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  • 23 Jun 2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We invite the submission of unpublished and original papers for a special themed issue of the journal Flux that examines the history of non-networked technologies, their role in the supply of urban services (e.g., energy, street lighting water supply, wastewater treatment, food supply…) and their relations to networked systems between the 18th and the 20th centuries.  Papers could explore the role of non-networked technologies and their relation to the emergence of networked technologies in cities in Europe and North America where networked technologies became dominant during that period.

    Privileging a reflective historical approach, contributions will seek to reconstitute the course of diffusion or retraction of off-grid technologies, and their interactions with the development of large technical systems, which is often presented as a coherent and uniform, even hegemonic, process. They may emphasize the inertia (momentum) and the social, technological and/or territorial path dependencies at play; the forms of competition or complementarity and sometimes even symbiosis between networked and off-grid technologies the sociotechnical and urban imaginaries underpinning the observed dynamics; etc.

    More generally, this themed issue will seek to add historical depth and a long-term perspective to the work of urban scholars (geographers, planners, architects, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists…) who have sought to explore, conceptualize and at times anticipate the variegated figures and shapes of the post-networked city. Those researchers have questioned the dominant model –  the modern integrated paradigm of the networked city – by confronting the ideal figure of the homogenous and homogenizing infrastructure to the diverse models of organization, management and servicing of urban spaces that accompany, often facilitate and sometimes indurate socio-spatially differentiated forms of urban development. 

    What were the historical conditions, modalities and spaces of deployment of off-grid devices? Did these technologies generate or facilitate forms of competition between spaces within given urban areas? Did they help maintain pre-existing socio-spatial differentiations? Did organizations in charge of networked and off-grid technologies systematically compete or did they develop links – industrial, commercial, technological, financial, territorial or otherwise? And from a more future-oriented perspective: can Western and other long-industrialized societies emancipate from a historical heritage characterized by the sociotechnical imaginaryof the network, and if so, how? Can they at least deal with its material, social and political ubiquity?

    Flux therefore welcomes submissions to an “alternative history” of urban services (the essential services of everyday life) through the study of the trajectory of off-grid technologies and devices. As with the recent historiography challenging the notion of linear energy transitions, contributions may help question the validity of periodizations based on successive dominant sociotechnical systems and underestimating the importance of “alternative” technologies for the societies concerned.

    Deadline for submission of proposals: October 1, 2021

    Proposals may be submitted in English or French.

    Proposals should be sent to:

    Professors Benjamin Bothereau, Olivier Coutard, and  Joel Tarr

    bbothere@gmail.com

    coutard@enpc.fr

    jt03@andrew.cmu.edu

  • 16 Jun 2021 10:09 AM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    The Urban History Association board voted last week to sign on to the "Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism in American History." More than 80 organizations have signed on to the statement, which was authored by the American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America.

    For the full statement, click here

    For coverage of the statement in The New York Times, click here

  • 08 Jan 2021 5:57 PM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    With each new year comes a slight change in leadership at the Urban History Association. Every December 31, seven members of the UHA Board of Directors finish their three-year terms, replaced the next day by a new cohort of seven. This past December 31-- the final day of 2020-- the seven who finished their board terms were: 

    • Jessica Elfenbein, University of South Carolina
    • Douglas J. Flowe, Washington University in St. Louis
    • Rocio Gomez, Virginia Commonwealth University
    • Walter Greason, Monmouth University
    • Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of California, Davis
    • Tracy Neumann, Wayne State University
    • Rachel Sturman, Bowdoin University

    We extend our heartfelt thanks to our outgoing board members for their commitment and service. 

