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The National Council on Public History (NCPH) has awarded a 2022 Outstanding Public History Project Award to Morris “Dino” Robinson, Jr., Founder and Executive Director of Shorefront Legacy Center, and Jenny Thompson, Director of Education at the Evanston History Center, for their report, “Evanston Policies and Practices Directly Affecting the African American Community.”
Robinson and Thompson’s report was commissioned by the City of Evanston to provide historical background to the city’s groundbreaking local reparations legislation. Robinson and Thompson teamed up to write the report and provide a narrative history of racial discrimination in Evanston.
The NCPH awards committee members characterized their report as “detailed, compelling, and deeply researched history.”
Robinson and Thompson said they are greatly honored by the award and grateful to have worked on such an important project. Both view the report as playing a crucial role in serving as an educational resource for the general public, as well as for the media, as it maps out the historical background related to Evanston’s local reparations legislation.
“It was important for us, and for the benefit of the community, to gather together in one document our own research, coupled with additional published work from many authors, into a comprehensive summary,” Robinson said. “This way, everyone has access to review Evanston’s history related to racial disparity since its founding. And if readers are inclined, they can do a deeper dive into the list of source materials within the report.”
The report, which draws from years of research, covers a broad range of topics, including racial discrimination in employment, schools and businesses, along with providing information concerning the issues of zoning, housing and land clearance policies. The report was completed in a first draft form in the summer of 2020 and was then made available to the public on the city’s website. It continues to be accessible to the public for free. The report is available for viewing here.
“Working on the report was a unique opportunity not only to share a critical aspect of Evanston’s history, but also to provide local history in support of a significant and historic endeavor,” Thompson said. “It allowed us to connect our work as historians directly to both the civic and public realm. We are grateful to Evanston city officials and staff for their support of the project and we hope to continue to share and expand upon this work going forward.”
Members of the awards committee noted that they “felt strongly that this collaboration among historians and local lawmakers provided an important template for the role of public history and public historians in supporting racial justice.” And they observed that the project “expands how we think about public history and makes the work of public historians critical and immediate.”
The National Council on Public History is a professional membership association established in 1979 to support a diverse group of people, institutions, agencies, businesses and academic programs associated with the field of public history. The NCPH awards recognize “excellence in the diverse ways public historians apply their skills to the world around us.”