Carnegie Mellon University
Special Projects

Alongside its interdisciplinary research, writing, publication, and education projects, the Center also supports "Bridge-Building" Projects, linking the University to the larger metropolitan community.

Special “bridge-building” projects include:

Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era, A Symposium, 2007.

Presented in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, CAUSE, and the Senator John Heinz History Center, this symposium held on 27 and 28 April 2007 featured a number of speakers who examined the impact of war on African American manhood, racism in the Vietnam war, black women and literary voices, oral history accounts from Vietnam veterans, poetic verse and fine arts creativity of veterans. The exhibit Soul Soldiers at the John Heinz History Center, which opened in November 2006, explored the War from an African American perspective and used items such as soldiers’ uniforms, historic photographs, military recruitment posters and soldiers’ letters back home to examine Vietnam and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and help bring this tumultuous time to life.

See the Full Program

From Slavery to Freedom Exhibit, 2013-,

The Center supported an undergraduate intern from the H. John Heinz College and a graduate student research associate during the summer of 2011 in preparation for the From Slavery to Freedom exhibit. Opened in 2013, this permanent exhibit details the unexplored history of slavery, abolitionism, and the modern struggle for freedom using artifacts, immersive museum settings, rare documents, interactive activities, and audio/video components. It connects the region's earliest African immigrants to the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1960s and discusses today's hopes for freedom and equality. CAUSE also selected its 2013-14 postdoctoral fellows in collaboration with the opening of this multiple award-winning exhibit.

Heinz History Center From Slavery to Freedom Exhibit page

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, CAUSE collaborated with the CMU Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and the Pittsburgh Public Schools in the development of the Teaching American History Program, Summer Institute: "Immigration and Migration in Twentieth Century America."

Conducted during the summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004, the three-week Immigration and Migration Institute Program served over 40 area teachers. Participants engaged a variety of historical materials, adopted new historical research methods, incorporated the use of primary sources into their lesson plans, and improved their computer skills. At the same time, the historian session leaders and graduate student assistants gained a new understanding of the political culture of the schools, the challenges of dealing with school board bureaucracy, the difficulty of implementing educational reforms, and the stress involved with being adult as well as young learners. This project was generously funded by the U.S. Department of Education for four years.  

Mavis Burks (a graduate of CMU and former CAUSE assistant) researched and wrote "The Bridge: African American Guide to Pittsburgh." A collaborative project between the Pittsburgh Urban League and CAUSE, "The Bridge" provides an introduction to Pittsburgh from an African American perspective. Part of the Urban League's campaign to recruit and retain young black professionals in the region, the guidebook offers a sampling of the history and amenities that Pittsburgh has to offer. Sites were selected with three main objectives in mind: regional as well as national significance, a connection to a person or event that is outstanding in Pittsburgh history, and a physical or architectural representation characteristic of the black community at that time. Published fifteen years ago, a new version of this guide is well overdue, a project that we will propose for the current generation of young History Department and Heinz College students. CAUSE also collaborated on the Urban League’s publication, The State of Black Youth in Pittsburgh (1999)edited by Major Mason III, Ph.D. and Ralph L. Bangs, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Center for Social Research. The Center is currently collaborating on the writing of a short narrative history of the Urban League of Pittsburgh.

“Civil Rites” Oral History Project 2008, 2011-12

In 2008, in collaboration with the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the “Civil Rites” Oral History Project collected and preserved the memories of selected African Americans in Pittsburgh, with an emphasis on the lives of artists, particularly jazz musicians.  These interviews comprised a significant cluster of the 185 interviews in the “Remembering African Americans in Pittsburgh” oral history project.  In 2010-11, the Center helped to launch a new AWC-College Collaborative.  Comprised of representatives from the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Chatham, Point Park, Carlow, and CMU, this group sought ways to strengthen relations between the AWC, students, faculty, and staff at area colleges and universities.  

Over the years, CAUSE developed a number of programs in collaboration with the PHMC.  These not only included publication of the edited volume (with the late historian Eric L. Smith), African Americans in Pennsylvania: Shifting Historical Perspectives (1997), but also planning for various Pennsylvania Annual Black History Conferences held around the state, including Pittsburgh on April 6 and 7, 2001. CAUSE served on the planning committee and sponsored and co-sponsored three sessions. These included two workshops on African American history for high school students and a panel entitled: “Re-Thinking the 19th Century” with papers from historians Lawrence Glasco and Emma Lapsansky on the black Pennsylvanian urban experience. 

On 27 September 2013, the Forum for Economic Development, Inc. (FED) and the Center sponsored the inaugural Michael F. Moran Speaker Series featuring Pittsburgh mayor-elect Bill Peduto. The mayor-elect discussed his views on the city's economy now and his vision for its future.  Peduto promised special emphasis on how the city and the community can generate jobs for people long left out of public and private revitalization efforts, particularly the under-educated and minority workers and people laid off in their 50s or 60s.  

Peduto event poster

Hill House Association, Oscar Harris Event, November 13, 2013. 

Credited with shaping the contemporary Atlanta skyline, CMU alum and architect, Oscar Harris discussed his book, Oscar: Memoirs of a Master Architect. Harris reflected on his experience in achieving a successful career in a profession dominated by white men. CAUSE cosponsored this event with the Hill House Association and  the Hill District Education Council among other organizations in the city. Harris discussed his experiences in the industry at Hill House. 

Teenie Harris book cover image

CAUSE collaborated with the Battle of Homestead Foundation to schedule a presentation at the Pump House. In addition to serving as the closing speaker for our 2011-12 speakers series, Michael Honey, Professor of History at the University of Washington, Tacoma, delivered an interactive presentation at the Pump House, titled “From Memphis to Madison: Reviving Martin Luther King’s Gospel of Labor Rights and Economic Justice.”