    Replacing them, and joining our continuing board members, are: 

    • Luther Adams, University of Washington, Tacoma
      Luther Adams is a student and teacher of history and culture. His work emphasizes Black life. He is Associate Professor of Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies at the University of Washington in Tacoma. He is grateful for the support provided by fellowships at the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities; the New York Public Library; the Center for African American Urban Studies and the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University; the NEH Summer Institute on African American Civil Rights at Harvard University; and the Woodford R. Porter, Sr. Scholarship. He publishes research on police brutality, African American migration and religion, urban history, and Black history in Kentucky. He is author of Way Up North in Louisville: African American Migration in the Urban South, 1930-1970. Adams is writing NO JUSTICE NO PEACE, a history of African Americans’ struggles with and against police brutality.
    • René Luis Alvarez, Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago
      René Luís Alvarez is a Clinical Assistant Professor of History at the Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago where he teaches survey courses in United States history, Western Civilization, and an Introduction to Mexican American History course beginning in Summer 2021. Dr. Alvarez earned his PhD in American history and a graduate certificate in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. His primary research examines the educational history of Mexican-origin populations in Chicago during the twentieth century. Dr. Alvarez is a former Spencer Foundation doctoral fellow and has received grants from the Illinois State Historical Society and the Sargent Shriver Institute at the University of Chicago. The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan has recognized Dr. Alvarez as an Exemplary Diversity Scholar. Dr. Alvarez’ past service to the UHA includes serving on the Local Arrangements Committee for the Eighth Biennial Meeting in Chicago in 2016; when he also led a tour of the Pilsen neighborhood, highlighting the Mexican heritage of the area. Dr. Alvarez also was the featured Member of the Week in The Metropole UHA blog in January 2018, and served on the Best Article Awards committee in 2012. Having been a proud member of the UHA for many years, Dr. Alvarez looks forward to contributing to the organization’s future as a Board member.

    • Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Bridgewater State University
      Lisa Krissoff Boehm is the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Professor of History at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Previously she served as Founding Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, Interim Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Urban Studies at Worcester State University, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of History at Emmanuel College and Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is the author of Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (Mississippi, 2009), Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago (Routledge, 2004), The American Urban Reader: History and Theory (with Steven Corey, Routledge, 2010), and America's Urban History (with Steven Corey, Routledge, 2014 and 2020). She is at work on a historical novel and a book about gender and the city. Boehm served several times on the UHA dissertation committee and several of the planning committees for the bi-annual conference.

    • Julius L. Jones, Chicago History Museum
      Julius L. Jones is a historian, curator, lecturer, and digital media producer committed to telling new stories about the past in compelling and innovative ways. Julius is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at The University of Chicago, where his scholarly interests include twentieth-century United States Social, Cultural and Urban History. His dissertation, “‘Ain’t Gonna Tarry Here Long’: African American Aspiration in Chicago, 1933–1968,” explores the idea that African Americans are the products of a culture that limits them on the basis of their race while simultaneously propagating notions of limitless possibilities and opportunities. This dichotomy creates liminal spaces between possibility and limitation, or sites of aspiration, where African Americans have sought not only to break down racial barriers to achieve success, but to assert their right to define success for themselves. Currently, Julius serves as an Assistant Curator at the Chicago History Museum, where he develops exhibition content, conducts research, seeks new acquisitions, and speaks on a variety of Chicago history topics. He also serves as a lecturer in the Department of Black Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences at The University of Chicago. He earned his MA in History at the University of Chicago in 2018 and an AB in History and African and African American Studies from Duke University in 2012.
    • Lisa Keller, Purchase College, SUNY
      Lisa Keller is Professor of History at Purchase College, State University of New York. From 2008 to 2019 she served as the Associate Director of the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History at Columbia University, where she is Chair of the Seminar on the City, University Seminars. She is Executive Editor of the Encyclopedia of New York City(2nd edition, December. 2010). She specializes in trans-Atlantic (the U.S. and Great Britain) urban/suburban history and women’s history. She has written books, articles, and op-eds on New York, London, and Westchester County. Her book Triumph of Order: Democracy and Public Space in New York and London received the Urban History Association’s Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American Urban History in 2009 and the Herbert H. Lehman Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the New York Academy of History in 2012. She is the recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service (2005), a Gilder-Lehrman Fellowship in American Civilization (2000), and an NEH grant for local history (1996). She has a BA from Vassar College and a PhD from Cambridge University. 

