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Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


In the wake of the passage of Texas Senate Bill 8—the most restrictive abortion ban imposed since the U.S. Supreme Court established the right to abortion in 1973—two Western History Association members asked the WHA to relocate our 2022 annual conference from San Antonio outside of Texas. One also mentioned voter suppression as an additional reason why the WHA shouldn’t meet in Texas. We assume this refers to Texas Senate Bill 1, which imposes new restrictions on how and when voters cast ballots, targeting in particular past initiatives to foster voter participation in Harris County, home to Houston, the most diverse city in the U.S.

The WHA Executive Committee as well as the leadership team for the 2022 WHA annual conference have considered these requests. We are grateful to anyone who urges the WHA to maintain the highest ideals and practices of equity, inclusion, and diversity. We share deep concern about Senate Bill 8, Senate Bill 1, and other legislation that restricts the rights and threatens the well-being of women, people of color, immigrants, working people, and LGBTQ people in Texas. We are especially concerned with legislative attempts designed to restrict the teaching of race and history in public schools. But we do not think that moving the 2022 conference outside of Texas will promote the interests of those who remain most vulnerable to the sexist, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-worker, homophobic, and transphobic impulses that inform such measures. San Antonio is a majority minority city. Almost two-thirds of its residents identify as Latinx, and there are sizable African American, Asian American, Indigenous, and mixed-race populations there as well. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people own small businesses near the conference site, and many more work in the corporate hotel and restaurant industry that flourishes in the Riverwalk area. We hope that the presence of up to a thousand conference-goers will bring some benefit to these communities, and, as we suggest below, we're actively seeking ways to engage with them in order to learn how we can best support their efforts to shape their own lives and the world around them. The 2022 Local Arrangements Committee is planning tours that highlight the histories of communities of color in San Antonio, and those tours will feature women and people of color as leaders and participants. The 2022 Program Committee is just beginning its work (the call for papers deadline is Dec. 5, 2021), but they’re exploring public forums that will highlight the history of struggles for reproductive and voting rights in Texas and the West and that will address attempts to restrict teaching about race and inequality in U.S. history. And the two committees are committed to working in concert, first, to identify local businesses, restaurants, galleries, and grassroots organizations that support the interests of vulnerable populations in San Antonio, and then, once identified, to support them in material ways.

The WHA Executive Committee and the leadership team for the 2022 conference are also concerned for the long-term health of the WHA. The WHA contracts with hotels as conference venues several years in advance, long before we can know what issues will arise in a state or city that will concern our members. These are binding contracts. We use the conference organizing service INMEX (Informed Meetings Exchange), which ensures that we’re doing business with socially responsible hotels. The WHA has a policy of meeting in union hotels, considering exceptions only every seven years (the exception gives us the option of meeting occasionally in union-unfriendly places where many of our members nonetheless live and work). The Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio is a union hotel whose workers are represented by UNITE HERE. If the WHA cancels its contract with the hotel, our organization will incur a penalty of $299,000. That money will stay in corporate Texas, continuing to enrich the state, even as local businesses and organizations will be deprived of revenue from conference-goers, low-wage workers will lose hours and tips, and San Antonio will not feel the presence of a progressive organization whose members not only study the history but also overwhelmingly support the interests of women, people of color, immigrants, working people, and LGBTQ people. Meanwhile, the WHA will have to contract on short notice with another hotel in another city, further depleting finite resources. The cost of doing so is too high and the benefits too uncertain. For all of these reasons, the WHA Executive Committee and the leadership team for the 2022 WHA conference, with the backing of the WHA Council, unanimously support keeping that meeting in San Antonio and honoring our contract with the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk and its union workers.

WHA Executive Committee

María E. Montoya, President (2021)

Susan Lee Johnson, President-Elect (2022)

Elaine Marie Nelson, Executive Director

WHA 2022 Leadership Team

Susan Lee Johnson, President-Elect (2022)

Julian Lim, Program Committee Co-Chair

Tyina Steptoe, Program Committee Co-Chair

William Kiser, Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chair

Omar Valerio-Jiménez, Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chair

Lindsey Passenger Wieck, Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chair

WHA Council

Laurie Arnold

Erika Bsumek

B. Erin Cole

Philip J. Deloria

Anne M. Hyde

Susan Lee Johnson

Ari Kelman

María E. Montoya

Elaine Marie Nelson

Erika Pérez

Lynn Roper

Martha A. Sandweiss

Rachel St. John

Jenni Tifft-Ochoa

David Wrobel

Western History Association

University of Kansas | History Department

1445 Jayhawk Blvd. | 3650 Wescoe Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045 | 785-864-0860 

The WHA is located in the Department of History at the University of Kansas. The WHA is grateful to KU's History Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their generous support!