Baltimore Revisited: Social History for the Twenty-First Century City

Nicole King is associate professor and chair of UMBC’s Department of American Studies.

Nicole King - SquareIn fall 2014, Kate Drabinski (Gender & Women’s Studies) and I co-taught UMBC’s first-year Humanities Scholars seminar, which focused on Baltimore’s social history. It was a great semester of introducing students to the rich history of our city and bringing them downtown to do research and interviews. At the end of the semester, students’ work aired on The Marc Steiner Show (WEAA 88.9) in the form of the public humanities radio show “Downtown Stories.”

Kate Drabinski and I have used The Baltimore Book: New Views on Local History in our classes for years and realized that nearing twenty-five years in print this invaluable text needed an update. That realization led to a panel at the 2015 Chesapeake American Studies Association (CHASA) conference at UMBC with past editors and contributors to The Baltimore Book along with local professors who use the text asking: What would a “new” Baltimore Book look like? Now we are working to make such a book for researchers and teachers interested in making the social history of Baltimore a reality.

Baltimore Revisited: Social History for the Twenty-First Century City will draw from a wide range of researchers inside and outside of the academy to tell the stories of how and why Baltimore looks and functions as it does today. We are specifically looking for heavily researched pieces written in an accessible voice that can offer new perspectives on the city’s social history grounded in the specific places, neighborhoods, and communities in Baltimore. Each chapter could stand alone, but together, they will offer a newer vision of local history from the ground up to complicate our view of the past, as well as the present.

It has been over twenty years since Linda Shopes, Elizabeth Fee, and Linda Zeidman published The Baltimore Book: New Views of Local History with Temple University Press. The book broke new ground, telling histories of Baltimore City not from the perspective of the Great Men of the city—the robber barons, war heroes, and politicians—but from the perspective of groups traditionally marginalized from mainstream history: workers, activists, organizers, and agitators. Growing out of a radical history bus tour, The Baltimore Book was also unique in embracing voices from inside and outside the academy, resulting in an accessible and beautifully illustrated book that still claims a broad readership today.

While The Baltimore Book is still a relevant text, it is time for a twenty-first century version of this project, one that continues the path started in 1991 while harvesting new histories from “The Greatest City in America.” The historical time frame for this book will cover a wide range of eras, from the 18th century when Baltimore’s industrial prominence was on the rise to the city’s current period of deindustrialization. The 2015 Baltimore Uprising further illustrated that the city of Baltimore is an important subject for analyses of the deeply embedded structural inequalities and the great tenacity and potential of the city in the twenty-first century. Baltimore Revisited will address the past in the guise of informing a better future for Baltimore and other urban centers in the US and beyond.

Submissions are invited from a diversity of disciplines—not just history—such as: American Studies, Gender and Women Studies, Public History, Historic Preservation, Local History, Human Geography or Architecture, Comparative Ethnic Studies, Urban Studies or other similar fields. Chapters should be between 2,000 – 6,000 words (small and longer articles are fine), excluding references. Please email 500-word abstracts and/or completed papers and a CV to nking@umbc.edu and drabinsk@umbc.edu by September 1. Authors will be notified of acceptance of proposed chapters by October 1 with full draft of the chapters to editors by spring 2016.

We are excited to work on making a text that will do justice to the many complex and compelling stories of our city. We are revisiting the social history of Baltimore because we believe the city is the engine of the future, and our future is always connected to understanding our past.

Contact the author, Nicole King, at nking@umbc.edu.

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