Member of the Week: Patrice Green

Image.pngPatrice Green

MA/MLIS Candidate

University of South Carolina

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

My current research is on the history of the United States Space and Rocket Center, its establishment, and the development of its premier program, Space Camp. I’m looking at how the Center cultivated a national cultural identity developed during the Cold War/Space Race. I was a space camp counselor once upon a time, and those experiences, along with my fascination with the absurdity of Cold War America, led me to pursue research on the institution.

Describe your current archival work. How does what you are working on relate to your scholarly interests?

I’m a graduate research and archival assistant for the UofSC Center for Civil Rights History and Research, where I process archival collections related to civil rights in South Carolina. I’ve also just submitted a national register nomination for a home, lending my skills to historic preservation and property research. Marrying my research and scholarly interests to the actual work I do has been a challenge; my love for libraries, museums, and facilitating research helps bring them together, but for the most part they remain exclusive.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I’m looking forward to Audra Wolfe’s newest book Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science (2018). I’m very interested in the development of popular science, people’s accessibility to it (making bottle rockets in the garage vs buying an Eagle rocket kit), and the overall understanding of the value of science to Americans from WWII through the Cold War (however we’re defining it this week). This work, however, seems to lend itself more to how far we go in using science as our default definition of “progress.”

What advice do you have for first-time attendees of a UHA conference?

My advice for first time attendees is to scout networking opportunities before they actually get to the conference in the same way they would before a campus visit. I wish I would have done more research on the presenters and their work so as to have a better idea of who I wanted to meet, why, and what kind of connections I could make as far as jobs, collaborative opportunities, and furthering my education. Others may be looking for committee members.

What do you ideally hope to do when you finish your MA/MLIS? Any professional goals you’re looking forward to achieving?

Once I finish the program, I’d like to work reference and help facilitate research on an almost knowledge-management level. I see myself as a liaison librarian for a history department (or for humanities, depending on budgets), and as someone involved in information or science and technology policy. It would be nice to land a federal government gig as a librarian or historian for the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution (specifically the National Air and Space Museum), the National Park Service, or even NASA, if I’m dreaming big. I’m also still considering doctoral programs for history or information science.

 

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From the Library of Congress Junior Fellows Program annual Display Day

The Metropole Bookshelf: Matt Crenson on his new work, Baltimore: A Political History

The Metropole Bookshelf is an opportunity for authors of forthcoming or recently published books to let the UHA community know about their new work in the field.

By Matt Crenson

Matt Crenson. Baltimore: A Political History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2017

The idea of writing Baltimore’s political history came to me by accident – an accident for which I had been unconsciously preparing over decades. As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins I wrote some term papers about neighborhood Democratic clubs. In the process, a local party bosslet – “Murph” – recruited me to serve as his driver and gofer during a local election campaign. We lost, but I learned something about the kind of politics that never gets on the evening news. Then I left for graduate school in Chicago, where I became acquainted with politics in the style of Mayor Daley the Elder. The six years that I spent living there and in Boston and Washington served to bring some of Baltimore’s peculiarities into focus. After coming home, I produced some op-eds and articles about bits and pieces of local history, and a whole book about Baltimore neighborhoods. It was based on a sample survey of local residents, not historical records, but my attention turned toward the ways in which neighborhoods served as containers of local history.

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Seven Foot Knoll Light, Baltimore, Maryland, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Then, sometime in 2010, a former political science graduate student at Johns Hopkins advanced an interesting proposal for a collection of essays that would follow the nation’s ten largest cities through successive periods of American history. Richardson Dilworth, now a Professor at Drexel University, conceived the project and invited me to contribute nine essays about Baltimore to Cities in American Political History. By the time I was done, I had much more material than I needed for the essays. It looked like the start of a book.

It was, but only a start. Finishing it required extensive work in the city archives and various manuscript collections. Fortunately, the Baltimore City Archives were located in a warehouse only minutes from my office, and its staff was supportive and generous with their time. I spent one or two days a week there for about five years.

My nine essays for Professor Dilworth’s project were based primarily on newspapers and secondary sources. The archives told a somewhat different story. The journalists and historians had concentrated on the development of the city – events and circumstances that changed Baltimore. In the archives, I also found evidence of change, but far more striking were the continuities that emerged.

