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Conference program

Conference venue:  Harris Hall 108 (Leopold Room), 1881 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL
Keynote Conversation:
History Matters – Writers Talk About History and Creativity

This conference is free and open to the public.
Thursday, May 9th  at 5 pm.

Ava Chin is Professor of Creative Nonfiction at CUNY-College of Staten Island, and head of American Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. A fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and the former “Urban Forager” for the New York Times, Chin is the author of the 2024 ALA Notable Book Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and Homecoming (2023) and Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal (2014).

Clint Smith is Staff Writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America (2021), which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2021. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling poetry collection Above Ground (2023) as well as the award-winning poetry collection Counting Descent (2017).

Natasha Trethewey is Board of Trustees Professor of English and Director of the Litowitz Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Northwestern University. From 2012 to 2014, she served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the author of five collections of poetry, including Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—and, most recently, Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018); a book of non-fiction, Beyond Katrina (2010); a memoir, Memorial Drive (2020) which was an instant New York Times Bestseller; and The House of Being (2024), a meditation on writing. In 2017 she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities and in 2020 the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize in Poetry for Lifetime Achievement from the Library of Congress. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. 

The Stories in Our Histories: Historians Confront Themselves
Friday, May 10th

8:30 a.m. Light breakfast and coffee

8:45 a.m. Call to order

9-10:30 a.m. Genealogy

Hector Carrillo is Professor of Sociology and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University. His works include Pathways of Desire: The Sexual Migration of Mexican Gay Men (2017). He is currently investigating amateur genealogists’ interaction with archival documents, and the social implications of the proliferation of genealogy as a global phenomenon.

Maya Jasanoff is the X.D. and Nancy Yang Professor and Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University. Her works include The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in the Global World (2017) and Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (2011). She is currently working on a wide-ranging book about the human preoccupation with ancestry. 

Annie Polland is a historian and the President of The Tenement Museum in New York. She is co-author of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration (2012). Polland has expanded the Tenement Museum’s focus on family history to include the first permanent exhibition on an African American family, “A Union of Hope, 1869.”

Alexander Trapps-Chabala is a historian and the Archivist at the African American Museum and Library of Oakland. He is a Certified Genealogist specializing in African American History, and the founder of KinConnector, a genealogy service specializing in Black and Brown family history.

Karin Wulf is the Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo Director and Librarian at the John Carter Brown Library and Professor of History at Brown University. Her works include Lineage: Genealogy and the Power of Connection in 18th Century British America and Genealogy: A Very Short Introduction, both forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

10:45 a.m. -12:15 p.m. Biography/Autobiography/Memoir

Deborah Gray White is Board of Governors Professor of History and Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Her works include Ar'n't I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1985) and Lost in the USA: American Identity from the Promise Keepers to the Million Mom March (2017). She is currently completing a memoir of growing up in mid-twentieth century New York City.

Martha Hodes is Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (1997), The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century (2006), Mourning Lincoln (2015), and, most recently, My Hijacking: A Personal History of Forgetting and Remembering (2023).

Lynn Hudson is Professor of History and affiliate Professor of Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her works include The Making of “Mammy Pleasant”: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco (2008) and West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California’s Color Line (2020). She is currently working with Jane Rhodes on a biography of Marie Battle Singer, a black American expatriate who became the first Black psychoanalyst in Great Britain. 

Martha S. Jones Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project. Her works include All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900 (2007) and Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020). She is currently completing The Trouble of Color: An American Family Memoir (2025), an exploration of mixed-race identity. 

Jane Rhodes Jane Rhodes is Professor of Black Studies and Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago. She is the author of Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (1998; 2023) and Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon (2017), both in second editions. She is currently at work (with Lynn Hudson) on a biography of her aunt, Marie Battle Singer, a black American expatriate who became the first Black psychoanalyst in Great Britain. 

12:15-1:45 p.m. Lunch

1:45-3:15 p.m. Family

Ada Ferrer is the Julius Silver Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean History at New York University. Her works include Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (2018) and Cuba: An American History (2021). She is currently at work on a history of her family’s migration to the United States from Cuba and the connections between US and Cuban family members.

Daniel Greene is Subject Matter Expert, US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Adjunct Professor of History, Northwestern University. In 2018, Greene curated “Americans and the Holocaust,” which inspired The U.S. and the Holocaust, a documentary film that aired on PBS in September 2022. The author of The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism: The Menorah Association and American Diversity (2011), Greene is currently at work on a project that explores the stories of unaccompanied Jewish child refugees and the Americans who tried to save them, based on his family history.

Atina Grossmann is Professor of History at The Cooper Union.  Her works include Jews, Germans and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany (2007) and Unser Mut/Our Courage: Juden in Europa/Jews in Europe 1945-1948 (2021). She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “Trauma, Privilege, and Adventure: Jewish Refugees Between ‘Orient’ and European Catastrophe” centered on her parents’ experiences as refugees from Nazi Germany in Iran and India.

Tara Zahra is the Hanna Holborn Gray Professor of East European History at University of Chicago.  Her works include Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (2011) and Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the World Wars (2023). She is currently working on a family history of intergenerational trauma and mental illness rooted in the United States.

3:30-5:00 p.m.  Peculiar Places, Peculiar People

Darryl G. Barthé is an historian and Lecturer at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896-1949 (2021) and co-editor of Louisiana Creole Peoplehood: Afro-Indigeneity and Community (2022).

Kathleen Belew is an Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University. The author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (2018), she is currently at work on Home at the End of the World, which focuses on her native Colorado in the 1990s.

Carolyn Brown is Professor Emerita of History at Rutgers University. Her works include We Were All Slaves: African Miners, Culture, and Resistance at the Enugu Government Colliery, Nigeria (2003) and Africa and World War II (2015). She is currently at work on a project about her experiences of Harlem, New York City, as a pan-African space in the 20thcentury.

Emily Clark is the Clement Chambers Benenson Professor Emerita in American Colonial History at Tulane University.  Her works include Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834 (2007) and The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (University of North Carolina Press, 2013). She is currently working on a biography of Noel Carriere, an enslaved New Orleanian who gained freedom and became an officer of the free black militia. 

5-5:45 p.m. Ending Comments

Kendra T. Field is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and Chief Historian of the 10 Million Names Project. She is the author of Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War (2018). Field is also co-founder of the DuBois Forum and the African American Trail Project. She is currently completing The Stories We Tell (W.W. Norton), a history of African American genealogy and storytelling from the Middle Passage to the present that incorporates memoir and family history.

Stéphane Gerson is Professor of French, French Studies and History at New York University.  His works include The Pride of Place: Local Memories and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century France (2003); Disaster Falls: A Family Story (2017) and Scholars and Their Kin: Historical Explorations, Literary Experiments (2025). He is currently at work on a book project that he describes as “a historical ethnography of a family story”: the story his Belgian/Jewish grandmother told of her survival between Belgium and France during the Second World War (La Découverte)."