    • Johana Londoño, University at Albany, SUNY
      Johana Londoño is an assistant professor in the Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and US Latina/o Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. She received a PhD from the American Studies Program at NYU and a BFA from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Her research interests include Latinx studies, comparative ethnic studies, race, urban studies, aesthetics, and urban design. Her publications appear in the edited volumes Latino Urbanism: The Politics of Planning, Policy and Redevelopment (2012) and Race and Retail: Consumption across the Color Line (2015) and in journals including American Quarterly, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power,Latino Studies, and Social Semiotics. She has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, Northeast Consortium for Faculty Diversity at Northeastern University, and NYU, among other institutions. Londoño is most recently the author of Abstract Barrios: The Crises of Latinx Visibility in Cities (Duke University Press, 2020). 

    • Kyle Roberts, American Philosophical Society Library and Museum
      Kyle Roberts is the Associate Director of Library and Museum Programming of the American Philosophical Society Library and Museum in Philadelphia. Dr. Roberts helps to integrate the programming departments of the Library, which manage scholarly programming and digital outreach, with those of the Museum, which oversee education programming and adult learning. Prior to coming to the APS Library and Museum, Dr. Roberts was an Associate Professor of Public History and New Media and Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago. A scholar of urban religion, cities, and print, he is the author of Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860 (Chicago, 2016) and the co-editor, with Stephen Schloesser, of Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience 1814-2014 (Brill, 2017) and, with Mark Towsey, of Before the Public Library: Reading, Community, and Identity in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850 (Brill, 2017). Dr. Roberts is an accomplished public historian and digital humanist who is the Director of the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project. He is currently working on a history of urban Catholicism told through the lens of a library collected in the 1870s by the Jesuits at St. Ignatius College (precursor to modern-day Loyola University Chicago).

    Please join us in welcoming our newest board members. Their terms run from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023. For a full list of the UHA's officers and directors, click here

  • 24 Dec 2020 9:33 AM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    A statement from the UHA board of directors on the University of Mississippi's decision to terminate Garrett Felber's employment

    Standing with other prominent professional organizations, including the American Historical Association and the American Studies Association, as well as over 5,000 colleagues from around the world, the Urban History Association calls for a full and transparent account of the circumstances resulting in the termination of Professor Garrett Felber from the University of Mississippi. We support all faculty who seek to expand their university’s commitment to anti-racism pedagogy and praxis, including the securing of grants to increase educational opportunities for people behind bars as well as for returning citizens. Since being hired at Mississippi, Dr. Felber has not only published a highly-praised book in an award-winning series, and had his scholarship recognized by coveted fellowships at Harvard University, but he has also secured just such a grant. To have his job so easily terminated, virtually without explanation, is deeply concerning, particularly to the most vulnerable among us in the academy. No matter which colleges or universities may employ us, the UHA recognizes that together we must insist that our labor rights, academic freedom, and anti-racist work on campuses each be actively supported and fiercely protected. We stand in solidarity with Garrett Felber.

    Board of Directors
    Urban History Association

  • 18 Dec 2020 11:58 AM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    Greetings!

    I know that many of you have been anxious to hear whether we will indeed be able to hold our annual UHA meeting in Detroit in October 2021 as planned. We had rescheduled that meeting from October 2020 to October 2021 due to the pandemic, and sincerely hoped that it would have passed by that date.

    Sadly, the pandemic is still with us, and though we are optimistic that vaccines are on the way and that there is indeed some light at the end of this tunnel, a survey of our members indicates folks are just not comfortable committing to an in-person UHA conference as soon as October. Although we are all eager to see one another, and are so longing for a sense of community, there remains great uncertainty about the public health situation come next fall, as well as the state of university travel budgets. And so, because people might not be able to travel to Detroit, even if it is safe to do so, we have decided to cancel the in-person conference.

    What we plan to do instead is devote the entire month of October 2021 to events, most likely virtual, that we feel will allow us to connect with one another in the ways we value most. We are still in the early planning stages of what we are calling “Urban History Month,” but we hope to include networking, workshopping, and presentation opportunities for all of our community members, including (and especially) graduate students and emerging scholars. In other words, we are re-thinking what our conference can do and how we might offer the best elements of our conference experience in this new format. If you have questions or suggestions, or if you would like to join the Urban History Month planning effort, please contact Hope Shannon, UHA Executive Director, at hshannon@urbanhistory.org.

