Micki Kaufman: “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me: Quantifying Kissinger, 1968-1977”

Micki Kaufman

“Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me: Quantifying Kissinger, 1968-1977”

Friday, November 22, 2013
2:30 pm


Perhaps more than any other former Secretary of State or National Security Advisor, the public ‘celebrity’ of Henry Kissinger was (and remains) based upon an array of paradoxes both conscious and unconscious. As compelling as the foreign policy insights detailed in the prior section, these internal contradictions within Kissinger’s political and personal (and ostensibly, moral) psychology have been the subject of much of the recent historical study of ‘Kissingerology.’ Scholars who have applied a more traditional policy-centric interpretive model to these studies have faced significant difficulty in their efforts to understand what at first glance appear to be apparently incompatible motives and behavior, attempting with varying degrees of success to reconcile facets of a public figure who appears to embody a host of mutually exclusive dichotomies. Employing computational text analysis techniques (word collocation, topic modeling and word frequency analysis), I have attempted to quantify and illuminate some of the evidence for these dichotomies in Kissinger’s own official correspondence.


Nick Juravich: “A Union of Paraprofessionals?: Paraprofessional Organizing in Education, 1968-1978”

Nick Juravich

“A Union of Paraprofessionals?: Paraprofessional Organizing in Education, 1968-1978”

Friday, November 8, 2013


The paper analyzes the creation and development of paraprofessional programs in public education, focusing on New York City as both a case study and a hub for the promotion of programs nationwide. In the mid-1960s, school districts in low- income communities across the United States used funds provided by federal legislation to hire local residents, primarily the mothers of schoolchildren, to work in public schools. “Paras” provided instructional and disciplinary assistance in classrooms, worked in their neighborhoods to forge links between schools and communities, and trained to become teachers. Poorly paid at first, paras unionized with locals of the American Federation of Teachers, beginning in New York City in 1969. Hundreds of thousands of paras worked in American schools by the mid- 1970s. I believe this study fresh perspectives on histories of education, social protest, teacher unionism, and, more broadly the relationship between education, poverty, and the welfare state. Paras worked to integrate the teaching corps and promote community participation in schooling, but also joined unions and fought to make their locals equally responsive to community needs. Like many War on Poverty initiatives, para programs focused on education and training, but they also created jobs and redistributed resources to communities. Preliminary research suggests that paras remade schools, communities, and unions (and the relationships between them) in ways that improved public education in this era, and might inform current debates about the role of communities and unions in schools.

Barry Goldberg: “That Jewish Crowd: Prejudice, Protest and The Politics of Fair Education Law in New York, 1945-1950”

Barry Goldberg

“That Jewish Crowd: Prejudice, Protest and The Politics of Fair Education Law in New York, 1945-1950”

Friday, October 25th


On April 11, 1949, police arrested seventeen student picketers outside The City College of New York’s (CCNY) uptown campus. These seventeen protesters were only a few of the estimated 3,000 who walked out of class that day to join a massive student strike calling for the removal of two professors.1 One, William C. Davis, of the Economics Department, was formerly the head of Army Hall, a brand new dormitory shared by CCNY, Columbia, and NYU, established for returning World War II veterans. Less than a year earlier, two of these African- American veterans had accused Davis of intentionally segregating the dorm’s residents by race.2 A faculty committee report found Davis’ explanation for this policy — “Negroes seem to congregate by themselves in the cafeteria and recreational halls” — lacking and, as a result, he stepped down as director of the residence hall.3 Shortly thereafter, however, Davis re-assumed his position in the economics department and received a pay raise. CCNY administrators had, in the eyes of the students, promoted and condoned the actions of a segregationist.

