Online Roundtable-Adam Lee Cilli’s ‘Canaan, Dim and Far’

February 610, 2023

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting a roundtable on Adam Lee Cilli’s Canaan, Dim and Far: Black Reformers and the Pursuit of Citizenship in Pittsburgh, 1915-1945 (University of Georgia Press, 2021). The roundtable begins on Monday, February 6, 2023 and concludes on Friday, February 10, 2023. It will feature pieces from Hettie V. Williams (Monmouth University), Brandon James Render (University of Utah), Julia W. Bernier (Washington & Jefferson College), and Ashley Everson (Brown University). At the conclusion of the roundtable, the author Adam Lee Cilli (University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg) will respond.

During the week of the online roundtable, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter, like AAIHS on Facebook, or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the roundtable.

About the Author

Adam Lee Cilli, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in history at the University of Maine in 2016 and currently serves as an assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.  He is the author of Canaan, Dim and Far: Black Reformers and the Pursuit of Citizenship in Pittsburgh, 1915-1945 (University of Georgia Press, 2021).  This book illuminates the social justice efforts of journalists, scholars, social workers, medical experts, lawyers, and other professionals who navigated the fraught racial landscape of the urban North during the first phase of the Great Migration. Upending traditional depictions of Black reform work that stress its essential ties to racial uplift ideology, Canaan, Dim and Far shows how reformers experimented with a variety of strategies as they moved fluidly across ideologies and political alliances to find practical solutions to profound inequities. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Women’s HistoryJournal of Urban History, and Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Follow him on Twitter @LeeCilli.

About the Participants

Hettie V. Williams is an Associate Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University. She has taught survey courses in U.S. history, Western Civilization, and upper division courses on the history of African Americans at the university level for more than fifteen years. Her teaching and research interests include: African American intellectual history, gender in U.S. history, and race/ethnicity studies. She has published several book chapters and essays, and has edited/authored five books. Her latest book publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr. G. Reginald Daniel, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). Her forthcoming books are A Seat at the Table: Black Women Public Intellectuals in U.S. History and Culture (University Press of Mississippi, 2021) and Garden of Opportunity: Black Women and the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey (Rutgers University, Press, 2021). Dr. Williams has also contributed opinion pieces, book reviews, and essays to media outlets such as the HuffPost, Daring Woman Magazinethe Asbury Park Press, the Star Ledger, and the award-winning peer reviewed blog Black Perspectives. She is also a host on the New Books Network Intellectual history channel and a research historian on “My Buddy: The WWII 369th Documentary Project.” She also hosts a weekly podcast show with Monmouth University faculty called “This Week in Black History, Society, and Culture.” Follow her on Twitter @DrHettie2017.

Brandon James Render is an assistant professor of history at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His current book project, Colorblind University: A History of Racial Inequity in Higher Education, explores the intellectual genealogy of racial colorblindness throughout the twentieth century. It argues that the civil rights and Black Power era not only functioned as social movements, but resulted in intellectual shifts that fundamentally re-shaped Americans’ collective interpretations of race. His research has received support from the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, and the Texas State Historical Association. Aside from research, his teaching interests include twentieth century U.S. history, Post-1945 social and intellectual movements, and race and public policy. For the 2021-22 academic year, he served as the Mitchem Dissertation Fellow at Marquette University and completed his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin in May 2022. He’s been a member of the AAIHS since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter @brandonjrender.


Julia W. Bernier is an Assistant Professor of History at Washington & Jefferson College. She finished her PhD in African American Studies from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department at UMass Amherst in 2017. Her work focuses on the lives of enslaved people, slavery, and abolition in the nineteenth century United States. Before her current position she taught at the University of North Alabama and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for the Study of Slavery at Georgetown University. She is currently working on her book, Freedom’s Currency, about self-purchase in the United States. Follow her on Twitter @jwbernier.





Ashley Everson is a PhD student in Africana Studies at Brown University. Ashley earned her B.A. with honors distinction in Social Thought and Political Economy and her  M.A.  in Political Science with a graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research interests include Black feminist thought, political theory, labor history, and Black women’s political histories. Her most recent research seeks to investigate the relationship between Black political mobilization in the Tennessee Valley region and decolonial organizing throughout the African Diaspora during the interwar period. You can follow her on Twitter @aevers0n.

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