Dan Kerr, the director of American University's public history program, specializes in the fields of community history, oral history, and public history. The projects he has initiated, including the Cleveland Homeless Oral History Project, the Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project, and the Homeless Voices Amplification Cooperative in Washington, DC, have gained inspiration from the traditions of popular education, participatory action research, and people’s history. With each project, Kerr seeks to honor the “shared authority” inherent in the oral histories and documents generated throughout the research process.
He has recently published Derelict Paradise: Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio
where he offers answers to the question, "Who benefits from homelessness?" The book takes the reader on a sweeping tour of Cleveland's history from the late nineteenth-century through the early twenty-first.
Kerr is currently working on a manuscript addressing the research he has conducted with the Cleveland Homeless Oral History Project and the Homeless Voices Amplification Cooperative. He has interviewed over 200 people experiencing homelessness and has facilitated dozens of workshops and meetings in the shelters, drop-in centers and parks of Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, DC. He addresses aspects of this work in his article, “We Know What the Problem Is,” in Oral History Review
, Winter/Spring 2003.
Through his work, Kerr seeks to explore the relationship between activism, social change, and history. Can the study of history facilitate movement building in community? What does it mean to be an engaged historian