Daniel Czitrom

Professor of History

American cultural and political history; history of New York City; American media history

Daniel Czitrom is Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, where he has taught since 1981 with a focus on recent American cultural and political history. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, he graduated from Bronx High School of Science and SUNY at Binghamton, and he received his PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author, most recently, of Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn of the Century New York (with Bonnie Yochelson, New Press, 2008), a fresh look at the Progressive era social reformer, journalist, and pioneer photographer who publicized the conditions of the desperately poor in New York. The book received wide attention, including reviews in the NY Times, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune, and it was the focus of a special feature by Robert Siegel on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered (June 30, 2008).

"Czitrom, a distinguished historian of old New York and a fine writer," wrote critic Philip Lopate in the Los Angeles Times, "does an excellent job of situating Riis in the larger context of tenement housing reform, a movement that had begun long before Riis arrived and had frustrated many noble reformers… He is scrupulous in balancing Riis’s idealistic and opportunistic tendencies." Sam Roberts in the New York Times praised the book as, "An evocative reminder both of one unrelenting individual’s ability to make a difference and of the relevance of his revelations to the painfully familiar problems we face today."

Czitrom is also the author of Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan (University of North Carolina Press, 1982), which received the First Books Award from the American Historical Association, and has been translated into Spanish and Chinese. He is co-author of Out of Many: A History of the American People (Pearson Prentice Hall, 7th ed., 2011), a bestselling U.S. history college textbook. He has been an active participant in the "Texas textbook wars," opposing the organized campaign mounted by extreme right-wing conservatives to revise the writing and teaching of American history. In spring 2010, CNN’s Ali Velshi interviewed Czitrom on this topic, and his follow-up op-ed piece on CNN’s website, criticizing the Texas school board, attracted hundreds of responses from all over the nation.

Czitrom’s latest project is New York Exposed: How A Gilded Age Police Scandal Shocked the Nation and Launched the Progressive Era (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2013). The book examines the origins, revelations, and legacies of the explosive 1894 Lexow Committee inquiry into the New York Police Department. This sensational investigation revealed how the struggle to control the city’s underworld shaped both metropolitan politics and New York’s increasingly uneasy relationship to the nation.

He is currently the historical advisor for Copper, a new 10-episode historical dramatic series set in Civil War-era New York, produced by Cineflix, and premiering on BBC America in August 2012. Czitrom has appeared as a featured on-camera commentator for numerous documentary film projects, including New York: A Documentary Film (PBS, 1999); American Photography: A Century of Images (PBS, 1999); Slumming It: Myth and Culture on the Bowery (Mixed Greens, 2003); and The Great Transatlantic Cable (PBS/American Experience, 2005).

Czitrom has also co-authored (with Jack Gilhooley) two original historical dramas. Triangle, set amidst the terrible tragedy of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, received an Equity Showcase Production as part of the "Americas Off Broadway Festival", at 59 E. 59 Theaters, New York, April 15-May 1, 2011. An earlier version of the play, Big Tim and Fanny, had its premiere in a 1992 production mounted by the MHC Theatre Arts department. Red Bessie, an historical drama with songs, was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2003. It explores the arc of American radicalism from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to the McCarthyite repression of the 1950s. The Times Literary Supplement described Red Bessie as "clearheaded and humane, and more fun than might be expected of such a high-minded project."

In 2012 Czitrom was elected to the Society of American Historians. Based at Columbia University, the Society promotes literary distinction in historical writing. Its members include academic historians and professional writers of American history. Membership, which is by invitation only, is limited to 250 authors.

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