Clinical Associate Professor of Legal Studies
Geographic Field(s): American History, Since 1900
Principal Research Interest(s): 20th-century US social reform movements, race, ethnicity, health, and environment
Shana Bernstein (Ph.D., Stanford, 2003) is an historian of the twentieth-century United States, with a particular interest in social reform movements, including civil rights and environmental health and justice. Originally from Northern California, where she completed degrees at UC Berkeley and Stanford, she initially joined Northwestern as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Latino Studies before accepting a tenure-track position in History at Southwestern University in 2004. She rejoined the Northwestern faculty in 2014 as a Clinical Associate Professor of Legal Studies.
Her first book, Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (Oxford, 2011), reinterprets U.S. civil rights activism by revealing its roots in the interracial efforts of Mexican, Jewish, African, and Japanese Americans in mid-century Los Angeles. It also argues that the early Cold War facilitated, rather than derailed, some forms of activism. Bernstein has also written academic articles on the history of environmental health and civil rights, and has written essays for CNN, The Forward, Talking Points Memo, The Hill, Pacific Standard, American Prospect, and the Austin American Statesman. She has received fellowships including from the Huntington Library and the Mellon Foundation, and is a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.
Bernstein is currently working on a project that uses the history of strawberries as a lens for exploring the intersection of worker health, consumer health, and environmental health. She teaches undergraduate courses on comparative race and ethnicity, immigration, and health and inequality.
Selected academic publications:
- Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- “’True Sustainability’: Swanton Berry Farm and the United Farm Workers’ Integrated Vision of Worker, Environmental, and Consumer Health in 1990s California,” Agricultural History, forthcoming (Summer 2021)
- “Environmental Health in Progressive Era Chicago,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (forthcoming, April 2018)
- “Interracial Activism in the Los Angeles Community Service Organization: Linking the World War II and Civil Rights Eras,” Pacific Historical Review Vol. 80, No. 2 (May 2011): 231-267
- “From the Southwest to the Nation: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in the Sunbelt Southwest,” in Michelle Nickerson and Darren Dochuk, eds., Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Space, Place, and Region in the American South and Southwest (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)
- Llana Barber, Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000, in American Historical Review (forthcoming)
- Marne L. Campbell, Making Black Los Angeles: Class, Gender, and Community, 1850-1917, in Western Historical Quarterly (Autumn 2017)
- Lila Corwin Berman, Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit, in American Historical Review (June 2016)
- Allan W. Austin, Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950, in Quaker Studies (2016)
- Sonia Song-Ha Lee, Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement: Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in New York City, in Social Service Review (March 2015)
- Kevin Carlos Blanton, George. I. Sáchez: The Long Fight for Mexican American Integration, in Western Historical Quarterly (Winter 2015)
- Gordon Mantler, Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974, in American Historical Review (February 2014)
- “It’s Time for Regulatory Agencies to Start Putting Public Health ahead of Private Profit,” The Washington Post Made by History, June 17, 2019.
- “How the Spike in Hate Crimes is Forging Unlikely Alliances and Why Vulnerable Groups Should be Careful about Attempts to Divide Them,” The Washington Post Made By History, November 27, 2018.
- “How to Use the Past to Fight for Your Rights Today,” CNN, January 23, 2017
- “Racist Atticus Finch Has a Lesson for Jews,” The Forward, July 27, 2015
- “The Third Shift: How Mom Became the Family’s Bodyguard” (with Kate Baldwin), Talking Points Memo, June 8, 2015
- “Big Business, Government, and Doubt,” The Hill, Congress Blog, April 6, 2015
- “How Anti-Semitism in Modern America Could Fuel Cross-Racial Unity,” Talking Points Memo, March 13, 2015
- “Not Just Kumbaya: Multiracial Coalitions Yield Pragmatic Results for the Common Good” (with Jennifer Richeson), American Prospect, February 18, 2015
- “What Caused My Cancer? Was it Bad Genes? Bad Luck? Or Was it the Toxins I Eat, Drink, Breathe, and Touch on a Regular Basis because the United States Has a Policy of Putting the Burden of Proof for Product Safety on the Consumer?” Pacific Standard, January 29, 2015
- “Many Hands Joined Civil Rights Struggle: Other People on the Margins Fought along with Black Americans,” Austin American Statesman, June 29, 2014
- Teaching interests include American social and political history, race and ethnicity, health, environment, and the U.S. West
- Senior Thesis Seminar (American Studies Program)
- American Immigration (Legal Studies Program and History Department)
- U.S. Health: Illness and Inequality (American Studies Program)
- American West (first year seminar)
- Comparative Race and Ethnicity (American Studies Program and Legal Studies Program)
- Japanese American "Internment" (Legal Studies and Asian American Studies)
Recent Awards and Honors
- Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll, Northwestern University (2015-2016 and 2014-2015)
- OpEd Project Public Voices Fellow, Northwestern University (2014-15)
- Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians (appointed 2012, reappointed 2015)