Josiah Rector is an urban historian specializing in 20th century U.S. urban environmental history, the history of the environmental justice movement, and the history of capitalism. He earned his Ph.D. in History from Wayne State University, and his dissertation received the Urban History Association’s Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban History, 2016. He was subsequently a visiting professor of U.S. and Environmental History at Northland College in 2017-2019. His current book project, Toxic Debt: Race, Capitalism, and the Struggle for Environmental Justice in Detroit (forthcoming from University of North Carolina Press, series in Justice, Power, and Politics), is a history of environmental inequality and environmental activism in Detroit from the late 19th century to the present. He has published articles in The Journal of American History and Modern American History, and he is currently planning a second book on the political ecology of urban environmental disasters in the United States since World War II. He also has extensive experience in public history. He coordinated public history internships through the Next Gen Humanities Ph.D. Program at Wayne State University in 2017-2018, and he co-organized the Michigan Humanities Council’s Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water Program for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in 2018-2019.
- Ph.D. History, Wayne State University, 2017.
- M.A. History, Wayne State University, 2012.
- B.A. English, Temple University, 2006.
- Urban environmental history
- Environmental justice
- Public history
- History of capitalism
Professor Rector teaches the second half of the U.S. History survey, and a range of upper-division undergraduate courses, including Urban Environmental History, Urban Environmental Disasters, the Environmental History of Houston, Race and Segregation in American Cities, and History of American Capitalism. He also offers graduate seminars in American Urban History, Public History, and Oral History.
Toxic Debt: Race, Capitalism, and the Struggle for Environmental Justice in Detroit (forthcoming from University of North Carolina Press, series in Justice, Power, and Politics).
“Toxic Debt: The Detroit Incinerator, Municipal Bonds, and Environmental Racism,” in Linda Campbell, Andrew Newman, Sara Safransky, and Tim Stallmann, eds., A People’s Atlas of Detroit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2020), 265-268.
“The Spirit of Black Lake: Full Employment, Civil Rights, and the Forgotten Early History of Environmental Justice,” Modern American History Vol. 1 No. 1 (March 2018), 45-66.
“Environmental Justice at Work: The UAW, the War on Cancer, and the Right to Equal Protection from Toxic Hazards in Postwar America,” Journal of American History Vol. 101 No. 2 (September 2014), 480-502.
Urban History Association, Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban History, 2016