Making diversity work Perspectives: Local history conference kicks off city bicentennial year celebrations.

November 15, 1996

A TWO-DAY conference devoted to Baltimore history and open to the public is a rare occurrence. That's why "Making Diversity Work: 250 Years of Baltimore History," which takes place today at the University of Baltimore and tomorrow at Coppin State College, is a proper kick-off to next year's bicentennial of the city's incorporation.

Some 300 paying participants are expected at the conference that charts Baltimore's development from a port for shipping tobacco and corn to the diverse and vibrant metropolitan area it is today. This strong registration has delighted the sponsors.

"Early on there was a lot of cynicism about the conference," acknowledged Jessica Elfenbein, a University of Baltimore professor who is the event's coordinator. No one had any idea about what to expect when the call went out for papers. But in the end, 50 scholars submitted proposals -- twice as many as could be accommodated within the conference schedule.

The array of topics is broad, the background and geographical distribution of researchers impressive: A University of California scholar will discuss the way Baltimore handled welfare and joblessness in the early 1800s, a Penn State researcher will talk about how volunteer fire departments contributed to community formation. Other papers will focus on such topics as free blacks in pre-Civil War Baltimore, white working-class community activism between 1967-1975, the relationships between Jewish and black communities, the transformation of Baltimore public schools and issues concerning housing and neighborhood change.

Those who cannot attend the conference will be able to see the papers later in printed form.

"Making Diversity Work" provides a forum for generally young historians to view Baltimore's development from their perspective. The conference promises to be a thought-provoking event.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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