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Historians for Obama

HNN Editor: The list of signers was updated 4-21-08.

Our country is in serious trouble. The gap between the wealthy elite and the working majority grows ever larger, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance and others risk bankruptcy when they get seriously ill, and many public schools do a poor job of educating the next generation. Due to the arrogant, inept foreign policy of the current administration, more people abroad mistrust and fear the United States than at any time since the height of the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, global warming speeds toward an unprecedented catastrophe. Many Republicans and overwhelming numbers of Independents and Democrats believe that, under George W. Bush, the nation has badly lost its way. The 2008 election thus comes at a critical time in the history of the United States and the world.

We endorse Barack Obama for president because we think he is the candidate best able to address and start to solve these profound problems. As historians, we understand that no single individual, even a president, leads alone or outside a thick web of context. As Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend during the Civil War,"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

However, a president can alter the mood of the nation, making changes possible that once seemed improbable. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and kept the nation united; Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Americans to embrace Social Security and more democratic workplaces; John F. Kennedy advanced civil rights and an anti-poverty program.

Barack Obama has the potential to be that kind of president. He has the varied background of a global citizen: his father was African, his stepfather Indonesian, his mother worked in the civil rights movement, and he spent several years of his childhood overseas. As an adult, he has been a community organizer, a law professor, and a successful politician - both at the state and national level. These experiences have given him an acute awareness of the inequalities of race and class, while also equipping him to speak beyond them.

Obama's platform is ambitious, yet sensible. He calls for negotiating the abolition of nuclear weapons, providing universal and affordable health insurance, combatting poverty by adding resources and discouraging destructive habits, investing in renewable energy sources, and engaging with unfriendly nations to ease conflicts that could otherwise lead to war. He takes more forthright stands on these issues than do his major Democratic competitors.

But it is his qualities of mind and temperament that really separate Obama from the rest of the pack. He is a gifted writer and orator who speaks forcefully but without animus. Not since John F. Kennedy has a Democrat candidate for president showed the same combination of charisma and thoughtfulness - or provided Americans with a symbolic opportunity to break with a tradition of bigotry older than the nation itself. Like Kennedy, he also inspires young people who see him as a great exception in a political world that seems mired in cynicism and corruption.

As president, Barack Obama would only begin the process of healing what ails our society and ensuring that the U.S. plays a beneficial role in the world. But we believe he is that rare politician who can stretch the meaning of democracy, who can help revive what William James called"the civic genius of the people." We invite other historians to add your name to this statement. You can do so by contacting mk8@georgetown.edu and/or Ralph Luker, ralphluker@mindspring.com .

Manan Ahmed, Cliopatria*
Leslie M. Alexander, Ohio State University
Shawn Leigh Alexander, University of Kansas
Catherine Allgor, University of California, Riverside
Laura Anker, SUNY, Old Westbury
Joyce Appleby, University of California, Los Angeles
Ray Arsenault, University of South Florida

Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Robert Baker, Georgia State University
Lewis V. Baldwin, Vanderbilt University
Christopher Bates, California State Polytechnic, Pomona
Rosalyn Baxandall, SUNY/Old Westbury
Robert L. Beisner, American University
Doron Ben-Atar, Fordham University
Jonathan P. Berkey, Davidson College
William C. Berman, University of Toronto
David Blight, Yale University
Ruth Bloch, University of California, Los Angeles
Daniel Bluestone, University of Virginia
Edward J. Blum, San Diego State University
Kevin Boyle, Ohio State University
John L. Brooke, Ohio State University
Carolyn A. Brown, Rutgers University
Mari Jo Buhle, Brown University
Paul Buhle, Brown University

Jodi Campbell, Texas Christian University
Randolph Campbell, University of North Texas
Gregg Cantrell, Texas Christian University
Charles Capper, Boston University
Clayborne Carson, Stanford University
Derek Catsam, University of Texas, Permian Basin
Herrick Chapman, New York University
John Chavez, Southern Methodist University
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
William Cohen, Hope College
Dennis Cordell, Southern Methodist University
Mary F. Corey, University of California, Los Angeles
George Cotkin, California Polytechnic Institute
Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University
Daniel W. Crofts, The College of New Jersey

Robert Dallek, Boston University
Adam Davis, Denison University
David Brion Davis, Yale University
Jared N. Day, Carnegie Mellon University
David De Leon, Howard University
John d'Entremont, Randolph College
Dennis C. Dickerson, Vanderbilt University
Jacob H. Dorn, Wright State University
Bruce Dorsey, Swarthmore College
David Doyle, Jr., Southern Methodist University
David V. Du Fault, San Diego State University
W. Marvin Dulaney, College of Charleston

Gretchen Cassel Eick, Friends University
Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra University

J. Michael Farmer, University of Texas, Dallas
Michael Fellman, Simon Fraser University
Antonio Feros, University of Pennsylvania
Peter Filene, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Kenneth Fones-Wolf, University of West Virginia
William E. Forbath, University of Texas, Austin
Shannon Frystak, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

Matthew Gabriele, Virginia Tech
Lloyd Gardner, Rutgers University
Sheldon Garon, Princeton University
David Gellman, DePauw University
James Gilbert, University of Maryland
Mark T. Gilderhus, Texas Christian University
Toni Gilpin, Chicago, Illinois
Rebecca A. Goetz, Rice University
David Goldfrank, Georgetown University
Warren Goldstein, University of Hartford
Linda Gordon, New York University
Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University
Will Gravely, University of Denver
George N. Green, University of Texas, Arlington
James Green, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Sara M. Gregg, Iowa State University
Robert Griffith, American University
Michael Grossberg, Indiana University
James Grossman, Newberry Library
Carol S. Gruber, William Paterson University
Joshua Guild, Princeton University
Roland L. Guyotte, University of Minnesota, Morris

Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania
David Hall, Harvard University
Kenneth Hamilton, Southern Methodist University
J. William Harris, University of New Hampshire
Paul Harvey, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Sam W. Haynes, University of Texas, Arlington
Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University
Joan Hoff, University of Montana
Jonathan Holloway, Yale University
Jeffrey Houghtby, Iowa State University
Tera W. Hunter, Princeton University
Harold Hyman, Rice University

Charles F. Irons, Elon University

Maurice Jackson, Georgetown University
Thomas F. Jackson, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Lisa Jacobson, University of California, Santa Barbara
Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Ohio State University
Randal Jelks, Calvin College
John Jentz, Marquette University
Benjamin H. Johnson, Southern Methodist University
David A. Johnson, Portland State University
Robert KC Johnson, Brooklyn College
Jennifer M. Jones, Rutgers University
Patrick D. Jones, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Peniel E. Joseph, Brandeis University

Michael Katz, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Barry Keenan, Denison University
Evelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ari Kelman, University of California, Davis
Stephen Kern, Ohio State University
Richard H. King, University of Nottingham
Tracy E. K'Meyer, University of Louisville
Sarah Knott, Indiana University
Gary Kornblith, Oberlin College

Carol Lasser, Oberlin College
Melinda Lawson, Union College
Steven Lawson, Rutgers University
Jackson Lears, Rutgers University
Alan Lessoff, Illinois State University
James M. Lindgren, SUNY, Plattsburgh
Edward T. Linenthal, Indiana University
William A. Link, University of Florida
Leon Litwack, University of California, Berkeley
James Livingston, Rutgers University
Paul K. Longmore, San Francisco State University
Ralph E. Luker, Cliopatria

J. Fred MacDonald, Northeastern Illinois University
Chandra Manning, Georgetown University
Norman Markowitz, Rutgers University
Jill Massino, Oberlin College
Kevin Mattson, Ohio University
Jaclyn Maxwell, Ohio University
Martha May, Western Connecticut State University
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Harvard University
Joseph A. McCartin, Georgetown University
Robert S. McElvaine, Millsaps College
Marjorie McLellan, Wright State University
Sally G. McMillen, Davidson College
James McPherson, Princeton University
Edward D. Melillo, Oberlin College
John Merriman, Yale University
Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Christopher Morris, University of Texas, Arlington
Walter Moss, Eastern Michigan University
Todd Moye, University of North Texas

Joan Neuberger, University of Texas, Austin
Serena L. Newman, Bay Path College
Michelle Nickerson, University of Texas, Dallas

David O'Brien, College of the Holy Cross
Leslie S. Offutt, Vassar College
William L. O'Neill, Rutgers University

Jeff Pasley, University of Missouri, Columbia
William A. Pencak, Pennsylvania State University
Claire Potter, Wesleyan University
Gyan Prakash, Princeton University
Michael Punke, University of Montana

David Quigley, Boston College

Stephen G. Rabe, University of Texas, Dallas
Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University
Monica A. Rankin, University of Texas, Dallas
Marci Reaven, New York City
Jonathan Rees, Colorado State University, Pueblo
Janice Reiff, University of California, Los Angeles
Steven G. Reinhardt, University of Texas, Arlington
Kimberly Reiter, Stetson University
Leo Ribuffo, George Washington University
Natalie J. Ring, University of Texas, Dallas
Jerry Rodnitzky, Texas Christian University
Ruth Rosen, University of California, Berkeley
Peter Rothstein, Juniata College
Edward B. Rugemer, Yale University

Douglas C. Sackman, University of Puget Sound
Leonard J. Sadosky, Iowa State University
Nick Salvatore, Cornell University
Brian Sandberg, Northern Illinois University
John Savage, Lehigh University
Martha Saxton, Amherst College
Ellen W. Schrecker, Yeshiva University
Michael J. Schroeder, Eastern Michigan University
Daryl M. Scott, Howard University
Rachel F. Seidman, Duke University
Brett L. Shadle, Virginia Tech
Rebecca Sharpless, Texas Christian University
James Sidbury, University of Texas at Austin
Daniel J. Singal, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Manisha Sinha, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Harvard Sitkoff, University of New Hampshire
Gene Allen Smith, Texas Christian University
Daniel Soyer, Fordham University
Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara
Brian Steele, University of Alabama, Birmingham
James Brewer Stewart, Macalester College
Jeffrey Stewart, George Mason University
Mary Stroll, University of California, San Diego

David Thelen, Indiana University
Patricia Tilburg, Davidson College
Jeanne Maddox Toungara, Howard University
Jeffrey Trask, New York University
Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, Helena, Montana
Elizabeth Hayes Turner, University of North Texas
Bruce M. Tyler, University of Louisville

Kevin Uhalde, Ohio University

Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia
Kara Dixon Vuic, Bridgewater College

David J. Weber, Southern Methodist University
Barbara Weinstein, New York University
Richard Weiss, University of California, Los Angeles
Kathleen Wellman, Southern Methodist University
Daniel Wickberg, University of Texas, Dallas
Craig Steven Wilder, Dartmouth College
Margaret Williams, William Patterson University
R. Hal Williams, Southern Methodist University
David W. Wills, Amherst College
Amy Woodson-Boulton, Loyola-Marymount University
Charters Wynn, University of Texas, Austin

Susan Yohn, Hofstra University

Eli Zaretsky, New School for Social Research
Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

*Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and, of course, do not indicate an institutional endorsement.

Related Links

  • Ralph Luker: Historians and the Obama Campaign
  • Michael Kazin: Surging for Obama
  • HNN Index: Historians as activists