The Department of History Issues Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States

Dartmouth History Department Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States


We, the Faculty of the Dartmouth History Department, share the world-wide outrage that lethal police power ended George Floyd's life. We speak out now in solidarity with the Floyd family and with the loved ones of Breonna Taylor, another recent victim of senseless police violence. We are sickened by the vigilante killing of Ahmaud Arbery captured on video earlier this year. We believe that these and countless other acts of violence must be situated within the long American history of anti-Black racism. We draw attention to the succinct and powerful indictment of this shameful legacy circulated by the American Historical Association this week. This statement appears below in full.1


In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois used his training as a historian to forecast that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line. Now that we are well into the twenty-first century, we deplore the repeated disregard for Black lives that violates all norms of human decency. As historians, we echo and expand DuBois's condemnation of what the AHA terms the sordid history of racial violence in the United States. We heed DuBois's admonition to consider "the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men" in the broadest possible framework. We witness the horrific racialized violence across the globe that demands attention and compels condemnation. We are scandalized by the U.S. government's own deployment of xenophobic and violent racism at our borders and within our communities.


We take this opportunity to amplify two formulations crafted by our colleagues at the AHA. It is our shared conviction that "a constellation of structural injustices" exists that "are immune to the platitudes of anguish and concern that routinely follow instances of police-initiated violence against African Americans." Further, we align ourselves with the statement's conclusion, which reads: "We are killing our own people. Even as we mourn the death of George Floyd, we must confront this nation's past; history must inform our actions as we work to create a more just society."


The current crisis demands concrete actions. In supporting our students this month, we have directed them towards those efforts undertaken by the Consortium on Race, Migration, and Sexuality, whose powerful statement created a clearing house for immediate needs. As a community of historians, we resolve to develop by the fall of 2020 a set of specific objectives that will advance the actual achievement of racial justice. Details will be shared publicly. We will hold ourselves accountable for abiding by shared commitments. Our intent is to assure that this department is a leading institutional actor in the fostering of anti-racist scholarship and teaching.

June 2020

American Historical Association Statement