Robert McGreevey '98, an assistant professor of history at The College of New Jersey, was recently named the Teacher of the Year for New Jersey Studies by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance. In particular, the Alliance cited his undergraduate research seminar, Twentieth-Century Trenton, as an example of innovative and creative teaching. In this course, McGreevey focused on the period from the 1940s to the 1960s and the efforts of the Trenton Committee on Unity, a group of largely Jewish and African American activists, to bring about racial equality in the city.
In a Trenton Times interview, McGreevey, who grew up in suburban Philadelphia, says he is most interested in the city's rich tapestry of social and industrial change.
"The history of Trenton is like the history of so many northeast and Midwestern cities that have witnessed both widespread community activism and sweeping changes such as de-industrialization and white flight," says McGreevey, who specializes in the political, social, and cultural history of the United States from 1877 to 1945. "There are lots of ways in which white communities that now live in the suburbs had their activist roots in Trenton."
McGreevey cites several historians at Swarthmore as inspirations, including professors Bruce Dorsey, Timothy Burke, Pieter Judson '78. But he credits a seminar with James C. Hormel Professor in Social Justice Marjorie Murphy, an authority on American public education, labor history, and women's history, as a "pivotal moment."
"I remember beginning the seminar feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of readings and the level of discussion expected," he says. "But she helped me think more deliberately about how to read and write about history. Somehow she knew I could do it better and was able to teach me how. Now as a history professor myself, that is exactly what I try to do for my students."