NEH Project Team


Matt Kautz is an assistant professor in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University. His research uses historical methods to understand the roots and consequences of educational inequality and racism and how communities have challenged these with their own educational visions. His work has been published in the History Teacher, the Journal of Urban History, and other outlets. Dr. Kautz began his career as a teacher in Detroit.

Terah Venzant Chambers is a professor of K-12 educational administration and the associate dean for equity and inclusion at Michigan State University. Her research interests include post-Brown K-12 education policy and urban education leadership. She has recently published Racial Opportunity Cost with Harvard University Press which explores the specific challenges faced by high-achieving students of color.

Institute Faculty

Sheneka Williams is professor and chair of the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Williams’s research focuses in two main areas: rural education and school desegregation. Her research specifically examines educational opportunity for African American students in rural contexts, and the resulting effects of (de)segregated schools on students of color. Her research has been published in journals such as Educational Policy, Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and the Peabody Journal of Education. Aspects of her research have been presented at The National Press Club, American Enterprise Institute, and on CNN and NPR.

Dan Golodner has been the archivist for the American Federation of Teachers for over 25 years at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University. He processes collections, travels the country collecting teacher union historical documents, and continues to push the narrative of teacher unions through workshops, lectures as well as conducting oral histories with members and officers of the AFT. He hosts a podcast Tales from the Reuther which explores labor history, urban history, and human rights history in Detroit as well as nationally.   

Visiting Scholars

Ken Coleman is a Michigan Advance reporter covering stories in Southeastern Michigan. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. Mr. Coleman is also an experienced tour guide who regularly provides bus and walking tours of Detroit to educators, journalists, and policymakers. 

Angela Dillard is the Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, History and in the Residential College at the University of Michigan. Dr. Dillard specializes in American and African-American intellectual history, particularly around issues of race, religion and politics — on both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum. Her first book, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Now?: Multicultural Conservatism in America (NYU Press, 2001) was among the first critical studies of conservative political thought among African Americans, Latinos, women and gay men. Her second book, Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit studied the interconnections of religion and political radicalism in Detroit from the 1930s to the 1960s. She is a member of the Detroit River Story Lab group ( and has served as Co-PI on the Egalitarian Metropolis project, jointly sponsored by Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Matthew Lassiter, Professor of History and Co-PI of the Carceral State Project’s Documenting Criminalization, Confinement, and Resistance research initiative, is a historian who studies the twentieth-century United States with a focus on political history, urban/suburban studies, racial and social inequality, and the history of policing. As the project director of the “Policing and Social Justice HistoryLab,” Dr. Lassiter has collaborated with student research teams to explore archives and databases, interview historical actors, and present their findings through multimedia digital exhibits and interactive maps. Under his leadership, the project’s focus on Detroit and the University of Michigan’s geographic proximity has created an ethical model for historical study that transforms student-produced materials into resources for impacted communities. His most recent book, The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs, reveals how the escalating drug war merged punitive law enforcement and coercive public health into a discriminatory system for the social control of teenagers and young adults, and how liberal and conservative lawmakers alike pursued an agenda of racialized criminalization.

Donovan McCarty is a staff attorney with the Detroit Justice Center specializing in housing, family, and traffic law. He is also a lecturer at Wayne State University’s Law School where he teaches a course on the role of lawyers within social movements called Movement Lawyering. For the past eight years, Mr. McCarty has been recording interviews and assembling footage for a documentary on the long history of Milliken v. Bradley. 

Noliwe Rooks, an interdisciplinary scholar, Rooks is the L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of Africana Studies, and the chair of Africana Studies at Brown University. Her work explores how race and gender both impact and are impacted by popular culture, social history and political life in the United States. She works on the cultural and racial implications of beauty, fashion and adornment; race, capitalism and education, and the urban politics of food and cannabis production. Dr. Rooks’ current book, in which she coined the term “segrenomics,” is Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education explores how the long history of racial segregation in American education has evolved into education reforms that limit access to quality education in places like Detroit. Dr. Rooks is currently working on book in which she argues that Detroit’s educational past and present is a microcosm of the nation’s triumphs and trials with trying to equitabliy educate non-white students in the United States.

Tom Sugrue is Silver Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History and affiliated faculty member in the Wagner School at NYU. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the New York Institute for the Humanities, and the Royal Historical Society. Sugrue is author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (Princeton University Press, 2010) and Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (Random House, 2008), a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Sugrue’s first book Origins of the Urban Crisis, winner of the Bancroft Prize, documented the roots of Detroit’s present-day economic deprivation within a long history of racial violence, discrimination, and deindustrialization that reshaped the American metropolitan landscape after World War II. 

Dara Walker is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies, History, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Walker is currently writing her book manuscript, High School Rebels: Black Power, Education, and Youth Politics in the Motor City, 1966-1972, which examines the role of the high school student organizing tradition in Detroit during the Black Power era. Her research has been funded by the NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship, and the Walter P. Reuther Library’s Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research in Education. 

Invited Movement Veterans

Dorothy Dewberry Aldridge is a Detroit native who began her activism work as a member of the NAACP Youth Council in the 1950s. As a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) she worked with activists such as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ella Baker. 

Marian Kramer-Baker is a Detroit-based organizer who worked with the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in the 1960s to register citizens to vote. She is the co-chair of the National Welfare Rights Union. Throughout her life, she has worked to support gender, racial, and economic equity among other issues. 

Visiting Artist

Chace Morris (aka Mic Write) is a poet, emcee, educator, and lifelong Detroiter.  He is a 2021 Radical Imagination grantee, 2020 Lewis Prize Award recipient, 2018 MAP Fund grantee, a Kresge Literary fellow, two-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam champion, and has received an Alain Locke Award from the Detroit Institute of Arts. As a writer-in-residence for the Inside/Out Literary Arts Program, Morris worked alongside Detroit Public Schools’ teachers to infuse poetry into the curriculum that resulted in published anthologies of student work.