618cLJHlKAL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_For example, Baltimore exhibited persistent symptoms of political underdevelopment. The city emerged almost a century after the first British colonists arrived in Maryland, and from its earliest days it operated under that shadow of an already entrenched political establishment in Annapolis, the colonial and current capital of Maryland. The tobacco planters who dominated the provincial assembly granted only narrowly defined powers to the government of Baltimore Town when it received its charter in 1729. The Town Commissioners had to appeal to the assembly to deal with local problems such as the swine that roamed and befouled the town’s unpaved streets. Over generations, the town operated under a relatively weak and disjointed political system heavily dependent on private, informal and improvised political arrangements to address local projects and problems. The state continues to limit city authority today. Baltimore’s police department, for example, is legally a state agency, though most of its costs are borne by the city.

Then there are the neighborhoods that preserve fragments of the city’s history. By all accounts, there are at least 300 of them – far more than in any city of comparable size. Cities for millennia have been mechanisms of concentration, but the processes of concentration and centralization seem to operate less powerfully in Baltimore than in other towns; hence, the multitude of urban villages. Many of these miniscule neighborhoods also define the territories of drug gangs. Their struggles to challenge and defend so many boundaries may help to account for the city’s high homicide rate.

Baltimore’s political development may have been set back, not just by the authorities in Annapolis, but by its signature railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio. Its construction was a response to the completion of the Erie Canal, which undercut Baltimore’s geographic advantage as the westernmost port on the East Coast. Baltimore financed the railroad with borrowed money. As costs spiraled, interest payments became the single biggest item in the municipal budget, forcing the city to underfund almost everything from police to schools to sewers. The tight budget also restricted the supply of city patronage, inhibiting the building of a party machine with a powerful boss.

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203 delegates to the First Maryland State Conference of NAACP branches, Sharp St. Meth. Church, Baltimore, May 24th & 25th, May 1941, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Baltimore’s struggle to pull itself together is one of two stories that unfold beside one another. The other is about race. White Baltimoreans displayed enduring ambivalence and avoidance of the issue as they skirted the color line. It’s the story that I discuss in my forthcoming blog post as part of The Metropole’s November Metropolis of the Month: Baltimore. The other side of the story, of course, has to do with the distinctive experience of the city’s African American population. In the days of slavery, Baltimore held the largest concentration of free black people in the United States. They created a distinctive community whose influence is still evident today.

IMG_5816[1].JPGMatthew Crenson is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Johns Hopkins University. He is a native Baltimorean who earned his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Chicago. In 1969 he joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins after teaching at M.I.T. and spending a year as a predoctoral fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He has specialized in the study of American urban and national politics. At Hopkins, he a served as Chair of the Department of Political Science and Associate Dean and Acting Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Crenson is the author or co-author of eight books, including Baltimore: A Political History (Johns Hopkins University Press, (2017).

Featured image (at top): “A Bird’s Eye View of Baltimore“, by Edward W. Spofford, Norman T.A Munder, and Spofford & Hughes, 1912, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

Dope Orange Sweaters, Saying Thank You to Richard Harris, and the #UHA2018 Twitter Award Winner

With #UHA2018 in the books, it’s time to bid farewell to one of the driving forces of urban history and planning over these past two years, President Richard Harris, and his “dope orange sweater.”

At the 2017 SACRPH conference, Aaron Cowan bravely posed a critical historical question: just how often does Harris don the “dope orange sweater”?

Every conference, Professor Cowan? Surely you jest! Well as #UHA2018 organizer Elaine Lewinnek confirmed on Facebook, Cowan was on to something. “I want to add that Richard Harris’s dope orange sweater goes back to at least 2006,” Lewinnek attested, “which was when I first met Richard at the UHA conference in Phoenix.” Indeed, Richard Harris is the literal embodiment of Frank Ocean circa 2012: he is Channel Orange.

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Yet how does one accomplish such a feat? The rule of three, people:

All this is to say, we will miss Richard Harris, with and without said sweaters. “A tornado flew around, my room before you came,” Ocean sings on “Thinking about You” from Channel Orange. “Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn’t rain in Southern California, much like Arizona. My eyes don’t shed tears, but, boy they bawl.”

Ok, sure, perhaps the waterworks won’t amount to a deluge, but no doubt, we all can agree that we appreciate Harris’ work these past few years.  Throughout his career, Harris has worked to improve our understanding of urban history through teaching, scholarship, and, most recently, his UHA presidency. The Metropole would like to take a moment to thank him for his contributions to and stewardship of the association, and to welcome incoming UHA President Heather Ann Thompson, whose tenure will begin January 1, 2019.

