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Making History Matter: From Abstract Truth to Critical Engagement

We need a more productive public conversation about our nation’s history.
Theresa Miller , Andrew Volmert , Mia Aassar , Emilie L’Hôte, April Callen
February 22, 2022

The subject of history has become a lightning rod of political discourse. From debates about the New York Times’ 1619 Project to the recent backlash against teaching about systemic racism in schools, scholars and advocates are navigating a complex and often tense communication landscape, filled with polarizing rhetoric, misconceptions, and misunderstandings. The way we talk about history has far-reaching policy implications, as demonstrated by the current attempt to legislate against teaching or even talking about race and racism in schools.

This report and its recommendations are designed to give historians, educators, and advocates the tools to more cohesively and convincingly communicate about history—to build an  understanding of what inclusive history looks like, why critically engaging with our nation’s past, including past injustices, is necessary, and why history is important for all of us.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation and carried out in partnership with the American Association for State and Local History, National Council on Public History, and Organization of American Historians, Reframing History is the result of a two-year, deep-dive research effort to understand how Americans think about history and how communicators can more effectively explain why history matters to society. This report and the complementary resources provide specific, flexible strategies for building a better understanding of the past and the importance of building an inclusive history of the U.S.