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Professor of History
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Professor Wiltse is a scholarly authority and influential public thinker on issues of social justice and racial inequality in the areas of sports and recreation. He has appeared as a featured commentator for NPR, the BBC, ABC News, Vice News, Al Jazeera, the CBS Early Show, and other media outlets. His thinking about historical and contemporary issues related to race, recreation, and sports appears frequently in leading news publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, National Geographic, Sport Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian.
His research and scholarship focus on the social, cultural, and political dimensions of public life in American cities during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has published extensively on the history of swimming pools in the United States and on the historical roots of contemporary race-based swimming and drowning disparities. He has served as a consultant and content provider for public history exhibitions on the history of swimming pools at the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia and La Villa Noailles Museum in Hyeres, France. He is currently working on a book-length study of the role that music played in the public life of American cities before the advent of radio and the mass production of recorded music, which is tenatively titled "In and Out of Harmony: Music and Public Life in Urban America, 1800-1930." Research from this project has been published in the Journal of Urban History and American Nineteenth Century History.
Professor Wiltse also studies the history of Montana and the U.S. West. As part of this interest, he is writing an interpretive history of Montana from the time of Clovis People to the present day, tentatively titled "Montana: A People's History." Research from this project has been published in the Montana Law Review.
Professor Wiltse advises graduate students studying modern United States history, especially those working in the areas of urban space, recreation and sports, and Montana history. Please contact him by email if you are interested in working with him as a graduate student.
In this news story, Professor Wiltse discusses his research on the history of racial discrimination at public swimming pools and its legacies:
This episode of WHYY's "Movers and Shakers" covers a pubic history exhibit at the Fairmount Water Works titled "POOL: A Social History of Segregation." Professor Wiltse served as Lead Content Expert for the exhibit, and the historical content in the exhibit is drawn largely from his research and scholarship.
Ph.D., Brandeis University, 2002
M.A., Brandeis University, 1998
B.A., University of Puget Sound, 1993
- The Birth of Modern America, 1877-1919
- America in Crisis, 1919-1952
- America at War, 1898-present
- Montana History
- US History, 1877 to the present
- American Urban History
- Movie America: Twentieth Century U.S. History through Film
- The History of Now: A Seminar in Applied HIstory
- Research in Montana History
- Readings in Modern American History (graduate colloquium)
Field of Study
- Modern American Social and Cultural History
- Urban Public Space and Public Life
- Montana History and History of the U.S. West
- Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
- "Swimming Pools as Contested Community Spaces," POOL: A Social History of Segregation (2021), 12-17.
- "Relexion sur les Piscines Modernes," Plan Libre (September 2020).
- "Cities are Alive with the Sound of Music: Saengerfest and the Transformation of Urban Public Music in Nineteenth-century America," American Nineteenth Century History 16 (2015): 269-96.
- "The Black-White Swimming Disparity in America: A Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination," Journal of Sport and Social Issues 38 (August 2014): 366-389.
- "'I Like to Get Around': City Girls in Chicago Music Saloons, 1858-1906," Journal of Urban History 39 (November 2013): 1125-1145.
- "Swimming Pools, Civil Life, and Social Capital," in David Andrews and Ben Carrington, eds., A Companion to Sport (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2013): 287-304.
- "The Origins of Montana's Corrupt Practices Act: A More Complete History," Montana Law Review 73 (Summer 2012): 299-337.
- "Swimming Against Segregation: The Struggle to Desegregate Pittsburgh's Municipal Pools," The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Legacies 10 (November 2010): 12-16.
- "'Get, Out, Little Punks': Recent Racist Incidents in Swimming Pools Have a Long History," Vox, July 11, 2018.
- "America's Swimming Pools Have a Long, Sad, Racist History," Op-Ed, Washington Post, June 10, 2015.
- "Swimming in the Long Shadows of Segregation," Op-Ed, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 20, 2010.
- "Built on a Foundation of Outdated Prejudice," Op-Ed, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 16, 2009.