With all this in mind, we’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the #UHA2018 Dope Orange Sweater Twitter Award (DOSTA): the attendee with the best conference-related twitter feed. The competition proved fierce, as #SACRPH2017 winner Amanda Seligman resumed her social media mastery, Dan Royles threw his substantial virtual hat in the ring, and Kwame Holmes drew attention to the triumphs and tragedies of conference-going.

Undoubtedly, all prove worthy of the 2018 award, and yet a new voice emerged on the scene: University of South Carolina grad student and master of the gif, Patrice Green. She covered a host of topics, as you can see below, mixing serious issues with the kind of incisive humor that reminds us all to keep living.

Alas, though Harris owns three dope orange sweaters (making him, as Seligman pointed out, the urban history equivalent of Steve Jobs), they are, like airplane tickets, non-transferable. Instead, we’ve named Patrice Green the Member of the Week for October 30. Click on over next Tuesday where she promises to discuss her own path in the field. Congrats, Patrice!

A Week for our Members

 

This tweet, for me, sums up the experience of #UHA2018. Throughout the conference I was repeatedly struck by the collegiality, generosity, and support that our association’s members showed to one another. I heard several first-time attendees remark that this spirit is what set the UHA conference apart, in their minds, from their less intimate and more intimidating conference experiences.

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The South Carolina Supreme Court Building in Columbia, the capital city of the state. In 1971 the court moved into the Neo-classical building, an old post office building completed in 1921, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, May 7, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

 

I should not have been surprised, because I have the great fortune to work regularly with UHA members who give freely of their time, with the utmost enthusiasm. The Metropole would not, could not, exist without our contributors volunteering their time to write and revise and find images and retweet our posts. The editors do not take it for granted, and are grateful for everyone who has believed in our vision for this public square.

This past week, I watched that vision actualize:

At the gala dinner, I was seated across from one of the University of South Carolina’s undergraduate history majors. Over paella they told me about their research on public housing in Atlanta, and because of the Member of the Week series I was able to connect them with Katie Schank, who writes on this very topic. They met the next day!

 

Without knowing that Amanda Seligman would attend our panel, I used a quote from her Digital Summer School post on the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee as the basis for my presentation. It was an honor to be the first person to ever quote Seligman to Seligman.

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A touch of Columbia’s vernacular architecture from the late 1970s, Greyhound Bus Depot, Columbia, South Carolina, photograph by John Margolies, 1979, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

For many attendees, the sites and architecture surrounding the conference–the Columbia State House, Main Street, modernist buildings, and U of SC campus–were all the more captivating for having read the Columbia Metropolis of the Month posts and having a foundational knowledge of the city’s history. I re-read Robert Greene’s post on the Congaree swamp during the drive down to Congaree State Park, which contextualized our visit and brought the swamp’s human history into focus.

So to everyone who has contributed or who will contribute in the future, and to everyone who shares and retweets and engages in conversation about the work of our members, it was a gift to spend the past week clapping for you and the strong association and field that you have helped to create.

Thank you. I am already counting down the days until Detroit and #UHA2020.

Avigail

Featured image (at top): Street scene, Columbia, S.C., 1909, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

#UHA2018

In Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film “24 Hour Party People,” then-television journalist and future Factory Records founder Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) ventures out into the cool Manchester, England night one evening to take in a rock show. What he sees changes his life and those of millions of others forever.

“In the fall of 1976, the Sex Pistols play Manchester for the very first time,” he tells the camera. “There are only 42 people in the audience but every one of them is feeding on a power, an energy, a madness. Inspired, they will go out and perform wondrous deeds.” Wilson’s record label would help to define the “Manchester Scene” (think the Stone Roses and Charlatans UK, for non-Factory artists) which dominated alternative music from the mid-1990s until the early aughts. In attendence? Members of the Buzzcocks, Joy Division (later New Order), and Martin Hannett, “the only true genius in this story,” as Wilson opines. Hannett was the producer responsible for several of the landmark albums of the period. Sure the Pistols never sold that many albums and less than fifty people caught the show, but much like the Velvet Underground and the Ramones who sold few albums overall, everyone who bought one started a band. Punk sought, wittingly or unwittingly, to topple hierarchies.

