The Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research, Center for the Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center

Signatory: Kendra Sullivan, Project Director

Joined: January 2016

Contact: Kendra Sullivan, Project Director

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As part of the Center for the Humanities’ commitment to the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, Narrating Change – a research group working under the rubric of the Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – has sought to establish innovative means to make historical scholarship about race and injustice in America accessible to wider publics. Their work looks to inform the ways in which these publics participate in and understand policy debate from a historical perspective. This set of initiatives was led by Professor Jeanne Theoharis.

As one aspect of this multi-faceted work, Theoharis and Alejandra Marchevsky convened a peer group of many of the leading poverty scholars from around the country to mark the 20th anniversary of welfare reform and to reframe narratives of its success. The group coauthored and is now disseminating a public syllabus on the destructive aftermath of welfare reform on poor communities.

Five years ago, seeing the need for more spaces for the public to learn and discuss new work in Black history, Theoharis co-created a monthly series at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with Sarah Lawrence professor Komozi Woodard. That series entered its fifth year in the fall and has continued to feature a roundtable of scholars and writers on the first Thursday of each month on a topic in Black history, usually centered around a new book(s) in the field.

Theoharis, Say Burgin, and Jessica Murray worked together to launch the biography website, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” on the eve of Parks’ 100th birthday. The website focuses on Parks’ lifelong work as an activist before and after her historic bus stand. This educational website aims to refocus how young people access histories in the context of black social movements.

Narrating Change, Changing Narratives has also led to the formation of a working group on anti-racism, urbanism, and education that attempts to think through the ways that racial and economic justice, labor, policing, and gentrification intersect with and inform one another in struggles for racial justice.  Finally, the group will be engaging in a related initiative which will be to build a map and website marking New York City’s civil rights history, as a companion to the kind of civil rights tours people often make to the South.

“We deeply appreciate the creative and innovative structures that have been proposed to create stronger intellectual and collaborative links across CUNY’s senior and community colleges, the latter’s constituent communities, and the various ‘publics’ of the City of New York,”

Eugene M. Tobin, senior program officer in the program for Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.