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June 12, 2020

The Officers and Board of Trustees of the Economic History Association, like so many of our members, indeed as so many other people in the United States and around the world, have been appalled by the recent senseless killings of Black men and women by police officers. We condemn these acts in the strongest possible terms. We stand with our colleagues in other academic associations and with the peaceable and rightfully impassioned protestors who are calling for fundamental changes in our system of justice.

As economic historians we recognize that these acts are the product of a deep seated racism that has persisted in the United States for centuries. Racism that can be seen not only in policing, but in many other important dimensions of our national life: in inequality in wealth and income, inequality in opportunities for schooling, inequality in employment, and inequality in housing and health care. This last form of inequality is brutally revealed in the disproportionate number of deaths of Black people produced by Covid19.

Economic Historians, including many members of our Association, have long devoted their research to documenting the causes and consequences of racism in the United States. Many of them have published important scholarly articles in our Journal of Economic History.

Like so many others we are not sure about exactly what we should be doing. But we recognize that for scholars, it is a moment to teach.  We encourage all of our members to reach out to students, colleagues, and the broader public, by all the media they use, to inform the nation better about the tragic origins, causes of its persistence, and costs of racism.  In revising your reading lists for the Fall term, we encourage you to increase your students’ awareness of the history behind the events of these past few weeks.

While we inform others about the long history of racism and its effects we cannot ignore the work we still need to do to make economic history a welcoming and diverse profession.

Hugh Rockoff

President of the Economic History Association

On Behalf of the Economic History Association Officers and Board of Trustees