Far be it for The Metropole to assert that #UHA2018 created a new cultural touchstone like punk or post-punk, but anyone who attended this year’s Urban History Association Conference, “Cities at a Crossroads,” in Columbia, S.C. came away prepared to spit historical hot fire to power.  Encapsulated by the exemplary round table honoring Arnold Hirsch’s Making the Second Ghetto and the concluding plenary session commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre, the conference ended with a passionate, compelling statement of purpose inspired by keynote speaker Dr. June Manning Thomas: historians will engage in the battle against structural inequality, be it based on race, class, gender or sexual orientation.

It seems appropriate on two counts to tell the story of the conference through the people who attended it and with a technology that, much like punk, has contributed to the transformation and reordering of culture: Twitter. So with that in mind The Metropole brings you scenes from UHA2018 derived from the hashtag: #UHA2018.

Anticipation

“The bells go off
The buzzer coughs
The traffic starts to buzz
The clothes are stiff
The fabrics itch
The fit’s a little rough”

— “Price Tag” Sleater Kinney

On the song “Price Tag” from its 2015 album “No Cities to Love,” the band Sleater-Kinney (part of the second wave of the riot girl movement and a descendant of the Sex Pistols) sings about the crushing monotony of a job based on the grinding nature of the American economy. “We love our bargains, we love the prices so low. With the good jobs gone. It’s gonna be raw.” On the title track, they joke acidly that “[t]here are no cities to love, It’s not the cities it’s the weather we love.”  #UHA2018 rejected one of these premises (“no cities to love” obviously), endorsed another (neoliberalism has not been kind to cities), while enjoying yet another: the fine Columbia weather. All these factors contributed to a palpable, enthusiastic anticipation.

The opening reception held at the University of South Carolina President’s House enjoyed great weather.

An intrepid half-dozen folks braved a chilly Friday morning and rose early for 3.25 mile run led by Historic Columbia’s John Sherrer, who managed to detail numerous aspects of the city’s history while maintaining a brisk running pace.

Conference panels kicked off at 8 am on Friday, and participants never looked back.

Not that everything goes smoothly–after all, the struggles of academic conferences are real. Murphy’s law, one might suggest. Predictably, Murphy’s Law is not only a concept but also a NYC hardcore punk band.

There were Foulcaldian debates, or, perhaps more accurately, debates about using Foucault.

In regard to local history, the UHA and Historic Columbia offered numerous tours.

Breakfast and other necessary sustenance

To be honest, beyond straight-edge artists like Minor Threat and their successor Fugazi, a lot of punk bands drank excessively and/or used copious amount of hunger-suppressing drugs. Culinary delight did not really factor into the scene.

Indeed, continental breakfast was provided. Some however, such as Amanda Seligman, preferred protein.

Then again, one can have too much of a good thing.

Still, protein focused tweets aside, even with some free grub conference goers built up healthy appetites whether paneling, touring, or making the rounds–though they might not have satiated said hunger with the most nutritious options.

Remembering Arnold Hirsch and the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968

With stomachs full and hunger satiated, historians could return to the work at hand, perhaps exemplified by the late-afternoon round table on Arnold Hirsch and his classic work Making the Second Ghetto. “So understand me when I say, there’s no love for this USA,” Bad Brains lead singer H.R. howled in 1982, “this world is doomed with its own segregation, just a Nazi test.” The penultimate verse of the band’s song “The Big Takeover” serves as a useful framing device for a round table that tackled the thorny issues laid bare by Hirsch, those things he missed, and the influence that the work had on them along with its relevance to present-day white nationalism and racism. Princeton Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor put together a panel equivalent to the Clash, the Stooges, and Bad Brains combined: Simon Balto, N.B. Connolly, Lilia Fernandez, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Rhonda Williams. Discussion of Hirsch’s work unfolded in typical #UHA2018 fashion: informed, impassioned, and, for many, inspiring. In his closing remarks, moderator Tom Sugrue described the panel and field as “on fire.”

The plenary session that followed, commemorating the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre and featuring Patricia A. Sullivan, June Manning Thomas, Heather Ann Thompson, and Henrie Monteith Treadwell, proved no less inspiring.

This sort of work demands a support system: colleagues, family, and of course friends.  Friendship, both collegial and personal, we hope is a hallmark of the conference. After all, it was perhaps the only institution outside of Rastafarianism that Bad Brains embraced: “We, we got ourselves, gonna sing, gonna love it, gonna work it out to any length. We, we got ourselves, we gonna make it anyway.”

In a quirk of timing, the end of #UHA2018 coincided with Columbia’s Pride Parade.

