History in the public interest from the Lepage Center at Villanova University
"Information Wanted"
In 1889 Simon Foley placed an ad in The Christian Recorder newspaper.

A free African American living in Mississippi, he had not seen his family since before the Civil War. "Simon Foley desires to learn the whereabouts of his people if any of them are alive," he wrote. "I left them on the Poplar Hill plantation near Antioch Church, about 44 years ago. I was then about 11 years old."

Foley was one of thousands of former slaves to take out "Information Wanted" ads in hopes of finding lost family members. The ads, run in black newspapers from the end of the Civil War through the early 20th century, mention family members, often by name, and also by physical description, last seen locations, and at times by the name of a former slave master.

Now, a project led by Villanova historian Judith Giesberg is finding these ads and collecting them into a database. For the first time, this story of loss, yearning and love that played out in the decades after the Civil War is being chronicled and placed online. It is called "Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery." 

The Lepage Center is proud to support this important project. We will be funding a graduate student this summer to continue to find these ads, digitize them, transcribe them and place them online. Villanova students have worked on the project since its inception; they detail the technology behind the project on the VU Grad History blog.

The project has generated enormous public interest, with volunteers across the country signing up to transcribe. Check out the features by CBS, NPR and Philly.com and learn how you can contribute.
Club Frontera
The Lepage Center co-hosted our first event when we joined with Villanova's Latin American Studies program, the History Department, the Department of Geography and the Communications Department to present a film screening of the documentary film Club Frontera.

The film follows a Mexican soccer team that has helped Tijuana escape its violent past. Just south of the U.S. border, Tijuana is a city haunted drugs, murder and crime. The rise of the soccer club Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles has given the city hope. The on-campus screening, attended by more than 60 people, included a Q&A with director Chris Cashman, a Villanova alumnus.
From the field
Lepage Center director Jason Steinhauer writes in the latest History News magazine that history is "hot" and that the profession must use this moment to showcase its value to future generations. The magazine is published by the American Association for State and Local History.

Back in August 2016, Steinhauer wrote a similar piece for Inside Higher Ed titled, " History is Hot.Historians are seemingly more in demand than ever, the piece argued, yet the numbers of history majors continue to decline. Can the current moment inspire more students to enter the field? The History News piece updates the argument in light of the Presidential election and the domestic debates that have ensued. Read it here.

Meanwhile... 
Finally, Villanova historian Lynne Hartnett had an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the grassroots power that energized the Russian Revolution, and whether that holds lessons for our politics today.
#Histcomm at West Chester
Our director Jason Steinhauer recently traveled to West Chester University to present a guest lecture on history communication -- a.k.a. #histcomm.

To contribute to the public interest, historians must communicate in ways beyond scholarly monographs and academic journal articles. The skillset of communicating historical scholarship via the Web, social media, video, audio, memes, GIFs, listicles and more is now being practiced under the umbrella term of history communication

Expect to see more from the Lepage Center on history communication, bringing history to various audiences in innovative and creative ways that take full advantage of today's new media.
Grad students speak
Lepage Center director Jason Steinhauer and Lepage Center faculty director Dr. Paul Steege meet with the VU graduate student forum.
The Lepage Center directors met with VU graduate students to talk about how the Lepage Center can be a resource for them. Ideas included helping students with careers and networking, hosting programs on various historical topics, developing history communication skills and a graduate student fellowship attached to the Lepage Center. Plans to assist in all these areas are in development, so stay tuned!
Fall programming coming
Our fall calendar is in the works! It'll include events on fake news, military intervention, American identity, and politics -- with events occurring on the Villanova campus, in Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Details to be posted to our web page (which is in the process of becoming a full website!). Please check back in the months ahead.
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