Sent to the Omohundro Institute mailing list on June 5, 2020.
Friday, June 5, 2020
We are witnessing ongoing protests across our country and around the world against police violence and other forms of systemic racism that are slavery’s tenacious legacy. As people are moving their feet and lifting their voices together, individuals and organizations are speaking out in support of the protests; here in Virginia we are also witnessing change in our public culture as Confederate monuments are coming down.
As scholars, we know that words and deeds both matter and we weigh them against one another. Last fall the Omohundro Institute convened a Working Group on Inclusive Practice. Prompted by a series of discussions and projects, but most immediately by the public recognition of sexual harassment by an OI editor, the climate of sexism and the harm it caused, the OI’s Executive Board charged the group with research and reflection on the ways that the OI’s programs could better reflect what we know to be true: the early American past was complex and diverse. Our scholarship recognizes this, and our scholarly organizations are impoverished when they do not or cannot reflect this in the diversity of individuals who make up our community. As an organization with a mission to bring expert research and scholarship on the complex history of early America to public and academic attention, that bears the name that was also carried by a slave-trader in nineteenth-century Richmond, in a field and a discipline that has historically lacked diversity, the OI seeks inclusivity throughout its programs.
The working group included graduate students, early, mid-career, and senior scholars. The group met throughout the fall and spring of 2019-20, with subcommittees devoted to three key areas: conferences and events, fellowships, and publications. Members of the working group consulted research on best practices from their experiences and networks as well as material from other organizations. The subcommittees brought forward recommendations which were combined in a report that was submitted to the OI’s Council and Executive Boards at their annual meeting last month. The Council recommended the report, and the board adopted it. We encourage you to read the report here, and we thank the working group membership, the Council, and the Board for their roles in its development.
The OI is the full community that engages with our publications, events, and fellowships and that is why we are writing to you today. Over the summer we will be reviewing the report with an eye to ongoing OI initiatives, and to creating a plan for prioritizing implementation of the report’s recommendations particularly in light of our move to online programming. We will report formally at next year’s annual meeting in May, though we expect to offer updates in the fall and spring. Through your feedback now and throughout the year, we invite you to share with us in the mutual and important work of words and deeds.
Jennifer L. Morgan, OI Executive Board member and Chair, OI Council
Barbara Oberg, Chair, OI Executive Board
Karin Wulf, OI Executive Director
Members of the Omohundro Institute’s Working Group on Inclusive Practice
Sarah Barringer Gordon
Jennifer L. Morgan, Chair
Mary Beth Norton
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