Organization of American Historians Bestows ‘Friend Of History Award’ on American Battlefield Trust

OAH honors battlefield preservation and education nonprofit for engaging the public with America’s past, making historic sites and their stories more relevant to a wide audience

(Washington, D.C.) – The Organization of American Historians has presented its 2018 Friend of History Award to the American Battlefield Trust, in recognition of the Trust’s public presentation of American history.  During the April 13 awards ceremony at the OAH’s annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif., Dr. Mary Munsell Abroe, a longtime member of the American Battlefield Trust’s Board of Trustees, accepted the award on behalf of the national nonprofit group.

Dr. Mary Munsell Abroe, a veteran teacher and a member of the American Battlefield Trust's Board of Trustees, and Dr. Edward L. Ayers, 2017-2018 president of the Organization of American Historians, pose with the OAH's Friend of History Award presented to the Trust during the organization's April 13 awards ceremony at the OAH annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif. SALLY HANCHETT / OAH

“The Friend of History Award recognizes an institution, organization or an individual working primarily outside college or university settings,” OAH Executive Director Katherine Finley said. “Earlier this year, the OAH Executive Board voted to select the American Battlefield Trust for the national honor, whose prior recipients include some of the country’s top historians and history practitioners.”

Dr. Abroe thanked the OAH for the recognition it accorded the Trust: “I have seen the Trust’s educational efforts evolve over the past 20 years into a rich tapestry of outreach programs that employs multiple media to engage audiences,” she said. “Those programs operate on the principle that preservation and education are flip sides of the same coin — and that learning is a lifelong process. Whether these educational activities are geared toward teachers, students, or battlefield visitors of whatever age or background, they all use battlefields as outdoor classrooms that challenge us to find America’s Civil War past.”

Previous recipients of the Friend of History Award include Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Colin G. Campbell, chairman emeritus of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; The Newberry Library; C-SPAN founder Brian P. Lamb; historian Libby O'Connell of The History Channel; and independent scholar Geoffrey C. Ward, a collaborator with Ken Burns on many American history documentaries for public television, including Burns’ “The Civil War” miniseries.  The award was first given by the OAH in 2005.

Founded in 1907, the Organization of American Historians is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history.  Its mission is to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and to encourage wide discussion of historical questions. Headquartered in Bloomington, Ind., the OAH represents more than 7,800 historians working in the United States and abroad.  Its members include college and university professors, pre-collegiate teachers, archivists, museum curators, public historians, students, and scholars working in government and the private sector.

Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust, joined Dr. Abroe in expressing appreciation for the OAH award: “The American Battlefield Trust is gratified to receive this prestigious award from the OAH, but, more importantly, to be viewed as a friend of history — not only through our land acquisitions, but through our work to transform these historic places for K-12 teachers and students, as well as adult learners, into outdoor classrooms.”

The Trust uses varied methods and media to share history with multiple audiences. Among its programs are Facebook Live episodes that reach millions of online viewers, connecting people to battlefields, historians, period artifacts and compelling stories; a Traveling Trunk of Civil War reproduction artifacts, books and music, which exposes students to the “stuff” of the past; and a Field Trip Fund that provides competitive grants to help K-12 teachers pay for their classes to visit historic sites tied to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. And, every year, the Trust’s free National Teacher Institute offers professional development to hundreds of educators, with numerous travel scholarships.

Besides Facebook Live, the Trust’s digital suite includes 90 popular “In4” videos, which cover basic Civil War and Revolutionary War subjects in roughly four minutes; 17 GPS-enabled smartphone and touchpad Battle Apps that guide people across battlefields and share their gripping stories and combat action; Animated Maps that bring battles to life; and 360-degree battle panorama Virtual Tours that enable users to tour hallowed grounds from home or the classroom.

The American Battlefield Trust is a national nonprofit land-preservation organization devoted to the protection of America’s hallowed battlegrounds.  It preserves the battlefields of the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and educates the public about their importance in forging the nation we are today.  To date, the Trust has preserved more than 48,000 acres of battlefield land in 24 states.  Learn more at