Erik Gellman, associate professor of history with expertise on social movements and urban history, has been selected to receive the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar grant award for the 2016-17 year.
A scholar of African American, labor and modern U.S. history, Gellman will spend the coming year as an NEH public scholar completing research and writing a book that fuses photography and historical narrative to explain how, a half-century ago, racial and economic inequalities led to overlapping grassroots protest movements in Chicago that sought to redefine democracy in America.
The project’s working title is “Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay” and is under contract for publication with the University of Chicago Press. Expected to be published in time for the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s tumultuous 1968 Democratic convention, the book will feature 190 never-before-published images by Art Shay, who is one of America’s most accomplished photographers, and essays that complicate, and even upend, our most popular memories and accounts of the period’s history.
“I am honored to be chosen for this award and wish to thank those who encouraged me to apply and provided valuable feedback on the Gage Gallery exhibit that inspired this project,” said Gellman, who is the author of The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America and Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights.
“With this project,” Gellman explained, “I intend to provide a rich textual and visual narrative about American urban history and its protest politics, which will speak to the dramatic efforts that have been made over time to end urban crises on behalf of the common good.”