Just to close the whole punk circle that opened our summary, when those 42 people walked out of that Sex Pistols show in Manchester, they wobbled out drunk on the promise of D.I.Y. agency–hierarchies toppled at least for a little while. The echos of their contribution to reforming music still inform the present day. In the same way, we hope UHA members barrelled home, fires burning in their wake, the knees of hegemonies knocking, new histories forming, new realities dawning. Or at the very least, a renewed attention to discovering, conveying and broadcasting urban history to each other, students, and the public.

Featured photo at top provided by Aaron Shkuda taken October 19, 2018.

Announcing the Winner of the Second Annual UHA/The Metropole Grad Student Blogging Contest

The Metropole/Urban History Association Graduate Student Blogging Contest was established to promote blogging among graduate students–as a way to teach beyond the classroom, market their scholarship, and promote the enduring value of the humanities. The theme of the second annual contest was “Striking Gold,” inspired by the  golden rays of summer sunshine. Grad students were invited to submit essays on lucre and archival treasures, and we received three excellent submissions that responded to both interpretations of the theme: Emily Brooks wrote about finding a memo on microfilm detailing an escape from jail, and Angela Shope Stiefbold and Andy Grim shared histories of people and places grappling with newly-realized wealth.

We are proud to announce that our winner is Angela Shope Stiefbold, for her piece “The Value of Farmland: Rural Gentrification and the Movement to Stop Sprawl,” which uses Bucks County, Pennsylvania as a case study to examine how rapidly rising metropolitan land value can mean “Striking Gold” for some land owners while threatening the livelihood of others. As the winner, Stiefbold will receive a prize of $100 and a certificate of recognition.

geographic Position 1954 planOf “The Value of Farmland,” our judges wrote that Stiefbold “offers a whole new lens for thinking about suburbanization … drawing a suggestive link to gentrification” by “showing the convergence of the interests of farmers and suburbanites.” The judges praised how the blog post “draws from deep research and offers an excellent example of how to bring alive sources that might, to a lay reader, seem dry. That Stiefbold succeeds in making planning records, maps, and reports interesting is impressive.” Indeed, all the judges agreed that Stiefbold succeeded in “showing” rather than “telling,” while still producing a “substantive” argument.

Each of the three contest submissions were excellent, however, a fact that the judges enthusiastically noted. One judge “so enjoyed” reading them all, while another opined that “any one could be a worthy winner.” The third concluded, “Overall, I feel very good about the state of the field after reading these three pieces.”

We highly encourage you to check out Emily Brooks’ “Busting Out in WWII-era Brooklyn” and Andy Grim’s “Opportunity Costs in the War on Crime” if you missed them.

We wish to thank our judges–Heather Ann Thompson, Tom Sugrue, and UHA President Richard Harris–and UHA Executive Director Peter Siskind for their support and wisdom.

Congratulations, Angela!

Featured image (at top): Downtown mural painted by, or in honor of, the 2015 graduating class of Clarksdale High School, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, photography by Carol M. Highsmith, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Member of the Week: Robin Waites

Robin Waites Dec 2016_1Robin Waites

Executive Director

Historic Columbia

@RobinWaites

@HistColumbia

Describe what you’re currently working on at Historic Columbia. What projects are currently keeping you occupied?

Over the last five years Historic Columbia has been engaged in a complete overhaul of the interpretive frame and content delivery at four of the six historic sites that we manage. Our goals include ensuring that all individuals associated with a site are represented in the narrative and that visitors are challenged to think more critically about the past in new ways. In 2014 we opened the only museum dedicated to the Reconstruction Era inside the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Here visitors experience South Carolina’s capital city from 1869 through 1873, through the eyes of a teenage Wilson and consider how his experience in Columbia influenced his public policy as president. In May we re-opened the Hampton-Preston Mansion with a tour narrative that places the lives and stories of the enslaved individuals as equal to that of the white owners.

What is one of your favorite examples of public history work that Historic Columbia has done, and why?