    In the meantime, I want to share my deepest and most sincere thank you to all of you who took the time to submit paper proposals to the original Detroit conference, and to assure you that we at the UHA are absolutely comfortable with you listing your accepted paper on your CV (and indeed encourage you to do so!), even though you were not able to present it for reasons beyond your control. I also want to say thank you to Bryant Simon and Elizabeth Hinton for the herculean work they did leading the Detroit program committee, and to Georgina Hickey for her efforts booking, rescheduling, and then cancelling our engagements with various Detroit conference venues and vendors. The conference they planned would have, I promise you, been one of the most amazing conferences the UHA ever put on.

    This has been a challenging year in so many ways, but thanks to our amazing Executive Director Hope Shannon’s extraordinary work behind the scenes making this organization run, the energy and creative vision of Membership Secretary Kara Schlichting, and the truly incredible work done every day by The Metropole team led by Avigail Oren and Ryan Reft, we couldn’t be in better shape. I am so deeply grateful to you all.

    Heather Ann Thompson
    President
    Urban History Association

  • 13 Oct 2020 5:04 PM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    CHICAGO URBAN HISTORY SEMINARS: 2020–21  --  Chicago History Museum

    Until the COVID-19 pandemic abates, UHS sessions will convene remotely via Zoom. Programs are on select Thursdays. The Zoom session will open at 6:45pm, our program will start at 7:00 pm, and it will conclude by 8:15 pm. Sessions are without charge but contributions in any amount to the Chicago History Museum would be most welcomed. A Zoom link will be provided upon registering in advance for each session.

    To receive monthly email announcements about UHS seminars, please contact Audrey Womack at womack@chicagohistory.org.

    Seminar Schedule:

    September 24, 2020
    Colin Gordon
    University of Iowa
    "Citizen Brown: Race, Democracy, and Inequality in the St. Louis Suburbs"

    October 29, 2020
    Erik S. Gellman
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    "Urban Spaces and Democratic Protest in Postwar Chicago: Historicizing the Street Photography of Art Shay"

    November 19, 2020
    Deborah Kanter
    Albion College
    "Chicago Católico: Making/Unmaking Mexican Parishes"

    January 14, 2021
    Carl S. Smith
    Northwestern University
    "The Elusiveness of History: Responding Again to the Great Chicago Fire"

    February 18, 2021
    Ward Miller
    Preservation Chicago
    "Revisioning Historic Preservation Chicago in the Twenty-First Century"

    March 18, 2021
    Douglas Flowe
    Washington University in St. Louis
    "Uncontrollable Blackness"

    April 8, 2021
    Pedro A. Regalado
    Harvard University
    "Latinx New York: Work and the Origins of the Modern City"

    May 13, 2021
    Lilia Fernández
    Rutgers University
    "Laboring in the Industrial Chicago: Latino Workers in the Age of Manufacturing Flight"

    Michael H. Ebner, Lake Forest College
    Ann Durkin Keating, North Central College
    D. Bradford Hunt, Loyola University Chicago
    Peter T. Alter, Chicago History Museum


    CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2021–22 URBAN HISTORY SEMINAR

    We encourage expressions of interest—from historians early in their careers as well as more senior scholars—who might wish to make a presentation during 2021–22. We prefer that our speakers discuss works in progress rather than a book or article already published.

    For more information, please contact Peter T. Alter at alter@chicagohistory.org

    Chicago History Museum • 1601 North Clark Street • Chicago, Illinois 60614 • chicagohistory.org


  • 27 Jul 2020 10:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    David P. Schuyler

    David P. Schuyler, one of the foremost experts on the creation New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the history of the urban parks movement, died on 24 July 2020 after suffering an aneurysm in his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Schuyler had been a member of the Urban History Association since its founding in 1989.

    Schuyler wrote and edited ten books and numerous articles, the most influential being The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (1986) and four volumes of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, which were published over the course of Schuyler’s career. His Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852 (1996) is generally considered the definitive work on one of the founders of landscape architecture in the United States. Schuyler’s publications were the recipients of numerous awards, including the Richard B. Morris Prize 1979 (for the best dissertation at Columbia University), the Dixon Ryan Fox Prize of the New York State Historical Association in 2011 (for the best book manuscript on New York state history), the Victorian Society’s Ruth Emery Award in 2013 (for the best book on American regional history), and the Herbert Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History in 2014.

