Mark Souther

Mark Souther

Mark Souther is Professor of History, Director of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, author of the award-winning New Orleans on Parade: Tourism and the Transformation of the Crescent City and Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation.” He is co-editor of American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition.



Curating Cleveland: Reimagining a Rustbelt City in the Digital Age

This talk would relate the story of how Cleveland Historical, a collaboratively created mobile app and website developed at Cleveland State University, has begun to reshape local conceptions of place as it has engaged thousands of Northeast Ohioans. Using interpretive narratives, historical images, and clips drawn from a growing oral history collection, Cleveland Historical has placed the region’s history in the hands of its people.

University Circle: From Cultural Island to Cultural Hub

This talk explores the history of Cleveland’s world-renowned cultural, educational, and medical district. With origins in the 1880s, University Circle emerged as the city’s focal point for museums, colleges, and hospitals in the first half of the 20th century. After World War II, however, its institutions questioned whether demographic transformations in surrounding neighborhoods might warrant abandoning the Circle for the suburbs. The Circle’s neighbors charged that the district’s leaders wanted to buffer their collective campus from the city beyond. The convulsive events of the late 1960s forced Circle leaders to reexamine the district’s role in the larger city, leading toward the renaissance of the city’s second hub in recent years.

The Forgotten Story of Cleveland’s Failed Downtown Subway

Mention subways in Cleveland, and many people will wax nostalgic about the streetcar line that once ran beneath the roadway on the Detroit-Superior Bridge before ducking underground in the Ohio City neighborhood. Few know that downtown Cleveland missed several opportunities to build a subway beneath its streets. This talk presents the seldom-told story of how metropolitan fragmentation and feuds between downtown businesses led to the cancellation of a downtown subway in the 1950s. It examines the context of concerns about the city’s future and the fallout from failing to build the subway.

Believing in Cleveland: A City’s Unending Bid to Recast Its Image

This talk focuses on perceptions of decline in Ohio’s largest city since the 1960s and explores a series of high-visibility initiatives to accentuate the positive. By the 1960s, the city’s unofficial slogan, “The Best Location in the Nation,” rang hollow. City boosters pursued a series of campaigns from physical renewal projects to slogans to overcome unfortunate events ranging from riots to a burning river to political feuding to deindustrialization. A half century of rebranding offers lessons for cities today.

Cleveland: NOW!: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Remake Cleveland

Carl Stokes became the first African American elected mayor in a major American city in 1967. Just four months later, after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Stokes turned to a carefully constructed public relations campaign called Cleveland: NOW! to package and focus his vision for jarring a city out of its long struggle with leaders whose visions did not take into account the city’s needs in the broadest sense. This talk examines the symbolic motives, political constraints, successes and shortcomings, and legacy of Stokes’s brand of community development.

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