Adam Lee Cilli, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of History

Adam Lee Cilli, who earned his doctorate at the University of Maine in 2016, is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and the Book Review Editor of Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society.  His courses examine the diverse experiences of people inhabiting North America from the colonial period to the contemporary era.  Whether centering on the Great Migration, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, or the Civil Rights Movement, these classes consider how various social movements worked to expand the boundaries of American democracy.  

Professor Cilli is the author of Canaan, Dim and Far: Black Reformers and the Pursuit of Citizenship in Pittsburgh, 1915-1945 (University of Georgia Press, 2021).  This book illuminates the social justice efforts of journalists, scholars, social workers, medical experts, and other professionals who navigated the fraught racial landscape of the urban North during the first phase of the Great Migration.  Upending traditional depictions of Black reform work that stress its essential ties to racial uplift ideology, Canaan, Dim and Far shows how reformers experimented with a variety of strategies as they moved fluidly across ideologies and political alliances to find practical solutions to profound inequities. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Women’s History, Journal of Urban History, and Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.  

Follow him on Twitter @LeeCilli.

Representative Publications

Book"Canaan, Dim and Far" book cover

Canaan, Dim and Far: Black Reformers and the Pursuit of Citizenship in Pittsburgh, 1915-1945 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2021).  UGA Press | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Articles and Chapters

“‘The Curing of Ills’: African American Women Activists at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender during the Great Migration,” Journal of Women’s History 33, no.1 (2021): 37-60.

“The Pursuit of Happiness: Racial Utilitarianism and Black Reform Efforts in John T. Clark’s Urban League,” Journal of Urban History 45, no.1 (2019): 6-22.

“Robert L. Vann and the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1932 Presidential Election: An Analysis of Black Reformism in Interwar America,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 141, no.2 (2019): 141-176.

“In Search of Knowledge and Opportunity: Josephine Crawford Bellinger and the San Antonio Register,” in We Did It: Portraits of African American Women in Texas History, ed. Bruce A. Glasrud (College Station: Texas A&M University Press) (forthcoming).