Alan Dawley ¡Presente!
March 19, 2008
Members of Historians Against the War,
We sadly report the passing of Alan Dawley on Wednesday, March 13, 2008. Alan was a founding member of HAW and a longtime member of its steering committee. He played the leading role in drafting and organizing support for the anti-war resolution that the American Historical Association passed at its business meeting in January 2007 and ratified in a membership referendum two months later.
A specialist in the social, political, and international history of the United States, since 1970 Alan taught at the The College of New Jersey. He was a model scholar, historian, colleague, and activist.
Alan planned to participate on two panels at our forthcoming conference War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire in Atlanta, Georgia, April 11-13, 2008 (http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/hawconf/). Please consider joining us there.
The following is a message from Alan's son Evan Dawley, also a historian:
The family wants you to know that while studying Spanish and meeting with friends in the global justice movement in Mexico, Alan passed away from sudden heart failure.
There will be a celebration of Alan's life and work, probably in June. If you would like to receive information about or participate in that ceremony, and to pass along your messages of condolence, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of sending flowers, please send donations in his memory to any of the following organizations that Alan supported: Weaver's Way Community Programs, 559 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119; American College of Nurse Midwives Foundation: http://www.shopacnm.com/foungif.html; Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation: http://www.woodrow.org/supportingww/index.php.
This is the tribute to Allan that appeared in the program of our National Conference War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 12, 2008:
In Memoriam Alan Dawley
Among the scheduled participants in this weekend’s conference was Alan Dawley, a professor of history at The College of New Jersey and a leading activist in Historians Against the War from the time of its founding in 2003. Sadly, Alan died of sudden heart failure on March 12, 2008.
Alan was an internationally renowned scholar, whose writings on social justice, political reform, and pacifist movements will doubtless continue to inspire activists and scholars for years to come. His first book, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn (Harvard University Press, 1976), won the prestigious Bancroft prize in American history for its rendering of the culture of early-nineteenth-century shoemakers and their efforts to resist the inequalities and hardships that resulted from the rise of the factory system.
Alan wrote two other well-regarded books, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State (Harvard, 1991) and Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution (Princeton, 2003). In different ways, both books explored the complicated relationship between elites and popular movements. At the time of his death, he was working on an ambitious textbook project called Global America, putting U.S. history in a world context.
Alan taught at the College of New Jersey from 1970s to his death. In a recent article for the school paper, students and faculty lauded him as an inspiring teacher, concerned mentor, and passionate activist. As the story put it, “Dawley urged students of history to view it from the social history perspective, to examine not just the powerful, important historical figures and events, but to take a closer look at the different classes and their dynamics, challenging the status quo and accepted ways of thinking.” Or, in one colleague’s words, Alan inspired students to think about the United States from “the bottom up, the top down, the inside out, and the outside in.”
Within Historians Against the War, Alan is remembered not only as a founding member and longtime pillar of the HAW Steering Committee, but as the principal author of the antiwar resolution by which the American Historical Association broke precedent in 2007 and came out in opposition to a war in which the U.S. was currently engaged. Alan also led the organizing campaign on behalf of the resolution, endorsed first by the AHA’s annual business meeting in January and then by more than three-quarters of the AHA members who voted in a referendum two months later.
Alan is survived by his wife Katy and their two sons, Aaron and Evan. Our sympathies are with them during this difficult time. We hope they take comfort in the very significant legacy that Alan has left for the international peace and social justice movements.
1 Erin Duffy, “Professor remembered as advocate for change: College mourns esteemed professor,” 3/26/08 at http://media.www.signal-online.net/media/storage/paper771/news/2008/03/26/Features/Prof.
Recollections of Alan
(The following recollections of Alan Dawley were written by members of the HAW Steering Committee for a June 21, 2008 memorial service in Philadelphia.)
