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

The Urban History Association/The Metropole 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 fourth annual contest ended up being “Stretch,” which seemed appropriately ironic after our initial theme idea (“Pandemonium”) began to feel too on-the-nose. Grad students were invited to submit essays about a moment in urban history when the inflexible was asked to bend.

We ended up with four smart entries on topics ranging from transit for older Texans to name change campaigns by “colorblind” suburbanites. Judges Marisol LeBrón, Richard Harris, and Tom Sugrue struggled with their decision, finding all four to be well-written and deeply researched.

We are proud to announce that our winner is Menika Dirkson, for her piece “Rivalry in the Trenches: Philadelphia’s PAL and the Black Panther Party’s Efforts to Mold Black Youth into Their Own Image.” Dirkson, a PhD candidate at Temple University, argued that Philly’s Police Athletic League and Black Panther Party stretched, in competition with one another, to effectively address the problem of juvenile crime and police-community violence in Philadelphia during the 1960s and ’70s. The judges found it “topical” and “a new angle,” praising Dirkson’s examination of the ways that the police competed with the Panthers, as well as the discussion of the ways that police criminalized the Panthers to bolster their own position. They also admired Dirkson’s use of images to illustrate the piece and underscore the argument.

As the winner, Dirkson will receive a prize of $100 and a certificate of recognition.

Congratulations, Menika!

The judges would also like to honorably mention Marika Plater for “Stretching to Understand Renegade Urban Fireworks.” The piece asked readers to stretch their interpretation of the fireworks that seemed ubiquitous in American cities this summer, arguing that, although it remains a mystery as to who set them off and why, with a stretch historians can “find meanings in acts that might at first seem senselessly disruptive.” The judges found Plater’s piece very clearly written and accessible, applauding the “fresh and original” link between nineteenth- and twenty-first-century New York. Plater, they wrote, “takes advantage of the genre of the blog to do something that would not fly in most scholarly articles, namely placing a contemporary issue in an unexpected context.”

The judges and the editors of The Metropole thank all the contest entrants for their deeply researched, original pieces. The judges expect that these pieces will evolve into important articles in urban history.

Finally, The Metropole wishes to thank judges Marisol LeBrón, Tom Sugrue, and Richard Harris, and UHA Executive Director Hope Shannon, for their support and wisdom.


Featured Image (at top): “Philadelphia – Carpenters’ Hall,” [between 1936 and 1941], Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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