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Although the global pandemic compelled the cancellation of our Chicago conference last fall, we have remained committed to holding an in-person annual conference if at all possible. Over the past year, the rate of vaccinations, the gradual but consistent decline in COVID fatalities in the United States, and the roll-out of vaccines in other countries give us optimism that the situation will continue to improve in the coming months and we will be able to create a successful, if possibly smaller, conference this year. 
 
We also remain optimistic with regard to our decision, made in 2018, to hold our event in Atlanta. We strongly condemn the recent passage of voter suppression legislation in Georgia, but we do not think that the best response is to boycott the state. Former gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has asked organizations not to use this tactic, noting that she doesn't "want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs. Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states. We should not abandon the victims of malice and lies – we must stand together.” Senator Doug Ossoff has similarly asked corporations not to boycott Georgia.  Leaders have called for organizations to engage instead in constructive protest against the bill, which is our intention: we hope to explore the ongoing impact of racist policies in and beyond the British empire through our conference programming. We also plan to hold our annual reception at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, symbolizing the NACBS’s commitment to engaging with the history of racism within Britain, the empire and the wider British world. 
 
While we look forward to the prospect of an in-person 2021 NACBS Conference, we recognize and deeply regret that we all continue to face challenges regarding conference travel: international travel bans, institutional travel funding restrictions, and other barriers remain in place.  The NACBS Executive, Program Committee and Local Arrangements Committee have discussed these challenges and our limited options for mitigating them. In order to engage those who cannot attend in person in the ongoing work of the NACBS, we will offer various forms of on-line content before and after the weekend of the conference. We will be sending out information to membership about virtual programming in the months to come.
 
We fully believe in the benefits of in-person academic interaction, which we have all sorely missed in the last year. And we also need to be clear and transparent with our membership about the practicalities of the situation. Cancelling our in-person conference or running a fully hybrid conference are not feasible options owing to our contractual obligations and the costs we would incur.  This year’s regional hosts, the Southern Conference on British Studies, began planning our 2021 meeting three years ago. Our hotel contract with the Atlanta Sheraton was signed prior to the 2019 NACBS national meeting in Vancouver, well before anyone had heard of COVID-19.  Restrictions in our contract—even after we successfully negotiated with the Sheraton to revise some of its terms—prevent cancelling or rescheduling the conference without the NACBS incurring significant financial liabilities.  The expense of running a fully hybrid conference—a possibility our executive director, Laura Beers, exhaustively explored—would be prohibitive. The only way to offset this would be to charge extremely high conference registration fees for both virtual and live attendance. 
 
We remain hopeful that many of us will be able to come together in Atlanta to share scholarship, to reunite with those whose company we have sorely missed over the past year, and to address the issues of race and inclusivity raised by the recent Georgia voting legislation. For those who will not be able to join us in Atlanta, we are committed to creating new virtual spaces so that all of us can connect and share scholarship. Whether in person or online, we look forward to an active and productive 2021.

Best wishes,

The NACBS executive

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The NACBS cordially invites you to its reception at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington, DC, on Saturday, January 6, 2018. It will be held from 6:00 to 7:30 pm in the Coolidge Room of the Marriott Wardman Park. Hope to see you for drinks and conversation!
 
Wishing you all the best for 2018,
The Executive Committee
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