I first met Alan Dawley when I joined Historians Against the War. He was from the beginning a calm, friendly welcoming presence. He had wonderful qualities of leadership – which reflected his commitment, his openness to different approaches, his steady sense of where we needed to go and of how (sometimes cantankerous) people could work together.
Alan was never predictable. You could not necessarily tell where he would land on a given issue. What you could count on was his thoughtfulness, his willingness to engage in serious debate, to ask good questions and to be generous in his responses.
I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know Alan Dawley. Our historians’ events were always more interesting and fun because of his warmth and enthusiasm. His absence is keenly felt, but his good spirit and energy will always be with us.
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I met Alan Dawley through his work for Historians Against the War. He seemed always to be a voice of reason, and of compassion. I didn't know him well, but I will always remember him as a strong and eloquent opponent of war and imperialism, and a person who really got things done. I will miss his voice in HAW.
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I read Alan’s book about local labor politics in the 19th century. The general idea was that the sheriff’s department intervened to break strikes, so the first office for which local labor parties contested was typically that of sheriff.
I actually met Alan in the early 1980s at a gigantic demonstration in New York City against intervention in Central America or nuclear war or whatever was the current manifestation of United States imperialism. We simply came across one another in Columbus Circle and exchanged smiles and hugs.
More than twenty years later, in Spring 2003, I showed up in Memphis to take part in a panel on the 1960s at the Dr. King Museum at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. It was the first such gathering I had attended in thirty-five years. I noticed that there was to be a meeting of something called Historians Against the War, which had been formed at an AHA meeting two or three months before. I attended, sat at the back, and said nothing. It was Alan who noticed me and invited me to say a few words commenting on whatever issue the meeting was trying to decide.
At some point Alan, his wife, and their children stopped off at the Lynds in Niles, Ohio when the Dawleys were driving East from Oberlin where their sons were students.
I also remember riding on the MTA with Alan and Jesse Lemisch during a later OAH meeting in Boston. Jesse was into it with HAW leadership and Alan and I were trying to mediate.
Yes, as all others have said, a sharp mind but above all a benign presence have left us.
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I met Alan only once, when he generously agreed to present a paper for a panel I organized on “Popular Opposition to War and Empire” in the Wilson Era for the 2006 meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. But Alan subsequently recruited me for the Steering Committee of HAW, perhaps because—as a scholar of social movements-- he realized that they need to grow and change in order to survive. As I immersed myself in HAW work, Alan became something of a role model for me: passionate in his convictions but always accepting of different viewpoints and grateful for whatever work people had done on behalf of the antiwar movement. HAW is currently going through some growing pains, but I’m confident that Alan’s vision and spirit will continue to guide us in the days ahead.
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More than anyone else I’ve known in Historians Against the War, Alan joined the two worlds of the academic historical profession and political activism. He was tremendously respected in both spheres. Alan was the planner and organizer of HAW’s successful effort to get the American Historical Association to abandon long a century-old precedent and oppose a war in which the United States was currently engaged. When Alan’s carefully drafted resolution won overwhelming approval at the AHA business meeting in January 2007, the AHA Executive Council called a membership referendum. Alan took the lead in lining up many of the profession’s best-known figures in calling for a Yes vote. Ratification by more than three-quarters of the AHA members who voted was to a great extent a tribute to Alan’s patience and hard work.
On a personal level, I miss Alan a lot. We knew each other as fellow radical historians long before there was an Iraq war to oppose. Having more contact with him was a cherished side-benefit of being active in HAW. It’s still hard to believe that he won’t be there at the next meeting, the next conference, the next demonstration. Ouch!
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I met Alan after joining Historians against the War. I am so glad I had the chance to know and work with him. I remember Alan as a very warm, supportive, and committed person. He was such an asset to the group, someone I, and others, respected and could count on. I remember that when we had problems writing up text or the resolution, someone would say, let’s ask Alan, he will know what to do.
I am so sad and sorry that he is not still with us. I miss him, and our annual meeting will not be the same without him.