contested history has in turn shaped the choices we face today.

Ruiz and Stiles will be available for media interviews.

Conference participants will also mark the fiftieth anniversary of California Newsreel, a nonprofit, social-justice film distribution and production company based in San Francisco, with a film festival of seven documentaries. “50 Years of Radical Image Making and Documenting the Past: A Conversation with Cornelius Moore of California Newsreel” on Friday April 13 at 10:00 a.m., also at the Sacramento Convention Center, will begin the two-day-long festival.

For more information about all California-focused sessions and tours, visit here.

The conference will feature presentations on a variety of eras and aspects of American history, including a Friday evening plenary session on “Confederate Monuments: What to Do?” chaired by OAH President Edward L. Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus of the University of Richmond, and a 2012 National Humanities Award Medalist.

Ayers will also be available for media interviews.

Finally, in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark last month, OAH leaders also intend to use the conference’s presence in Sacramento in a constructive way by encouraging members to donate to funds established to support Clark's children's education and community-building; discussing the issues raised by the shooting in the Thursday and Friday plenaries; and facilitating contributions from publishers of recent books on guns, policing, and racial violence to local libraries. For more information about Clark initiatives, visit here.

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Founded in 1907, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) is the world's largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship. With more than 7,500 members from the U.S. and abroad, OAH promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, encouraging wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of history practitioners. It publishes the quarterly Journal of American History, the leading scholarly publication and journal of record in the field of American history for more than nine decades. It also publishes The American Historian magazine. Formerly known as the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (MVHA), the association became the OAH in 1965 to reflect a broader scope focusing on national studies of American history. Its national headquarters are located in the historic Raintree House on Indiana University's Bloomington campus. For information, visit, e-mail, or call 812.855.7311.

Posted: April 24, 2018
Tagged: OAH Press Releases, News of the Organization, Conference