Today’s post is a part of University Press Week 2023’s blog tour. This year, the members of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses)—an organization of 160 mission-driven publishers in the United States, Canada, and around the world—have chosen #SpeakUP as the theme for University Press Week. We’re thrilled to join our peers in the university press community to celebrate university press work that amplifies thought-provoking concepts, new points of view, and ideas that advocate for social change. Today’s post, from Publicity and Public Relations Manager Gigi Lamm, responds to Friday’s blog tour prompt: “Where do university presses #SpeakUP?”
University Presses are fortunate to be able to speak up across the globe. We work with authors on all continents and the scholarship we publish speaks to myriad international issues. But sometimes, it is just as important to look inwards as it is outwards, and two recent Penn Press titles offer us the opportunity to speak up about our own city and community.
This spring, Penn Press published a new edition of the landmark sociology study, The Philadelphia Negro, by W. E. B. Du Bois. Originally published in 1899, also by Penn Press, the volume remains a classic work. It is the first, and perhaps still the finest, example of engaged sociological scholarship—the kind of work that, in contemplating social reality, helps to change it.
The history of The Philadelphia Negro began in 1897 when the promising young sociologist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868–1963) was given a temporary post as Assistant in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in order to conduct a systematic investigation of social conditions in the seventh ward of Philadelphia. The product of those studies was the first great empirical book on the Negro in American society.
In this new edition, Sterling Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies at Yale University Elijah Anderson examines how the neighborhood studied by Du Bois has changed over the years and compares the status of blacks today with their status when the book was initially published.
Moving west from Du Bois’ South Philadelphia neighborhood to Penn Press’ home in West Philadelphia, University City: History, Race, and Community in the Era of the Innovation District, by Associate Professor of Urban Policy & Planning, City University of New York Hunter College Laura Wolf-Powers, also considers urban evolution and its racial implications.
Examining university-sponsored innovation districts, which have been increasingly celebrated in American cities by policy makers who believe these districts to be engines of inclusive growth, Wolf-Powers chronicles five decades of planning in and around the communities of West Philadelphia’s University City. The book demonstrates how the current dynamics of innovation district development both depart from and connect to the politics of mid-twentieth-century urban renewal and concludes that even as university and government leaders vow to develop without displacement, what existing residents value is imperiled when innovation-driven redevelopment remains accountable to the property market.
And while the new edition of The Philadelphia Negro allows us to understand the changes that have occurred within the city’s seventh ward since the book’s publication, University City’s reflections advocate for neighborhood change so that the history of and energy invested in local environments—and the people who live there—are respected as precious urban resources.
Whether looking at our city through a historic or contemporary lens, Du Bois and Wolf-Powers’ scholarship allows Penn Press to speak up about prevalent urban issues that impact the community on our doorstep so that we continue to prioritize speaking up locally as well as globally.