Publication Date

April 1, 2010

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

James GrossmanAHA President Barbara Metcalf expressed the enthusiasm of the AHA Council over Dr. Grossman’s appointment: “He is an accomplished scholar, a passionate advocate for history, and a leader in both public humanities and history.” At the Newberry Library he has overseen programs for the general public as well as for scholars and teachers, and has built a strong reputation for bridge-building across fields and disciplines.

Grossman is the author ofLand of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (1989) andA Chance to Make Good: African Americans, 1900–1929 (1997). He was also the project director and coeditor ofThe Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004), labeled by one prominent urban historian as “one of the very finest and likely one of the most durable works of North American historical scholarship in our era.” A collaborative project of the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, and Northwestern University, it involved over 700 contributors, and is now available in both print and digital formats.

Current Executive Director Arnita Jones considers Grossman “an ideal person to lead the Association at a time when scholarly societies, higher education and research institutions are confronting many new challenges, including the digital revolution.” An active member of the AHA for many years, Grossman has also been a leader of the National History Center, an AHA initiative that helps historians reach out to broader audiences.

Grossman’s goals for the AHA include enhancing the role of historians in public culture, collaborating with counterparts in other scholarly associations to explore new opportunities opened by innovations in digital communication, and maintaining the AHA’s strong advocacy voice on open access and issues of importance to historians.

James Grossman received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, and has taught at the University of California at San Diego. He is the author of Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (1989) andA Chance to Make Good: African Americans, 1900–1929 (1997). He was project director and coeditor (with Janice L. Reiff and Ann Durkin Keating) of The Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004), and is coeditor (with Janice L. Reiff and Ann Durkin Keating) ofThe Encyclopedia of Chicago Online ( He is also the editor of The Frontier in American Culture (1994) and coeditor of the University of Chicago Press series “Historical Studies of Urban America” (32 volumes, 1992~). His articles and short essays have focused on various aspects of American urban history, African American history, American ethnicity, and higher education. His book reviews have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and New York’s Newsday as well as in various academic journals. A frequent participant in the Chicago Humanities Festival, he has also spoken at the Printers Row Book Fair, and a wide variety of universities and cultural institutions locally and nationwide.

Land of Hope received prizes from the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights and the Illinois State Historical Society.A Chance to Make Good won awards from the New York Public Library and the National Council for the Social Studies. The Encyclopedia of Chicago was honored by the Scholarly Publishers Division of the Association of American Publishers and the Illinois State Historical Society. Chicago Magazine chose Grossman as one of seven “Chicagoans of the Year” in 2005.

Grossman is responsible for the Newberry Library’s research centers, fellowship programs, educational initiatives, and public programs. His consulting experience includes a broad variety of history-related projects (mostly films and exhibits) generated by the Smithsonian Institution, the BBC, Goodman Theater, Field Museum, New-York Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Library, American Social History Project, Blackside, and a variety of independent film producers.

Grossman’s professional service has included elected offices in the American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians, ethics committees for the AHA and the OAH, and advisory boards for the AHA, the Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University, Illinois Historical Society, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and Chicago Public Library. He has served as chair of the board of the Chicago Metro History Education Center and as president of the Hyde Park Soccer Club, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National History Center.

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