Meet Nikki Taylor
The latest addition to the history department is not originally from Cincinnati, but she knows more than most about the rich history of the city.
The latest addition to the history department is not originally from Cincinnati, but she knows more than most about the rich history of the city. A native of Toledo, Nikki Taylor says, “I fell in love with this place. I could be an honorary citizen.” Her research and writing on Cincinnati’s culture, history, and transitions will make her important not only to the university but to the city itself.
Taylor’s publications demonstrate her fascination with the history of the area. Her book, Frontiers of Freedom: Cincinnati’s Black Community, 1802-1868, follows her articles “African Americans’ Strive for Educational Self-Determination in Cincinnati before 1873” and “Reconsidering the ‘Forced’ Exodus of 1829: The Free Black Emigration from Cincinnati, Ohio to Wilberforce, Canada.” In addition, she has focused on the city in lectures presented across the hemisphere. Her lecture “Free Black Women in Antebellum Cincinnati: Class, Work, Respectability and Activism” was given in Belize, and like others of its kind, it highlighted Cincinnati’s past.
Taylor joined the McMicken faculty this fall after teaching for four years at Vassar College in New York. “It’s a big change; I’m still transitioning,” she says. “This student body is drastically different.” But she considers this is a good thing: “The quality and diversity in the student body attracted me. I think one can have more impact teaching urban history in an urban environment.”
As she teaches, Taylor keeps the effect of her lessons in mind. “I want to use history to analyze the present, to make history useable so it can resonate in everyday lives. I want to use my discipline to expand the community and help regular citizens know their heritage.”
To accomplish this, Taylor hopes to collaborate with established community leaders and work with the Urban League. She has been active in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and has collaborated with other UC faculty as she served on an advisory committee and appeared in segments of Wade in the Water, a documentary produced by Keith Griffler and Kevin Burke. She plans to continue contributing to the Freedom Center and feels “deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity” to do so. Her goal is to bridge the gap between the academic approach to history and making her discipline accessible to the public.
When she says she could be an honorary citizen, she recalls her first visit to the city: “I was compelled by the geography, the rich German, Irish, and African American elements.” Her enthusiasm for the place encourages her to continue writing about Cincinnati as she attempts to put the past into perspective. She is currently examining whether the riots of 1967, 1968, and 2001 were “actually a viable form of black protest in this unique urban environment” she has come to call home.
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