CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois labor scholar Stephanie Fortado is the recipient of a 2022 fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.
The ACLS Fellowship program supports exceptional scholarship in the humanities and interpretive social sciences that has the potential to make significant contributions within and beyond their fields, according to the organizers. The program will award more than $3.7 million to 60 scholars selected from nearly 1,000 applicants through a rigorous, multi-stage peer review process.
Fortado, a lecturer in the Labor Education Program at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Illinois, is a social and cultural historian with a focus on Black working class and social movement history; civil rights and Black power history; and labor history, especially as it connects to women’s history, environmental history and urban history.
The award will support Fortado’s first book, a work-in-progress titled “Race, Recreation and Rebellion: Public Parks, Policing and Black Youth in Cleveland, Ohio, 1932-2020.”
“The book is based on my dissertation, which studied how Black residents used public parks in Cleveland,” she said. “It’s a subject worthy of study in that Black residents were often prohibited from using public parks, which in turn led to political organizing around that issue. It also examines the cultural history of those public spaces, but it ends in the 1970s and the city of Cleveland has changed much in those intervening decades.”
Despite considerable research on the Civil Rights campaigns aimed at desegregating Midwest recreation spaces such as public parks, scholars have yet to fully examine the toll of urban renewal and declining tax bases, Fortado said.
“The ACLS fellowship will allow me to conduct more oral history interviews for the time period that I’ve already studied, but also bring it up to the present,” she said. “That will include examining the processes of criminalizing Black youth in public spaces and documenting grassroots community responses, such as efforts to provide meaningful Black youth recreation and dismantle racist policing practices.”
The work also will spotlight Cleveland’s importance as a site for Black Power activism, Fortado said.
“As a city that underwent the largest urban renewal program in the nation and experienced devastating industrial job losses, Cleveland helps us better understand the impact of urban decline on Black communities and how community members organized for their right to the city,” she said.
Formed in 1919, the American Council of Learned Societies is a nonprofit federation of 78 scholarly organizations. ACLS employs its $180 million endowment and more than $30 million annual operating budget to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and to advocate for the centrality of the humanities in the modern world.
The ACLS Fellowship program is funded primarily through ACLS’s endowment, which has benefited from contributions by the Mellon Foundation, the Arcadia Charitable Trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the ACLS Research University Consortium and private donors.