Joel Feingold: “Struggle Everyday: Toward a New Synthesis of Black History in America, 1861-1992”

Joel Feingold

Struggle Everyday: Toward a New Synthesis of Black History in America, 1861-1992″

Friday, October 11, 2013


I posit a new synthesis of Black history in the United States.  This synthesis is rooted in the struggles, writ small, of Black workers to survive in a shifting racial capitalism and racial democracy; a synthesis rooted also in the struggles, writ large, of Black workers to win greater or lesser degrees of power over racial capitalism and racial democracy. I argue that Black workers have played a central and exceptional role in the history of American labor, and that precariously-employed Black workers in cities have been a vanguard in the American workers’ movement. All of my periods are premised on Black workers’ changing relationships to other workers, to employers, to the State, and to each other in a capitalist society and racial democracy.  In the fraught task of synthesis, I avoid arguments that cast the Black working class ahistorically: without relation to a period’s broader class structure and a time’s quicksilver constellation of social forces. I conclude that the history of precariously-employed Black workers in American cities suggests a mode of struggle, forged in crisis, against racial capitalism and racial democracy that can be remade today.

Ariel Arnau: “Put a Sticker on It: Civil Rights, Bilingual Voting, and Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia in the 1970s”

Ariel Arnau

“Put a Sticker on It: Civil Rights, Bilingual Voting, and Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia in the 1970s”

September 27, 2013


Judge Joseph S. Lord III sat in his office listening intently to the attorney for the defendants Michael Minkin. “Your Honor,” declared Minkin “… setting up Spanish signs and materials at every election site would take too much time and be too costly for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. The election is only a month away.” “Too long?” Lord responded. “How hard is it to put a sticker on it? Shall we time it then?” Lord took out a blank 8 1⁄2 by 11” sheet of paper from his worn wooden desk. “Let us assume for a moment that this paper is a sign in Spanish with election instructions on it. Could you please tape it to the front of my office door? I want to see how long that would take.” The attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Nelson Diaz and Herbert Teitelbaum, sat back in their chairs with wry smiles on their faces.

Welcome to the 20th Century Historians’ Working Group!


The 20th Century Historians’ Working Group is seeking papers for discussion for our biweekly sessions.

Our first session in September 2013 began a standing, critical conversation among doctoral students about our respective research, our scholarly interests, and our broader orientation, as historians, toward contemporary political and social questions.

In the interest of encouraging participation and building the organization, we are casting a wide net. Here are the guidelines for submissions:

  • We are seeking papers on a broad array of topics–anything that could be considered part of the “long twentieth century,” from the late 19th century to the present.
  • We are seeking papers that focus on the social, broadly defined, with an eye to the economic, political, and cultural transformations of the “modern” era.
  • There are no regional, national, or linguistic constraints on the subject; we welcome local study of anywhere, in the same way we encourage submissions that cross borders. Full disclosure: The membership of our network currently centers on students of modern U.S. history. We welcome and encourage membership and contributions from all other specialties centered on the “long twentieth century.”
  • The paper should be a work in progress–that is, part of an ongoing research project, a chapter of a larger work, or a piece of scholarship aimed at developing a larger project.
  • The paper should be 20-30 pages of text (roughly 10,000 words) or shorter.

TO SUBMIT: Please send an abstract of 2-3 paragraphs, along with a brief description of yourself and your research interests and objectives. Please send these submissions (just the absract for now, not the paper itself) as a word-compatible attachment to: 20thcentpapers@gmail.com

Members who have participated thus far include: Ariel Arnau (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York); Michelle Chen (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York); Lindsey Dayton (History, Columbia University); Joel Feingold (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York); Barry Goldberg (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York); Ben Hellwege (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York); Nick Juravich (History, Columbia University); and Micki Kaufman (History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York).

Our process is to collect submissions, sort through them prior to each meeting, and schedule one paper for each meeting. Each meeting is a peer-led review / discussion / workshop format that allows readers to exchange ideas, criticism, and general inquiries in a relaxed but rigorous conversational setting.

If you are interested in being a reader, as opposed to a presenter, please write 20thcentpapers@gmail.com indicating your interest and we’ll inform you of the scheduling details when they are finalized.

If you’re interested in helping to plan our work or if you’d like to join the group, please come to our meetings every other Friday afternoon from 2:30 – 4:00pm:

Graduate Center, Room 5114
365 Fifth Avenue and 34th Street

The 20th Century Historians’ Working Group is an open-invitation group. Please forward this call far and wide!

The 20th Century Historians’ Working Group