    Schuyler served in multiple capacities on editorial boards of a variety of publications, including the Journal of Planning History, the Hudson River Valley Review, the Frederick Law Olmstead Papers, and the North American Landscape series at The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Schuyler was also a prominent public historian, particularly in regards to historic preservation and Hudson River valley environmental protection. He was an outspoken advocate of preserving what he called the “tangible remains of the past,” exemplified by his service on behalf of the Olana Historic Site, originally the home of the landscape artist Frederic Edwin Church. In 2018, Schuyler was rewarded for his service with the Olana Partnership’s Frederic Church Award for outstanding contributions to American culture. Schuyler was also an energetic board member of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Board, and the New York Academy of History. From 1997 to 1999, he was the elected president of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH).

    Schuyler was born in Albany, New York, on 9 April 1950 and grew up in Newburgh, New York. He taught at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., for nearly his entire career, beginning in 1979 and shortly after completing his Ph.D. at Columbia University where he studied under the tutelage of Kenneth T. Jackson and Eric McKitrick. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from American University and the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, respectively. At his death, he was the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and American Studies.  

    Colleagues and students at Franklin & Marshall recognized Schuyler as a devoted and dynamic teacher, known for his popular seminars in urban, environmental, and local history in which he integrated his original and sometimes path-breaking research. Schuyler envisioned the role of the historian to be a seamless balance between teaching and writing. A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940-1980 (2002) and a book on the revitalization or gentrification of Lancaster since 1980, which he was writing at the time of this death, were by-products of Schuyler’s work in the classroom, as were his most recent books Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1902 (2012) and Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism (2018). In these classes and books, Schuyler uncovered the mutually-shared beliefs and environmental interests of such disparate writers and artists such as Thomas Cole, Washington Irving, and Andrew Jackson Downing, all of whom transformed the public perception of the Hudson River Valley and ideas about the New York landscape. In recent years, Schuyler’s students produced innovative digital projects on the history of Lancaster. Schuyler’s teaching was recognized not only at Franklin & Marshall where he was the recipient of the Bradley R. Dewey Award (2003), but also with teaching awards from the Mary F. Lindbeck Foundation (1994) and the Lawrence C. Gerkens Award from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (2003). 

    Schuyler was preceded in death by his wife Marsha Sener Schuyler (2002), his mother Ruth Calyer, his father John Barry Schuyler, and his stepfather Gordon Cote. He is survived by his daughter, Nancy Sener Schuyler of Lancaster, nine sisters and brothers, fifteen nieces and nephews, thirteen grand nieces and nephews and numerous cousins. Among urban historians, and especially once-younger members of the UHA and SACRPH, Schuyler was known for his generosity of time, personal support for young scholars facing professional challenges, and an all-too-uncommon willingness to read, edit, and comment on the manuscripts of others. He was a model of selflessness to the multiple communities of which he was a part. David Schuyler’s sense of humor, warm friendship, and enduring fellowship will be sorely missed by those of us who had the privilege to know him.

    Timothy Gilfoyle

    Loyola University Chicago

  • 26 Jun 2020 8:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Although the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade triggered a recent wave of Black-led urban uprisings against racist police brutality, these uprisings, and the police repression that has been unleashed in response, are not unique to this moment. Drawing on a long legacy of abolitionist thought, the uprisings have also helped to amplify a robust conversation about defunding and abolishing police. This has led many scholars and activists working in policing to articulate the historic futility of reform and find inspiration from the past on non-punitive ways of organizing society.

    The series is free and open to all. Each roundtable will be virtual and live-streamed on YouTube, and the link to each will be shared in advance.  You can watch the first panel featuring historians Ashley Howard, Toussaint Losier, Simon Balto, and Anne Gray Fischer live, July 1 at 8:00 pm EST: bit.ly/UHAroundtable.

    The Metropole (2)

  • 12 Jun 2020 11:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As conferences have been cancelled this year, the editorial team at the journal Urban History (Cambridge UP) has organized a series of seminars (online lectures and discussions), to help keep us in touch with one another and our research, and to give mainly younger scholars feedback on their work. 

