OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Renee Romano

Portrait of Renee Romano
Image Credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Renee Romano is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History and a professor of Comparative American studies and Africana studies at Oberlin College, where she teaches and writes about race, historical memory, museums and public history in the post–World War II United States. She is the author of Racial Reckoning: Reopening America's Civil Rights Trials (2014) and Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America (2003), as well as a coeditor, with Claire Potter, of Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical Is Restaging America's Past (2018) and Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History that Talks Back (2012) and, with Leigh Raiford, of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory (2006). Romano has served as a consultant for a range of public scholarly projects, including working with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Kent State University's May 4th Walking Tour and Visitor's Center, and the Brooklyn Historical Society. She directs both Oberlin's Public Humanities concentration and the History Design Lab, which supports undergraduate digital history projects.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Daniel Decatur Emmett was a leading blackface minstrel performer of the 1830s and 1840s, who is perhaps best-known as the composer of "Dixie." This lectures explores the history of the commemoration of Emmett and his most famous song in his birthplace of Mount Vernon, Ohio. Drawing on historical research, historical memory scholarship, and the tools of critical race theory, it explores how Mount Vernon came to build its civic identity around Emmett, the shifting arguments that the predominantly white population has used to defend and justify celebrating Emmett, and the potential for sites of commemoration to become an entry point for challenging colorblindness and contemporary racism.
This lecture explores the popularity of the blockbuster musical, Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical has spawned sold-out performances, a triple platinum cast album, a Disney channel broadcast, and a score that has been used to teach U.S. history in classrooms across the country. Why has Hamilton been so successful and what does its popularity tell us about politics, culture, and racial attitudes in 21st century America? From exploring the musical's representation of the past, its fan base, and its color-conscious casting, this lecture interrogates a musical that has become one of the most successful popular representations of American history in recent decades.
Few whites who violently resisted the civil rights struggle were charged with crimes in the 1950s and 60s. But since 1994, when a Mississippi jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, there have been intense efforts to reopen, prosecute, and bring attention to civil rights era murder cases that were largely ignored at the time they took place. This lecture explores the forces that drove the legal system to revisit these decades-old murders, what happened in the courtroom when they came before a jury, how trials have been represented in the media and popular culture, and to what extent they have contributed to a public reckoning with America's history of racial violence.
In the summer of 2020, in the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, books about America’s racial history surged on national best-seller lists as many Americans decided that they needed to educate themselves about the nation’s past if they wanted to be part of the fight against systemic racism in the present. This talk explores, historicizes, and assesses the belief that reckoning with America’s racist past is vital to the struggle for social justice in the present. Drawing on the ideas of thinkers like James Baldwin and activists in the historical justice movement, the lecture explores why promoting a deeper understanding of America’s racial history may be a precondition for achieving a more equitable society, how activists have sought to force a reckoning with history, and the pitched battles that have resulted from these efforts to challenge and change America’s historical narratives.
Debates over interracial marriage offer a powerful window for understanding changing racial attitudes in the United States. This lecture uses films to explore how marriages between blacks and whites have been politicized during different eras of American history. By exploring the changing portrayals of intermarriage through film, the lecture highlights cultural representations as an important site for exploring the politics of race.