McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences

Department of History

Department of History

Dr. Tiya Miles of the University of Michigan Returns to Her Cincinnati Roots

Dr. McGee in Lesotho

By: Alberto C. Jones

It was homecoming for the University of Michigan’s Dr. Tiya Miles, who visited UC in late September as a speaker in the Taft Lecture Series.

A native of Cincinnati, Dr. Miles is an Associate Professor of American Culture, Afro-American and African Studies, History, Women Studies, and Native American Studies. She received her B.A. in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University, her M.A. in Women’s Studies from Emory University, and her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota.

She is the author of several books, including Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story, The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts, and Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era. Her current book in progress is Captive Detroit: A Chronicle of Bondage and Freedom, 1763-1815.   In 2011, she received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work in African American and Native American History.


Dr. Miles’s first stop during her visit was at a public history forum entitled “Racism: The Lasting Legacy of Slavery in the Midwestern Metropolis.” Panel members included Dr. Christine Anderson from the Department of History at Xavier University, Dr. Holly McGee from the Department of History at UC, Betty Ann Smiddy from the College Hill Historical Society, and Dr. Maliq Matthew from UC’s Department of Sociology.

Miles’s presentation focused on the contemporary legacy of slavery on the spaces of Midwestern cities.  She offered a more detailed examination of slavery’s impact on Detroit and the state of Michigan.  She mentioned towns, counties, and roads named after large slaveholders and discussed residential segregation in urban centers. A brief discussion followed her lecture.  Panelists, many from Cincinnati, agreed that there is a lasting legacy of slavery in Midwestern cities generally, as well as in Cincinnati. Reflecting on the segregated sections of OTR and the ‘Gateway’ in downtown Cincinnati, Dr. Holly McGee urged movement from “polite rhetoric to actual change” in creating equal access and substantive structural support to underserved areas of the city.  Many community members in attendance agreed that change needs to happen, but they wondered how to bring it about. Panelists responded by encouraging the embrace of personal and collective responsibility for urban problems, the lobbying of elected officials, and the ambition to run for political office at local, county, and state levels to effect the changes they would like to be and see. 

Dr. Tiya Miles

Miles’s second stop was at the UC African-American Cultural Resource Center (AACRC).  Here she gave a lecture entitled “Goat Bones in the Basement: A Case of Race, Gender & Haunting in Old Savannah.” Miles shared her discovery of “dark tourism” and her investigation into why ghost stories sell. This investigation led her to Savannah, Georgia, where she encountered a haunted mansion whose popularity rests upon a legendary tale that, according to Miles, communicates a false narrative degrading to the memory of enslaved black women.  In spite of this and other inaccuracies, the Savannah ghost tour continues to attract enthusiasts.  Dr. Miles is fascinated by this historically-based entertainment medium and believes that it possesses academic importance.

Dr. Tiya Miles Books

The Taft Lecture Series is a program of public lectures sponsored by the Charles P. Taft Memorial Fund, a fund used to assist, maintain, and endow the study and teaching of the Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Graduate school of the University of Cincinnati.


To view the public history forum featuring Dr. Miles click here

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