    Please see below for the schedule and the abstract and Eventbrite invitation for the first talk.   

    26th June 2020, 3pm GMT

    Anneleen Arnout (Radboud University) – ‘Who owns the square? Emotional interaction on Amsterdam’s Dam square (1850-1930)’

    Scholars have long been convinced that the nineteenth century was a turning point in the history of public space, its primary function supposedly shifting towards circulatory purposes rather than social gathering. This shift expressed itself in intense regulation reducing the number of activities allowed on streets and squares and thereby limiting certain people’s right to that space. The main problem with this scholarship is that it is mostly based on governmental sources. In this paper, the focus will shift to non-governmental sources to uncover the different conflicting and complementary social and emotional practices performed by different groups of people on Amsterdam’s squares in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and the ways in which they regulated a sense of ownership.

    RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/urban-history-summer-seminar-series-who-owns-the-square-tickets-108126575498


    Urban History summer seminar series - Schedule

    26th June 2020, 3pm GMT

    Anneleen Arnout (Radboud University) – ‘Who owns the square? Emotional interaction on Amsterdam’s Dam square (1850-1930)’

    17th July 2020, 11am GMT

    James Lesh (University of Melbourne) – ‘Questioning the consensus? Heritage conservation in 1990s Sydney and Melbourne’

    31st July 2020, 3pm GMT

    Taylor Zaneri (University of Amsterdam) – Title TBC

    28th August 2020, 3pm GMT

    Laura Vaughan and Sam Griffiths (University College London) – Title TBC

  • 05 Jun 2020 7:32 PM | Hope Shannon (Administrator)

    Colleagues, 

    George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer was a horrifying illustration of the pattern of deadly police violence against Black people. In a widely circulated video, the world watched him plead for air, and witnessed the brutal indifference of the officer kneeling on his neck. Like the killing of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice, to "say their names" for just a few, the death of George Floyd touched countless people who never knew him in life.

    In recent years, technology and social media have circulated evidence of police brutality and other acts of anti-Black violence, such as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, at an unprecedented pace. This barrage of documentation serves as a call to action, but – like the postcards and souvenirs of lynchings that circulated during the Jim Crow era – it also serves to terrorize. Many Black people watching these videos are compelled to reckon repeatedly with the racist contempt that still pervades this country, and the reality that Black lives are subject to the conduct of arbitrary and capricious agents of state violence. Even when officers behave professionally, they act in service to an unjust legal system that disproportionately criminalizes and cages Black people. The videos have resonated fearfully with immigrant and Latinx communities as well, who must reckon with the power of the police and ICE to tear apart families and end life as they know it in this country. For many people of color, these have been days of sickening heartache.

    In response to George Floyd's murder, hundreds of thousands of people have poured into the streets to demonstrate in over 140 locations across the country and abroad. The sheer scale of these protests is shocking, paralyzing cities through massive rallies, civil disobedience, and rage-filled confrontations with the police. The civil unrest reflects anger that has been building for a long time, as well as an economic desperation that has only been exacerbated by the crisis of COVID-19. The study of urban history reminds us that these types of uprisings occur when grievous wrongs have already been endured for too long. They reflect a deep disillusion with systems of governance, a sense among the oppressed that there are no meaningful allies among those in power. As Martin Luther King, Jr. cautioned in 1967:

    A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. …  And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

    The protests – peaceful and otherwise – that have rocked our nation for the past week are an indictment of the racism that remains endemic to our society in spite of centuries of activism by African Americans and allies. They are an indictment of police abuse, mass incarceration, and the persistent failure of our legal system to discipline officers for misconduct. They are a vehement assertion that Black lives matter, a refusal to be intimidated by racist violence, and a vibrant, ringing reminder of our collective strength. 

    The UHA Board of Directors stands in solidarity with protesters demanding police accountability and denouncing racism. We support all those who envision and work towards a more just future. We encourage anyone searching for historical context for these protests to read Elizabeth Hinton and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's excellent analysis, to visit the UHA's blog The Metropole, and to follow the UHA Twitter account as they post and retweet relevant material. 

    May all of our loved ones come home safely. In solidarity,

    Board of Directors 
    Urban History Association

    A full list of UHA officers and directors can be found here.  


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