I’ve been at Historic Columbia for 16 years so its hard to select just one, but I’d say among my favorites has been the urban archaeological investigation at the Mann-Simons Site, which was owned and occupied by the same African American family from the late 1830s to 1970. This effort started in 2006 as the master’s project of an anthropology student, Jakob Crockett (now Ph.D.). Today one small residence stands on the property, but historically the site was a complex that included a grocery store, lunch counter, and residential units that housed both family members and renters. The excavation uncovered the footings for each of the buildings, as well as close to 60,000 artifacts that allowed Dr. Crockett and, subsequently, Historic Columbia staff to completely shift the interpretation at the site. These former buildings are now represented by metal “ghost structures” that comprise the basis for an outdoor museum.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I’m currently reading Blood in the Water in preparation for the plenary session that includes income UHA president Heather Ann Thompson. Other works that have been enlightening to me in gaining insight into South Carolina’s complex past include Tom Brown’s Civil War Canon and Katherine Chaddock’s Uncompromising Activist.

What advice do you have for urban historians who want to work with the public but might not know where to start?

Just reach out to your local museums and preservation organizations! We are often generalists trying to get information to the public. You likely have more in-depth content knowledge and are more abreast of current scholarship that can be utilized to enhance and often drive interpretive changes at museums and historic sites. We can be a platform for you to share your research and provide access to a broader population. We are also a great resource for your students!

What historic site in Columbia do you hope that UHA 2018 conference attendees make a point to go see? What is not to be missed?

Of course I hope that attendees with visit the house museums that Historic Columbia manages, particularly Hampton-Preston, Mann-Simons and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, which experienced the aforementioned interpretive and physical upgrades. The conference tours are a great way to experience local history, but taking a walk on the Statehouse grounds or through the historic campus of the University of South Carolina will prove to be both informative and restorative. Our Main Street is experiencing a renaissance, particularly in the 1500 and 1600 blocks where Reconstruction-era buildings are being adaptively re-used for locally-owned restaurants, a bowling alley, art house move theater and more.

 

Coming to Columbia, S.C.: #UHA2018

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Urban History Association. Born in Cincinnati amidst the systematic disinvestment in the nation’s cities and the “greed is good” coda of Wall Street, the UHA could have become a dour professional organization hosting the occasional pedantic and scolding conference–after all, one could argue the nation has mistreated its cities for decades (if not from its founding). Yet, as someone who has been attending since 2010, the UHA conference is anything but intemperate, boring, or insufferable. It’s incredibly suffrable, in fact. I’d argue it’s eminently enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a passionate affair. People have plenty to say, none of it boilerplate. Sure, on occasion as a profession we can be a bit “jargony.” When the conference was in Las Vegas, I tried to lay a prop bet on the over/under for the number of times the phrase “built environment” would be used. Needless to say, the first problem came when the casino asked me what I meant by “built environment” at which I point, looking around I, arms akimbo, said, “you know … the built environment.” Understandably, all bets were off. The larger point is the UHA always delivers impassioned, informed, and insightful discussions about the world’s cities and suburbs. Here’s a link to the program for the UHA’s 9th Biennial Conference: Cities at the Crossroads. You’ll find vastly more detail about registration, tours, and of course, the main event, the panels.

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Eckerds Drug sign, Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina, photograph by John Margolies, 1979, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

For all you social media types, the organization will be using the hashtag #UHA2018. In the words of Pusha T, “If you know, you know.” Please do tweet from, about, and at the conference with this hashtag. Don’t let an inability to attend stop you from entering the fray; we welcome comments from our urban diaspora as well as the proverbial peanut gallery (I’m looking at you Dinesh D’Souza). The Alumni Center at the conference will dedicate two screens to broadcasting #UHA2018 which will enable everyone in proximity to watch the hashtag in real time. In other words, in addition to your innumerable twitter followers, your tweets will have an analog audience. In all seriousness, we want to foster debate and an exchange of ideas in Columbia and in the internet ether. The cloud envelops us, let’s envelop it.

If you are attending, we’ve listed the social events and their locations below. Also if you haven’t had a chance to dig into the history of Columbia S.C., why not check out our January Metro of the Month, Columbia. Jessica Elfenbein (University of South Carolina) and Robin Waites put together a murder’s row of contributors: Sid Bedingfield, Lydia Brandt, Thomas Brown, Jill Found, Robert Greene, and John Sherrer. The posts touch on issues from the past and present including an overview of Columbia’s history, the “problem of Confederate Memorials,” a history of Jack, an enslaved person at South Carolina College, a short history of the Congaree National Park, an accounting of the critical role played by the Black press in Columbia, and the rise of the city’s mid-century modern architecture. We’ve provided links to each of their pieces below as well. We hope to see all of you there in person, and if you can’t bring your corporeal body to Columbia, your twitter persona will do. Welcome to #UHA2018 everyone!

