LHA conference brings all things La. history to Lafayette for next 3 days

Hundreds of historians from all over the country have descended on Lafayette this week for the annual conference of the Louisiana Historical Association, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge on both the traditional and rarely tread histories of our state.

The conference started this afternoon (Thursday) inside the Ramada Lafayette Conference Center along the Evangeline Throughway, where about 200 members of Louisiana's historical community — LHA consists of about 1,000 members, including everyone from professors to students (grads and undergrads) to librarians, archivists and academics from here and around the country — kicked-off the first of three days worth of presentations on a wide range of topics.

"It's a program that's centered predominately on the history of our state, but the LHA is very much an organization of historians of many different kinds," says LHA's sitting president Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser, who's also dean of UL's grad school and a longtime professor in the university's history department.

Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser, LHA president / UL's grad school dean / professor / historian

The LHA was created by Confederate Civil War vets just over 120 years ago in 1889 in New Orleans. And the annual conference came about seven decades later as part of a reorganization of the group's focus, putting the spotlight solely on Louisiana's history. The next big change came two years later, in 1960, with the first publication of the Louisiana History journal. The journal is now published quarterly through UL Lafayette's Center for Louisiana Studies, currently under the watch of Dr. Michael Martin — a Louisiana historical scholar who in recent years was handed the reigns from Louisiana/Cajun historian Dr. Carl Brasseaux upon his retirement.

"The LHA has always been really important to the Center for Louisiana Studies and the history department at UL, and historians at the university have always been important to the LHA," says Dr. Farmer-Kaiser.

From UL's press release announcing the conference, here's a look at what to expect over the next three days:

Traditional subjects like the Battle of New Orleans and Reconstruction after the Civil War will be explored. So too will topics unlikely found in many history textbooks, like horse racing and professional wrestling.

The conference will include presentations and sessions about:

  • the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans;
  • women and their societal influence in antebellum Louisiana;
  • politics and social change after World War II;
  • slavery;
  • free people of color;
  • digital history projects and archiving;
  • industry and the environment in the 20th century; and
  • recent events such as Hurricane Katrina, and the BP oil spill.

Dr. Amos Simpson, a longtime professor of history at UL Lafayette who passed away last year at age 89, will be honored at the conference.

Simpson, who once served as president of the LHA, began teaching at the UL Lafayette in 1956. He chaired the history department from 1966-1971, and was a co-founder of the Center for Louisiana Studies in 1971.

Friends and former colleagues will share memories of Simpson, and discuss his work during a session entitled “Amos Edwin Simpson: Scholar, Professor, Mentor.”

A research grant established in Simpson’s name also will be awarded at the conference.

The conference also will include a meeting of the student chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society.

For more on the LHA and this year's conference, go here.