Rounding Up our Grad Student Blogging Contest

Last week we posted the sixth and final entry into the Third Annual UHA/The Metropole Graduate Student Blogging Contest, whose theme was “Life Cycles.” Graduate students were invited to submit essays about the birth, death, or aging of institutions, neighborhoods, cities, or suburbs, as well as personal reflections about the focus of their particular research project. Below, we have rounded up all of the creative, thoughtful, and engaging ways that graduate students shared the origins, maturation, or decline of their research subjects.


Funding The World Of Tomorrow: Public-Private Partnerships And The 1939 World’s Fair

Public-private partnerships are older than previously thought, argues CUNY Graduate Center PhD candidate Katie Uva, and such partnerships played a previously unknown but essential role in the birth and delivery of the Queens-based World’s Fair of 1939. “[O]ne of the most significant legacies of the 1939 World’s Fair was not immediately visible to fairgoers or preserved in postcards and souvenirs,” Uva writes. “[I]nstead, it was budgetary.” In “Funding the World of Tomorrow,” Uva persuasively demonstrates that the event catalyzed collaboration between multiple levels of government and private organizations, creating not only new projects and budgetary frameworks, but also enduring questions about how these sectors can best serve residents in the future.


Cody High School: From Promise To Punishment

“Between 1952 and 1982, Frank Cody High School transformed from a cutting-edge educational institution to one that systematically removed students from the classroom.” This is the heart of the argument made by Teacher’s College PhD candidate Matt Kautz, who traces the Detroit high school’s life cycle to examine the roots of the school-to-prison pipeline. Matt highlights white resistance to integration during a time of desegregation and demographic change, including white violence when black students inevitably attended Cody in greater numbers. That violence precipitated greater police presence and new disciplinary policies, both of which disproportionately punished black students in lasting ways.


The Way Concrete Goes

The arc of concrete’s history tells a great number of stories particularly those having to do with the infrastructure of urban and suburban America. “The life cycle of concrete — much like capitalism itself — is cyclical and can never be put to rest,” writes Vyta Baselice, currently a PhD candidate in George Washington University’s American Studies Department, in her post, “The Way Concrete Goes.” Baselice follows concrete’s past tying it to free enterprise and environmental degradation thereby encouraging historians to think about the materials that form the basis of the built environment in which we all reside.


Prisons, Rehabilitations, and Suburbanization: Building the Local Carceral State in Metropolitan Milwaukee, 1950-1958

The mid-century intersection of suburbanization and mass incarceration serves as the central issue at play in Ian Toller-Clark’s article for the contest. White homeowners in Metropolitan Milwaukee had brought increased investment in its burgeoning suburbs and when questions about the future of the Wisconsin School for Boys arose, “residents, some established but many of them first-time homeowners, pressured policymakers and politicians into constructing a local carceral state that respected their interests.” Toller-Clark, a PhD candidate in history at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, traverses an often ignored aspect of 1950s metropolitan development in the Midwest and raises good questions about the place of the carceral state in mid-century America.


The Ladies Want Action: The Greater Little Rock Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Crusade for Urban Renewal

In “The Ladies Want Action: The Greater Little Rock Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Crusade for Urban Renewal,” Monica Campbell, a University of Mississippi PhD candidate in history, explores the role of gender and federal policy through the Greater Little Rock Women’s Chamber of Commerce; an organization that, Campbell argues, played a critical role in pushing forward the city’s urban renewal program during the 1950s and drawing national attention.”Through their crusade, these southern white middle-class women succeeded where local male officials could not,” notes Campbell. Thanks to their efforts, Little Rock emerged as a national leader in slum clearance and urban renewal.” Campbell’s piece encourages urban historians to reconsider the role of Southern cities as symbols of economic development policies and women in federal urban renewal efforts.


Beacons of Truth: Newspaper Buildings in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Architecture is often a manifestation of the economic policies and political imperatives that led to its construction. Today’s media landscape exists far more in the connectivity of the internet than on our urban horizons, yet the  newspaper buildings of earlier centuries, towered over urban denizens while broadcasting to them through print the dominant, though not necessary accurate, economic, political, and social narratives of the day, many of which molded the built environment in very real ways. In her “Beacons of Truth: Newspaper Buildings in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” University of Texas at Austin architectural graduate student, Lily Corral argues that by examining the “monumental media buildings of the past, we begin to understand the power and influence associated with the industry in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries,” but also how they shaped the nation’s “major urban areas.”


Featured image: The Four seasons of life: middle age “The season of strength.” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

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