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Rob Goldberg’s “Radical Play” Wins Two Cultural History Awards

Rob Goldberg’s book “Radical Play: Revolutionizing Children’s Toys in 1960s and 1970s America” (Duke University Press, 2023), is the recipient of the prestigious 2024 Lawrence W. Levine Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH), recognizing the best book of the year in American cultural history. Goldberg is Germantown Friends School’s History Department Head. He teaches a number of Upper School history classes, as well as a multidisciplinary J-Term course, co-taught with Health Department Head Maryanne Rawlings, on the subject of childhood play.

“Radical Play” explores the untold history of American children’s toys in the turbulent cultural and political landscape of the sixties and seventies, and interrogates the ways in which everyday objects, like dolls, guns, action figures, and other toys, came to be understood and used by social activists as agents for change. Read more here

This prize is named after Lawrence Levine, a pioneering historian, educator, and author whose many books and articles emphasized the culture and lives of ordinary people. The award resonates deeply with Goldberg, who says Levine’s writing awakened him to the importance of popular culture while in graduate school.    

“His works totally inspired me to think in much more expansive ways about what counted as ‘history,’ and whose history we should tell,” Goldberg says. “I’m surprised and so thrilled to win this award.”  

The Lawrence W. Levine Award is the second book prize for “Radical Play.” Last month, Rob received the 2024 Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Work in Popular Culture and American Culture from the Popular Culture Association (PCA). The PCA award is judged on “quality of research or scholarship, originality, and contribution to popular and American studies scholarship.”  

Congrats to Rob from the entire GFS community on these remarkable achievements! 

For more information on Rob Golderg’s work and “Radical Play,” visit his website.

Photos courtesy of Rob Goldberg.

Rob Goldberg received the Lawrence W. Levine Award at the OAH annual conference in New Orleans, La., in April 2024. It was presented by Anthea Hartig, OAH President and Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.