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Press Release

Contact:
Jonathan Potts
412-268-6094

For immediate release:
October 3, 2005

Carnegie Mellon History Department Will Spearhead Pittsburgh African-American Oral History Project

Pittsburgh will be a case study of America's post-World War II black communities

PITTSBURGH—The Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University will launch a three-year oral history project beginning in 2006 on African Americans in the city of Pittsburgh since World War II.

This project will collect and preserve the memories of the first and second post-World War II generations of African Americans through recordings of their oral recollections as they entered the work force, started families, built communities and waged struggles against inequality. In collaboration with archivists at Carnegie Mellon's Hunt Library, the recordings will be transcribed and be available electronically and in manuscript format, not only for scholars but for the entire Pittsburgh community. The post-World War II period has been neglected by historians studying African-American history, and one goal of the project will be to foster the spread of historical scholarship into this era and recruit a new generation of scholars into the study of black history.

"The post-World War II years are replete with unanswered questions about the nature of black migration, work, culture and political change from the vantage point of ordinary people and everyday life," said Mellon Professor of History Joe W. Trotter, who is the director of CAUSE.

The Pittsburgh oral history project will be a case study of the urban African American experience since World War II and will provide a model for similar studies throughout the United States. "As the principal urban symbol of the nation's industrial history, Pittsburgh offers an unusual opportunity to capture the racial and class dimensions of an era that is rapidly fading from historical memory," Trotter said.

Pittsburgh's African American community has a rich and storied history. The Pittsburgh Courier, for example, was the nation's best known black newspaper, and the Hill District was arguably the most culturally and intellectually vibrant African American neighborhood outside of Harlem.

"Pittsburgh is important in the life of the African American community. Because of where it is located and its image as a working-class community, it had a profound impact on the development of the class structure in the African American community," Trotter said.

CAUSE aims to link the historian's interest in race, work and economic change over time with contemporary analyses of politics, the urban labor force and employment policies. It develops programs of graduate and postdoctoral training, scholarly research, data collection, publications and education. For more information on CAUSE visit http://www.hss.cmu.edu/cause/.

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