Chicago Politics, Promise and Perils: The Legacies of Social Movements and Grassroots Activism

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 12:45 PM - 2:15 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Politics; Race; Urban and Suburban


What is the relationship between social movement organizing, electoral politics, and the public sector? Is it adversarial, complementary, something entirely different? In Chicago and elsewhere, achieving formal power has long been one of the goals of activists hoping to reform how the city works, to make it more equitable and livable. A shift from protest to electoral politics became more demonstrable in the late twentieth century, especially on the heels of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In this roundtable, panelists will engage with this central question – one with enormous implications for our current moment of political precarity.

Session Participants

Chair: Lilia Fernández, University of Illinois at Chicago
Lilia Fernandez is Henry Rutgers Term Chair and Associate Professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies and History at Rutgers University. She is a scholar of 20th century Latino/a urban and immigration history and the author of Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2012), a history of the migration and settlement of Latinos in Chicago in the years after World War II. She is also the editor of 50 Events that Shaped Latino History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic (ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2018), and has authored numerous book chapters, journal articles, book reviews, and essays on Latino/a community formation, labor migration, nativism and xenophobia, and urban history, Currently, she is working on several projects including a book on the history of pan-ethnic Latino politics in Chicago and an essay on Latinos, police abuse, and the criminal justice system.

Panelist: Toussaint G. Losier, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Dr. Toussaint Losier is an Assistant Professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dr. Losier holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago, with his research focusing on grassroots responses to the postwar emergence of mass incarceration in Chicago. At the UMass Amherst, he teaches courses on African American History, Black Politics, Criminal Justice policy, and transnational social movements. His writing has been published in Souls, Radical History Review, The Journal of Urban History, Against the Current, and Left Turn Magazine. He is co-author of Rethinking the American Prison Movement with Dan Berger and preparing a book manuscript titled, War for the City: Black Chicago and the Rise of the Carceral State.

Panelist: Gordon K. Mantler, George Washington University
Dr. Gordon Mantler is Executive Director of the University Writing Program and Associate Professor of Writing and of History at the George Washington University. He specializes in the history and rhetoric of 20th-century U.S. social justice movements, multiracial coalitions, public history, memorialization, and film, and writing pedagogy in history classes. His first book, Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974, was the inaugural volume in the Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press in 2013. His current book, We Have Won, is due out in winter 2023 with UNC Press and focuses on multiracial electoral politics and community organizing in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s. He has received numerous awards, including the first annual Ronald T. and Gayla D. Farrar Media and Civil Rights History Award for the best article on the subject. His work has been supported by GW, Duke University, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.

Panelist: Amy Zanoni, Historian
Amy Zanoni is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. She is a historian of the welfare state, health care, and social movements in the United States. Her book in progress, tentatively titled Poor Health: Chicago’s Public Hospital and the Safety Net below the Safety Net, examines struggles over the public sector and health care provision in second half of the twentieth century. Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Illinois State Historical Society, and the Walter P. Reuther Library.