John Sherrer: Capital on the Congaree: A Bibliography for Columbia, S.C.

Robert Greene: Congaree National Park: Gateway to a Historical Legacy

Sid Bedingfield: Printing the Good Fight: The Importance of Black Newspapers in Columbia, S.C.

Thomas J. Brown: The Problem of Confederate Memorials

Lydia Mattice Brandt: The City Bureaucracy Built: Columbia’s Mid-Century Moment

Jill Found: Jack at South Carolina College: Remembering Enslaved People in Columbia

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The African American History Monument, completed in 2001 on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina,  photography by Carol M. Highsmith, May 7, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

UHA Social Events

Thursday, October 18:

5:00-7:00 PM – OPENING RECEPTION. University of South Carolina President’s House (on the University of South Carolina Horseshoe).

Friday, October 19:

6:15-7:15 AM – RUNNING TOUR: “Historic Columbia.” Departs from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center; no pre-registration required.

5:15-6:45 PM – RECEPTION. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery at the Curtiss-Wright Hangar (1402 Jim Hamilton Boulevard). Free buses will depart from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center to the Reception and Gala Banquet beginning at 5:00 pm.

7:00-9:00 PM – GALA BANQUET, AWARDS, AND PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. City Roots (1005 Airport Blvd., across the street from the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery). Free buses will depart from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center to the Reception and Gala Banquet beginning at 5:00 pm.

Saturday, October 20: 6:00-7:00 PM – RECEPTION. Richland Library (1431 Assembly Street).

 

Featured image (at top): Gateway to the mansion known as the “Robert Mills House” in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, May 7, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

 

The Metropole Bookshelf: Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD by Max Felker-Kantor

The Metropole Bookshelf is an opportunity for authors of forthcoming or recently published books to let the UHA community know about their new work in the field.

By Max Felker-Kantor

Felker-Kantor, Max. Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

“A strong, visible police force is one of our best crime-fighting tools,” said Los Angeles’s liberal African American mayor, Tom Bradley, in 1990. “I want to give them the personnel to escalate our attack.” In remarks delivered alongside his proposed budget for the year, Bradley committed the city to providing the department with the resources to effectively combat crime and violence.

Support for the police among policymakers, both liberal and conservative, led to a profound expansion of police power and authority in Los Angeles and American cities more broadly after the 1960s. Yet, in the years after the 1965 Watts uprising, liberals in Los Angeles, none more so than Bradley who was elected in 1973 on a platform of police reform, also hoped to rein in the police department.

Policing Los Angeles is the first history to explore Bradley’s effort to bring greater political oversight to the LAPD while at the same time promoting fair and equitable policing, a framework I call liberal law and order. This approach to reform, however, did not lead to fundamental structural changes to the department or challenge the underlying support for the police. As a result, city officials enabled the police department to enhance its autonomy, power, and lack of accountability.

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A Los Angeles police officer, armed with a shotgun, searches bag of African-American woman while another woman holding baby watches, August 14, 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As Policing Los Angeles shows, well-intentioned reforms rarely resulted in fundamental change to the structure of the LAPD, to the expansive police power in urban politics, or to greater police accountability and transparency. The police, in short, play a crucial role in ensuring they remained a powerful partisan entity in Los Angeles, routinely carving out new areas of discretionary authority in response to demands for reform.

But the story told in Policing Los Angeles is more than one of liberal politics and police power. African American and Latino/a residents and activists recognized the threat of an unfettered police power that operated as an occupying force in the city’s communities of color, and they routinely mobilized against it. In the decades after Watts, they resisted the LAPD’s effort to discipline them by protesting police brutality and demanding greater police accountability.

While many residents of color supported liberal reforms based on ensuring procedurally fair policing, anti–police abuse activists pushed further in their demand that the power of the LAPD be not only reined in but in some cases dismantled entirely. In doing so, activists exposed the racism at the heart of police power, the limits of liberal reforms, and proposed alternatives to get-tough policing.

In following the stories of activists through extensive archival materials, Policing Los Angeles reveals how anti–police abuse movements extended well into the 1970s and beyond. Although activists did not achieve the fundamental changes to the LAPD that many desired, they created the conditions for reform following the 1992 Los Angeles uprising and the subsequent Rampart Scandal, which led to a federal consent decree and oversight of the department.

max-90Dr. Max Felker-Kantor is an American historian who specializes in twentieth century American and African American history with a focus on race, politics, and social movements. He is particularly interested in the policies and institutions of urban law enforcement and criminal justice systems since World War II. His articles have been published in the Journal of Urban History, Journal of Civil and Human Rights, and Boom California. He currently teaches American and African American history at Ball State University. Dr. Feker-Kantor’s book, Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD will be published in the Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press in this fall.

