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2020 Call for Papers

“The Quest for Democracy: One Hundred Years of Struggle

2020 OHA Annual Meeting
October 19-24, 2020
Virtual Meeting

The submission portal for conference proposals is closed.

The deadline has been extended, and is now February 17, 2020. Please note that you will have to create a new account, even if you have submitted conference proposals in the past or are a member of the organization. Remember to refer to our Submission Guidelines page for more information about the submission process.

The Oral History Association invites proposals for papers and presentations for its 2020 annual meeting to be held October 21-24, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Inspired by the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, yet excluded African-American men and women in the Jim Crow South, the 2020 Oral History Association conference highlights the inherent challenges in forging a Democracy that gives a voice to all of its inhabitants, regardless of gender, race, economic status, undocumented status or former incarceration.  From universal suffrage to the struggle for equal rights, we encourage proposals that use oral history to illuminate the ways in which we participate in democracy, who has access to the political process, and who has historically struggled to gain such access.

As oral historians, we document a chorus of narratives in an effort to make the historical record more reflective of the democratic ideal. But who has access to Democracy and why? And how has the work of oral historians been affected by the social and historical milestones of the last one hundred years? The program theme this year will explore how and why certain voices are included, and the work that is behind making systematic changes. How has the work of oral historians been influenced specifically by the evolving political voice of women throughout the 20th century? How have oral histories illuminated the differences between feminists with white privilege and feminists of color? How have oral historians documented the ongoing quest for Democracy that has shaped American culture? Global culture?

These questions speak to a broad intersection of subject areas, from politics to employment to cultures, to the historically marginalized communities of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ , immigrants and others. At the heart of this inquiry is the desire to understand the meaning of Democracy itself, of citizenship, here in the Americas and throughout the world.

What better place to meet than Baltimore, Maryland, that “hard town by the sea,” as Nina Simone sang- a diverse city of the Southeast, with its storied harbor that was once a thriving slave market and home to a young Frederick Douglass, an old city with a history of Jim Crow and rich immigrant and free black communities. We also invite proposals that provide insight into the many stories of the Baltimore/Washington DC region.

The Program Committee welcomes broad and creative interpretations of the conference theme. We especially encourage presenters to think about innovative delivery models including dramatic performance, interactive sessions, and the use of digital media. In addition, we welcome proposals from the diverse communities that carry out oral history work – academics, independent scholars, activists, librarians, museum curators, web designers, teachers, community historians, documentary film producers, artists, creative writers, ethnographers, public historians, and others whose work relates to this year’s conference theme.

We hope to have a significant international presence at the meeting and particularly welcome proposals that highlight oral history work in the Americas outside the United States. If accepted, international presenters may apply for partial scholarships, made available by the OHA in support of international presentations. Small scholarships are also available for accepted presenters and others who attend the meeting.

Proposal format: The online proposal site will open in November, 2019, and submission information will be posted on the OHA website, Baltimore, Maryland, provides an exciting location to focus on and highlight all the innovative and exciting oral history work taking place around the country.

Proposal Queries may be directed to: 

Kelly Navies, 2020 Program Co-chair, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Shanna Farrell, 2020 Program Co-chair, Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley

Dan Kerr, OHA Vice President, American University

For submission inquiries or more information, contact:
Faith Bagley, Program Associate, 615-898-2544,