Communities of Color and Public History: Challenges, Strategies, and Questions for Budding and Seasoned Public Historians

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration and the OAH Membership Committee

Friday, April 3, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Public History and Memory; Race


This roundtable is aimed at historians who work on the histories of communities of color, who hope to begin sharing that work publicly and/or or build upon early public history forays to create more sustained projects. We bring together five historians who work on African American, Native American, and Latinx histories and have taken distinct pathways toward making this work more widely accessible. Some panelists personally identify with the communities they write about while others do not; some are experienced public historians while others are just getting started.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: James Anders Levy, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
James Anders Levy is a scholar of American race and ethnicity and expert in the field of public humanities (now serving as director of the Public History Program and Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater). He has published and presented widely on African American thought, politics and rural education during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has taught a broad range of courses on race and ethnicity, focusing particularly on the relationship between “race and place” in American history. As a public historian, Dr. Levy founded and directed two large-scale community-based history projects that employ oral history and collaborative community research. At Hofstra University, Dr. Levy founded the Diverse Suburbs Oral History Project, a project now administered by Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies. The Diverse Suburbs project showcased its findings in a major national exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Fall 2015 called Black Suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson which Levy curated. Levy is also founder and director of the Wisconsin Farms Oral History Project which is currently touring the Lands We Share initiative, a nine-month traveling exhibit and community conversation project that focuses on the intersections between race and farming in Wisconsin.

Panelist: Romeo Guzman, California State University, Fresno
Romeo Guzman is an assistant professor in U.S. and Public History at Fresno State, where he directs the Valley Public History Initiative. He received his Ph.D. in Latin American history at Columbia University. He has published on migration, popular culture, sport, and politics in both academic and popular outlets and collaborated with a number of cultural institutions and grassroots organizations, including La Casa de El Hijo del Ahuizote, Vincent Price Art Museum, FresCo, Arte Américas, Fresno FC, and others. He is the co-director of the South El Monte Arts Posse and founder of its award-winning public history project “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in El Monte and South El Monte” (2012 to the present) and editor of its book East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte (forthcoming, Rutgers Press). Most recently he has co-directed and directed the public history projects “Straight Outta Fresno: From Popping to B-boys and B-girls” and “The Other Football: Tracing the Game’s Roots and Routes in the San Joaquin Valley.” Guzman's projects have been funded by California Humanities, NEH, Los Angeles City Department of Cultural Affairs, National Performance Network, American History Association, among others.

Panelist: Tomás F. Summers Sandoval Jr., Pomona College
Tomás F. Summers Sandoval Jr. is an associate professor of History and Chicanx-Latinx Studies at Pomona College. He is the author of Latinos at the Golden Gate (UNC Press, 2013). He is currently at work on a book based on oral histories with Chicano/Latino Vietnam veterans and their families. Based on these oral histories, he curated a public history exhibit titled Voices Veteranos: Mexican America and the Legacy of Vietnam (2017) and, more recently, wrote and produced a stage play titled Ring of Red (Bootleg Theater, 2018).

Panelist: Julie M. Weise, University of Oregon
Julie M. Weise is Associate Professor of History at the University of Oregon. Her first book, Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), received the Merle Curti Award for best book in U.S. social history from the Organization of American Historians among other honors. With collaborators in North Carolina, she is currently working a project that engages Southern Latinx youth in creating a podcast that connects their lived experiences with the histories recounted in her book. She has also written op-ed pieces on immigration in national and Southern outlets. Weise’s current project explores the history of postwar guest worker programs on three continents. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.