The Metropole Bookshelf: Timothy Lombardo’s Blue Collar Conservatism

The Metropole Bookshelf is an opportunity for authors of forthcoming or recently published books to let the UHA community know about their new work in the field.

By Timothy J. Lombardo

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Timothy J. Lombardo. 2018. Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 328 pp. 10 photos. ISBN: 978-0-8122-5054-1. $37.50. Hardcover.

Frank Rizzo embarked on his first campaign for mayor of Philadelphia in 1971. Promising “law and order” and running as the self-proclaimed “toughest cop in America,” his campaign focused on turning out voters from Philadelphia’s white ethnic, blue-collar neighborhoods. With a month before the election Rizzo campaigned heavily in South Philadelphia, where he had been born and raised. During a stop at a neighborhood tavern, a campaign reporter asked the bar’s patrons what they liked about Rizzo. One replied that the city needed “an 11th grade dropout” to straighten things out. “He’ll win because he isn’t a Ph.D.,” he continued. “He’s one of us. Rizzo came up the hard way.”

Frank Rizzo went on to win the election and serve two terms as the mayor of Philadelphia, becoming the first former police commissioner elected mayor of a major American city. As police commissioner, Rizzo earned a national reputation for his tough stance on crime, the heavy-handed tactics of his police force, and his openly hostile treatment of civil rights activists. Although Rizzo was a Democrat, he maintained his base of support by opposing public housing, school desegregation, affirmative action and other liberal programs that he and his supporters deemed unearned advantages for nonwhites.

Rizzo was perhaps the archetypal example of late twentieth-century urban, white ethnic, populist conservatism and the quintessential “backlash” politician of the 1960s and 1970s. He is rightly remembered as one the most controversial figures in the city’s history. Yet his white ethnic, blue-collar supporters never wavered in their support of the tough-talking former cop they called “one of us.”

Blue-Collar Conservatism tells the story of Frank Rizzo’s white ethnic, blue-collar supporters and their evolving politics in the long postwar era. It focuses on the working- and middle-class white Philadelphians that fought the integration of their children’s schools, their neighborhoods, and their workplaces while clamoring for “law and order.” It locates their “blue-collar conservatism” in a mutually reinforcing promotion of law-and-order conservatism and selective rejection of welfare liberalism. In Frank Rizzo they found a champion and defender of their blue-collar traditions and institutions. They responded not only to his forceful rhetoric, but also his up-from-the-streets “one of us” populism.

The standard explanation for the rise of working-class anti-liberalism in the 1960s and 1970s has relied on a familiar narrative of racial backlash. This focus, while not inaccurate, has obscured the importance of class ideologies and identities in this political history. Blue-Collar Conservatism shows how Frank Rizzo’s supporters attempted to use class identity and blue-collar discourses to obfuscate the racial politics of modern liberal policymaking. The result was the establishment of a populist variant of modern conservatism shaped by the racial upheavals of midcentury urban America, but imbued with blue-collar identity politics.

The context for this political development is the urban crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. The upheaval that led to high rates of unemployment, shrinking city tax bases, fiscal shortfalls, rising crime and, most dramatically, waves of urban uprisings, produced the spatial and political realignments that shaped modern American political culture. Blue-collar whites in Philadelphia and throughout the country were caught up in the many transformations wrought by the urban crisis. Blue-Collar Conservatism shows how their political transformation sprang from both the economic instabilities of a changing era and their responses to a shifting racial order.

In the end, Blue-Collar Conservatism offers a nuanced social and political history of a pivotal period in modern America, set in one of its most dynamic cities. It uses Frank Rizzo, his supporters, and his city to explore how white working-class engagement with the politics of the urban crisis led to one of the least understood but most significant developments in modern American political history. The book ultimately shows how urban blue-collar whites joined the conservative movement that reached fruition in the 1980s and reshaped it into a coalition that backed populist politicians from Frank Rizzo to Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.

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Timothy J. Lombardo is a Philadelphia native and an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Alabama. His work has appeared in The Journal of Social History, The Journal of Urban History, The Journal of American History, and The Washington Post. Blue-Collar Conservatism is his first book. Follow him on Twitter @TimLombard0