Nikol Damato, a 2020 Slippery Rock University graduate with degrees in history and interdisciplinary programs, is the 2020 winner of the William A. Pencak Prize, which is awarded by the Pennsylvania Historical Association to honor the year’s best written undergraduate Pennsylvania history paper.
In addition to Damato receiving a cash prize and a certificate, her paper, titled “Urban Renewal in the ‘Human Renaissance’: Race, Law and the Environment in Pittsburgh, PA,” will be published in the next issue of PHA’s journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.
The last three recipients of the Pencak Prize wrote papers about historical events and issues related to Philadelphia and the Susquehanna Valley.
Damato’s paper, however, focused on Pittsburgh, particularly the regulatory framework and sociopolitical context of the city’s post-World War II urban renewal initiatives. She examined the divergent narratives between political leaders and African American activists, which had major ramifications for the environment and the changing social, legal and political landscapes from the postwar years through the 1970s.
“I had known about this award for the past couple years, so it’s really exciting and an honor to be selected for it,” Damato said. “It’s an even bigger honor to not only represent SRU, but also Pittsburgh and the western part of the state.”