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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
November 20, 2006
DeKalb, Ill. — Award-winning historian Lizabeth Cohen will deliver the third annual installment of the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, in the auditorium of Altgeld Hall at NIU. The event is free and open to the public.
Cohen is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies at Harvard University. She wrote the 1991 book, “ Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939,” which won Columbia University’s prestigious Bancroft Prize for distinguished work in American history and was named as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
She has authored numerous essays on urban, social and political history in the 20th century and written two other books, including “A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America.” It was named one of the Boston Globe’s nine best non-fiction books of 2003.
“Lizabeth Cohen is one of the world’s leading scholars of urban and labor history in America, and she’s doing exciting new work on the urban environment in the post World War II era,” said Kenton Clymer, chair of the NIU Department of History. “We’re thrilled that she is coming to speak on campus and in the Chicago region, where she has conducted extensive research.”
Cohen’s NIU lecture is titled, “Rebuilding American Cities in the Age of Suburbia: A New Look at Postwar Urban Renewal.”
“My lecture will look at the role that department stores played in the redevelopment of American cities during the 1950s and 1960s,” Cohen said. “I will focus on New Haven, Connecticut, and Boston, Massachusetts, while looking as well at how Chicago compared.
“While the power given to retailers varied in the urban renewal of these cities, in all cases department stores were deemed essential to the viability of the central business district,” she added. “That priority ultimately limited the success of downtown revitalization, given the department store’s growing suburban orientation and steady economic concentration from the 1960s on. As locally-based urban planners and policy makers struggled to make downtowns appealing, economic decision-making in corporate boardrooms far out of their control was undermining their efforts.”
Cohen’s many distinctions and honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council for Learned Societies, as well as numerous awards for her writings. She recently accepted an invitation to serve as the Harmsworth Professor of U.S. History at Britain’s Oxford University for 2007-08. The endowed professorship was established in 1922 and is the oldest post in American history at Oxford.
The endowed lecture series at NIU is named in honor of the late W. Bruce Lincoln, a world-renowned historian of Russia who taught on the NIU faculty for more than three decades until his retirement in 1998. In 1982, Lincoln was among the first group of NIU faculty members awarded Presidential Research Professorships, an honor bestowed on the university’s top scholars.
The recipient of many grants and awards, Lincoln possessed a lifelong passion for learning and a gift for writing. Of the 12 books he authored, several gained a wide audience among the general public. He was one of the last authors to work with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in her role as senior editor at Doubleday Books in New York.