- Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Former president (2003-04) of the Organization of American Historians
- Was a host of the Feminist Women in History Group
- Denounces "No Child Left Behind" and the Patriot Act
- Was a signatory to a letter opposing to the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Founding president of the Labor and Working Class History Association, which promotes the Industrial Workers of the World
Jacquelyn Hall is the Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is the former President (2003-04) of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the nation’s largest organization devoted to the study of American history.
Shortly after assuming the presidency of OAH in 2003, Hall stated, “Taking up my responsibilities as president of the OAH during the annual meeting in Memphis proved humbling and exciting in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The shadow of the past was palpable, as we commemorated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King. A second shadow fell across the hallways and meeting rooms as well: the shadow of war [in Iraq], and with it the challenge of using our skills as historians to explore the roots and context of contemporary events.”
The OAH has a long history of condemning American engagements in war while supporting radical causes. In 1969, the organization supported a resolution calling not only for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, but also for an end to the “repression” of the Black Panther Party. In 2003, OAH members formed a subgroup, Historians Against the War, which condemned what it calls “the current empire-building and war-making activities of the United States government at home and abroad,” and which works closely with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a pro-Castro organization. In April 2004 the Executive Committee of the OAH, whose membership includes the Communist apologist and Columbia University history professor Eric Foner, accepted for consideration an HAW resolution that called on historians “to research and investigate potential U.S. war crimes in Iraq,” as well as to “[resist] the American Empire.” Following Jacquelyn Hall’s lead, HAW members vowed to use their position for political purposes by placing “anti-imperialist, historical analysis before the public” via newspaper Op-Ed pieces and media appearances. HAW also proposed the creation of a specific OAH committee to investigate what it deemed threats to freedom of expression. At the 2004 OAH convention in Boston, the Executive Board chaired by Hall adopted the proposal.
During her tenure as OAH president, Hall used her column in the organization’s newsletter to criticize Bush Administration policies, lambasting everything from the U.S. Patriot Act to the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. In the February 2004 OAH newsletter, Hall wrote: “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which couples high-stakes tests in math and reading with punitive sanctions, has not delivered on its promise of new funding for resource-starved schools. That act has, however, disproportionately punished schools with minority populations, undermined teachers’ morale, reduced opportunities for students to engage in active learning, and encouraged school systems to distort their graduation rates and test results.”
Hall’s assertions were not substantiated by the facts, however. Recent studies of student achievement show that mathematics and reading scores have improved in most states; that achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups have begun to narrow; that in the 2003-2004 school year, a majority of states met their achievement goals, improving upon the previous year’s results; and federal funding for education increased by 59.8% from 2000 to 2003.
Hall has also used the OAH newsletter as a forum in which to attack the USA Patriot Act. In the May 2003 newsletter, she wrote: “Throughout the country, librarians are protesting against the threat posed by the USA Patriot Act to the privacy of citizens seeking access to the nation's public libraries. . . . Behind [OAH’s] strategic plan lies a conviction that we must act with vision and courage in the face of the large-scale economic changes and political pressures that bear upon our professional lives.”
Hall also joined with People for the American Way (PFAW) in voicing her opposition to President Bush’s nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Hall was a signatory to a letter sent to President Bush by Southern Historians demanding the withdrawal of Pickering’s nomination. The letter stated: “As scholars and researchers who have spent our career teaching and writing about the American South, we believe the time has come to turn to the future. Unfortunately, the career of Judge Pickering reflects some of the most shameful aspects of the region’s history and he should be rejected.” The letter goes on to inaccurately and maliciously portray Pickering as a bigot.
In addition to serving as President of OAH, Hall, whose research interests include Southern history, oral history, and working-class history, is also the founding president of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LWCHA), “an organization of scholars, union members, students and citizens promoting a wider understanding of the history of working class people, their communities, and their organizations in the United States.” LWCHA promotes a number of radical organizations on its website, including: ACORN and the Marxist Industrial Workers of the World.
Hall is the founder and director of the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP), which seeks to “foster a critical yet democratic understanding of the South – its history, culture, problems, and prospects.” The program, which is housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has collected more than 2,500 interview audiotapes of Southern politicians, activists, and ordinary individuals. One of its recent projects is titled “The Long Civil Rights Movement: the South Since the 1960s.” Says Hall, “I think in every realm of life to forget both the struggle that people have gone through to create the world we inhabit, and to forget the degree to which your privileges are because of that – to forget all those things is very dangerous.” For her work with SOHP, in 1999 Hall received the National Humanities Medal. She was presented with the award by President Bill Clinton, whose voice, along with that of Jimmy Carter, figures prominently in the program’s archives.
Hall is a former host of the Feminist Women in History Group, which was founded in 1990 for the purpose of providing “a supportive space for women working in History.” The group, which meets six times per year, is composed of female graduate students and female faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University.
Hall received her B.A. from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and both her M.A. and Ph.D from Columbia University. She has written and edited a number publications, including: Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign Against Lynching; and Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. Hall is currently working on a book titled The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past, which examines “the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s and . . . the ideological, political, and structural forces that blunted their force.”