In his September 2022 Perspectives on History column addressed to members of the American Historical Association, President James H. Sweet reflected on the currents of “presentism” in the profession, calling out what he saw as the anachronistic use of the past for political interests in a range of contemporary settings, from Samuel Alito’s majority decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to a Ghanaian tourist site associated with the African slave trade, and the New York Times’s 1619 Project.1 The essay immediately ignited a critical backlash from professional historians, most of whom were angered by Sweet’s undertheorized presentation of presentism as an ideological feature of historical research and writing as well as (and indeed particularly by) his choice of examples, some of which targeted the work of scholars of race and slavery in America, many of whom are themselves people of color.2 And when Sweet quickly issued an...

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