My research interests focus on American cultural and intellectual history in the 19th and 20th Centuries. I also study the construction of racial and ethnic identities and the politics of representation. Since 2005, I have taught courses such as Cultural History in America from 1830-present, American History Since 1865, The Historian's Craft, and the History of American Music. I have published articles on race relations and popular culture in American Quarterly the Journal of American History, and Cultural History. My first book, Black Culture and the New Deal: The Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) describes the employment of state-sponsored cultural programs as a form of racial policy during the 1930s and 1940s. Here, I focused on how radio, film, theatre, and other cultural arenas became central to the state’s institutional development, as officials recognized the growing need to publicly acknowledge African Americans. My fascination in the institutionalization of racial and ethnic identities, primarily in the form of cultural outlets, extends to all of my research and teaching. My supervision of Ph.D. candidates includes a wide range of projects that treat cultural expressions across race and religion, as well as through several genres (architecture, foodways, television, film, music).
Dr. Sklaroff is a recipient of an NEH Public Scholars Fellowship and will be on leave for the 2016-17 academic year.
My new project is the first extensive biography of singer, vaudevillian, and cabaret superstar Sophie Tucker. Best known for “My Yiddishe Mama” and “Some of These Days,” Tucker first rose to celebrity in the 1910s and for five decades worked as one of the most famous singers across the U. S. and in Europe. Close to songwriters such as Irving Berlin and newcomers such as Judy Garland, Tucker forged the path for many women in show business, particularly those who defied conventional expectations for women. While Tucker was outrageous in her performances, she was also a strong advocate for the rights of African Americans in the entertainment industry, and for Jewish causes across the globe. Tucker serves as an ideal figure for understanding a period of incredible transformation in the American mass media, as well as the various ways in which ethnic groups—in this case American Jews—shaped their own religious/cultural practices to adapt to modern America. Tentatively titled Wanting to Be Wanted: Sophie Tucker and the Creation of a Show Business Legend (Forthcoming, University of Texas Press), this project utilizes materials from the 400 scrapbooks that Tucker preserved for her own legacy.