1946 Reconsidered - Filson Historical Society Biennial Academic Conference, 2021

Patrick Lewis's picture
December 31, 2020
Kentucky, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Local History, Public History, Urban History / Studies

The Filson Historical Society, supported in part by the Thomas Walker Bullitt Perpetual Trust, announces its 2021 biennial conference, 1946 Reconsidered: The Ohio Valley in the Post-World War II Era on October 22-23, 2021.


In 1950, WWII veteran and Louisville architect Stratton Hammon wrote to a colleague at Better Homes & Gardens magazine:

Before the war, Louisville was one of the lowest building cost markets in the country because its economy was largely based on agriculture, horses, corn for whiskey and tobacco. The war, however, changed all this. Because we have a hydroelectric dam here, a tremendous number of large plants located here—rubber, aircraft, aluminum, International Harvester, etc. This at once changed our non-union town to a union town and the price of building is, I believe, much above the balance of the country because of the high wages and because we have never yet caught up with the industrial building program.


Hammon accounted for the sea changes he had seen in his professional field, but the social, demographic, spatial, institutional, and environmental changes wrought by the war went beyond the recounting of any one individual. What had Hammon overlooked? What changes were afoot in 1950 that would more fully emerge in later years? How was his world—and ours—fundamentally reshaped after soldiers and civilian war workers returned home?


The Filson invites a multidisciplinary group of scholars to shed light on some of the profound changes and challenges that the end of WWII brought to the Ohio Valley. The Filson invites proposals from scholars in the fields of history, American studies, English, sociology, urban planning, public health, education, archives and oral history, and other related disciplines that contribute to our understanding of the post-World War II era.


Given the deep, systemic inequalities highlighted by unequal health outcomes and disproportionate economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests calling for justice in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor, participants are strongly encouraged to draw connections between their subject material and the region in 2020.


The conference will feature a hybrid in-person and online format. It is scheduled to run for two days, with approximately six sessions and an evening keynote. Individual papers, roundtables of structured discussion among four to six participants, and traditional panels of three papers plus a commenter will be considered. Proposals should indicate whether the presenters are interested in participating in-person, virtually, or are open to either.


Proposals of up to 500 words for an individual paper and 1,500 for full sessions can be submitted along with participant CVs to Patrick Lewis, Director of Collections & Research at the Filson, (patricklewis@filsonhistorical.org) by December 31, 2020. A final schedule will be made public early in 2021.


The Filson encourages potential presenters to submit applications to the Filson’s Scholarly Research Fellowship program at the standing deadlines in February and October to conduct research for the conference.


The Filson is committed to ensuring that this conference has a long afterlife with diverse audiences. The editors of Ohio Valley History will produce a thematic special issue from some selected papers given at this conference.


The Filson is also interested in working with presenters and education specialists after the conference to produce materials aimed at K-12 social studies classrooms. Such materials could include edited recordings of conference presentations; short videos featuring locations, collections, or objects of interest; digital exhibits of primary sources; document-based classroom activities and writing prompts; and open-ended frameworks for students to conduct research on topics of their choosing.


Among the topics of interest to the conference are:

  • Migration within and out from the region
  • Redlining, suburbanization, and white flight
  • Agricultural change including mechanization, centralization of landholding, pesticide usage, and the coming of monocultures
  • The GI Bill and expansion of state higher education
  • The VA, hospital expansion, and changes to healthcare
  • Male veterans’ reintegration into the workplace and civil life
  • Displacement of women and African Americans from the postwar workplace
  • Changes in the coal industry, particularly the shift to surface mining
  • TVA, dams, and electrification
  • Early civil rights organization in African American and LGBT communities
  • Expansion of permanent military bases at Ft. Campbell and Ft. Knox
  • Conversion of war-related industry to civilian production
  • Evolution of transportation infrastructure, the rise of car culture and decline of rail and river
  • Demographic and cultural changes brought by the Baby Boom
  • Development of musical styles rooted in the Southern diaspora including rock & roll
  • Communications change and the rise of television
  • Anti-Communism in politics, the workplace, and popular culture
Contact Info: 

Patrick Lewis, Ph.D.
Director of Collections & Research
Filson Historical Society