2021 Distinguished Author:

Cody McDevitt

In Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania, author and journalist Cody McDevitt tells the story of one of the worst civil rights injustices in Western Pennsylvania history. In 1923, in response to the fatal shooting of four policemen, the mayor of Johnstown ordered every African American and Mexican immigrant who had lived in the city for less than seven years to leave. They were given less than a day to move or would face crippling fines or jail time and were forced out at gunpoint. An estimated two thousand people uprooted their lives in response to the racist edict. Area Ku Klux Klan members celebrated the creation of a "sundown town" and increased their own intimidation practices. Figures such as Marcus Garvey spoke out in Pittsburgh against it as newspapers throughout the country published condemnations.

Cody McDevitt is an award-winning investigative journalist and the founder of the Rosedale Oral History Project, which is the basis for Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania. Recently, he released a compendium of firsthand accounts of veterans who fought in World War II called Answering the Call: Somerset County during World War II. He has won a Golden Quill and awards from the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Media Editors Organization. He co-authored Pittsburgh Drinks: A History of Cocktails, Nightlife and Bartending Tradition and Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania. He worked for the Somerset Daily American. His work has appeared in Pittsburgh Quarterly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Table Magazine, Mt. Lebanon Magazine and on liquor.com. He can be reached at codymcdevitt@gmail.com.

Common Read:

NRHC will be hosting a Common Read of Cody McDevitt's 2018 book Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania. All attendees of the conference are encouraged to read the book prior to his Author Talk on Tuesday, April 6th. Mr. McDevitt will speak about the subject of his book and the importance of local  investigative journalism followed by a question-and-answer session.

Copies of Banished from Johnstown can be purchased on Amazon.com, Arcadia Publishing, and Barnes and Noble.

Essay Contest:

Student conference attendees are encouraged to submit essays in response to this year's Common Read book, Banished from Johnstown: Racist Backlash in Pennsylvania. Submissions should be in response to one of the following two prompts:

  • Why do you feel that this event has, up to this point, not been better remembered within the greater narrative of American history, even by the citizens of Johnstown?

  • Compare and contrast the historical events leading up to Mayor Cauffiel’s order in September of 1923 to the current cultural and political landscape of the United States today.


Submissions should be between 500-1,000 words. Please send submissions to northeastregionalhonorscouncil@gmail.com no later than Monday, March 29th. A committee of honors faculty and staff will determine the winner of the essay contest based on a rubric of strong writing skills, adherence to the suggested prompts, and excellent grammar and punctuation.

Prizes include:

The first place winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.

Two runner-ups will receive $25 Amazon gift cards.