This blog post is the fourth in a series of posts supporting the UHA’s inaugural Membership Drive. These posts will introduce you to some of the many amazing scholars, activists, teachers, and others in the UHA’s membership community, as well as highlight the role played by the UHA in the lives and careers of its members. We hope they’ll inspire you to deepen your involvement with the organization by joining the UHA or renewing your membership. The UHA is only as strong as its members, who make possible our efforts on behalf of our discipline. Please visit urbanhistory.org/membership today to join or renew.
Join Urban History Association Board of Directors member Kyle Roberts and members Emily Brooks, Michael Glass, and Pedro Regalado as they discuss the UHA’s value to scholars and teachers.
How long have you been involved in the UHA and what prompted you to join?
Pedro Regalado: I joined the UHA in my first year as a graduate student and have benefited greatly from rigorous but generous engagement with my work. The feedback that I received during and after my panel sessions made a tangible difference in my subsequent dissertation research and writing. It takes a village, or as Amanda Seligman once told me: it takes a city! Most of all, I’ve been profoundly thankful for the mentorship that I’ve received from early-career peers and senior scholars alike. I eagerly look forward to our biennial meetings when I can reconnect with the folks that have made this profession one that I cherish. UHA has long been my home base, and it will continue to be so.
It would not be an exaggeration to say the UHA has nurtured every stage of my development as a scholar.Michael Glass
Michael Glass: I’ve now been a member for five years, and I joined back when I was an aspiring urban historian in graduate school. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the UHA has nurtured every stage of my development as a scholar. My first conference presentation was at the 2016 meeting in Chicago, where I shared bits of my MA thesis. That research eventually became my first journal article, published in the Journal of Urban History in 2018. At the 2018 meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, I presented a chapter of my dissertation-in-progress. And now, in this current “Urban History Month,” I’ll be participating in a roundtable on informal housing, which will be a key theme in my book on Long Island suburbs. It’s hard to imagine tackling any of these things without the support of the UHA.
Emily Brooks: I joined the Urban History Association in 2015. I had been in grad school for a few years and was starting to identify as an urban historian. For me, joining the UHA was part of a process of beginning to conceive of myself as a professional historian and to orient my work beyond my grad school cohort. I was becoming aware of the fact that I wanted to keep up with current and emerging work in the discipline and to make connections with other urban historians. I also knew that I needed to gain more experience presenting my work and the UHA conference felt like the place where I most wanted to do that.
What do you see as the biggest benefit of being a member of the UHA?
Emily Brooks: I have benefitted immensely from the network of other historians that I met through the UHA. I have collaborated with them on conference presentations, learned from their work, and received professional guidance and support from them. I found the UHA to be a very welcoming and encouraging community. In addition to the people that I met through the organization, I also regularly learn about new work through its publications. The Metropole is a useful resource for keeping up with new work, as well as a great place for publishing short pieces that can appeal to a wide readership. Translating detailed historical research into broader analysis that speaks to contemporary issues takes practice, and I found writing for The Metropole’s Graduate Student Blogging Contest to be a good place to gain this experience.
Michael Glass: What I love about the UHA is that, in my opinion, it’s a perfectly sized scholarly organization. It’s a large enough group, with enough range of perspectives, that at conferences you can always meet new people and learn about exciting new research. At the same time, it’s small enough that over time you end up seeing many of the same faces. Some of the folks whom I now consider close friends I first met in the hallways of UHA conferences.
Ultimately, the greatest benefit for me has been learning from the brilliant historians that keep moving the field in innovative directions.Pedro Regalado
Pedro Regalado: Since my first UHA conference in Philadelphia in 2014, the UHA has been a tremendous source of intellectual support and professional collegiality. It remains an exciting space to study the history of metropolitan areas as they intersect with migration, politics, and US racial and ethnic formation, among other themes. Ultimately, the greatest benefit for me has been learning from the brilliant historians that keep moving the field in innovative directions.
What are your hopes for the future of the UHA?
Michael Glass: I hope the UHA can continue to weather the pandemic with minimal disruptions to its operations. Like others, I was extremely bummed for the in-person conference to be canceled. I’ve never been to Detroit, and I was looking forward to exploring the city for the first time. But I totally understand the decision, and I appreciate the care exhibited by the Board of Directors in making the tough call, especially since I have an unvaccinated toddler at home myself. Thankfully, we can still convene digitally this month, and I hope to see everyone in a capacity other than Zoom boxes in 2023!
Pedro Regalado: My hope is that the UHA will continue to offer a space where historians early in their careers can find mentorship from those who have carved a path for us. Although this process often happens somewhat casually, it would be great to also see it as a formal cornerstone of the biennial conferences.
Intellectual exchanges through associations like the UHA are central to the production of new scholarship, but the contributions of early career historians, particularly those who are people of color, women, or queer scholars, are not always cited in the work produced from these exchanges. I think UHA could be part of the shifting professional norms toward more just and collaborative citation practices.Emily Brooks
Emily Brooks: I hope that the organization continues to connect the work of urban historians with contemporary political issues. Cities are always sites of struggle, and we certainly see struggles emerging today in response to crises of climate destruction, the Covid-19 pandemic, capitalism, and racism. Urban historians have much to offer anyone seeking to understand these crises or to craft possible solutions to them. In addition to encouraging connections between historical research and contemporary politics, I would like to see the UHA and other professional historical associations create spaces for historians to think about anti-racist and anti-sexist citation practices and collaborative scholarship. Intellectual exchanges through associations like the UHA are central to the production of new scholarship, but the contributions of early career historians, particularly those who are people of color, women, or queer scholars, are not always cited in the work produced from these exchanges. I think UHA could be part of shifting professional norms toward more just and collaborative citation practices.
Ready to join or renew your membership? Learn more about UHA membership online or by contacting membership director Kara Schlichting at firstname.lastname@example.org. Memberships purchased after August 1st will be good for the remaining portion of the current calendar year plus the next calendar year (e.g. a one-year membership purchased on October 15, 2021, will be good until December 31, 2022).
Kyle Roberts is the Associate Director of Library & Museum Programming of the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum and author of Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860 (University of Chicago Press, 2016). He is the creator/director of multiple digital humanities projects, including The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (https://jesuitlibrariesprovenanceproject.com/).
Emily Brooks is a National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellow at the New York Public Library and an adjunct assistant professor at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. She writes about policing gender and race in mid-twentieth century New York City during depression and war. Her book, Gotham’s War Within a War: Anti-Vice Policing, Militarism, and the Birth of Law-and-Order Liberalism in New York City, 1934-1945, is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press.
Michael Glass, an assistant professor at Boston College, is a political and urban historian of the twentieth-century United States. His first book, Cracked Foundations: Debt and Inequality in Postwar Suburbia (under contract with University of Pennsylvania Press), is a comparative history of race and class inequality in suburban America.
Pedro A. Regalado is a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Beginning July 2022, he will be Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. Regalado researches the history of race, immigration, planning, and capitalism in urban America. His book project, Latinx Gotham: Work and the Modern City, examines the history of New York City’s Latinx residents and their efforts to transform city space, politics, and economy.