Research and Graduate Studies

Academic Symposium

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Tiya Miles

Thursday, April 4, 2013
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

"Detroit: Then and Now"

In public discussions about the current state and future prospects of the post-industrial American city, Detroit is often viewed as a potentially fruitful test case or frightening cautionary tale. While scholars sort through definitions of a new kind of urbanism that Detroit may represent, community members (and academic partners) search for ways to build constructive change on the ground and shape positive visions for the city’s residents. This presentation explores the notion that the challenges Detroit faces in the present may hold similarities to challenges the settlement confronted in its first years of incorporation. In the late 18th and early 19th century when Detroit was first incorporated as a town, it was a new kind of place within the American geo-political landscape. Detroit residents had to set and negotiate terms around international boundaries and relations, economic viability, racial categories and slavery, inter-cultural exchanges, political efficacy, unexpected disaster, and war. Through a reconstruction of early Detroit in the first American decades with a focus on the role of slavery, this presentation addresses the aforementioned themes and considers whether understanding Detroit then can help to shape visionary thinking and action for Detroit now.  

Tiya Miles is Chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and Professor of History, American Culture, Native American Studies, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of Harvard University (A.B.), Emory University (M.A.), and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D.). As the Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth College, she co-organized, with Celia Naylor and Stephanie Morgan, the first national conference on African American and Native American interrelated histories and literatures. Miles’s book, Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, was published by the University of California Press in 2005 and received three book awards from historical, American studies, and Native American studies academic associations, including the Frederick Jackson Turner prize from the Organization of American Historians for the best first book in American history. Miles is also the author of The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2010, which was awarded three historical book prizes.  She is co-editor, with Sharon P. Holland, of Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country (2006), and she is the author of various articles on women’s history and black and Native interrelated experience. In 2007, Miles was awarded the Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture.  In 2011 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. More information about Tiya Miles can be found at her website:

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