A reminder about and update regarding the UHA meet up at the AHA in Chicago this January!

“The best laid plans …” as the saying goes.  As you hopefully remember, behind the leadership of Becky Nicolaides and Carol McKibben and in association with the UHA, this year’s AHA will feature an urban history “meet up” on Saturday, January 5, 2019.  However as it so happens the initial event time coincided with a retrospective panel on Arnold Hirsch. If the UHA conference in October was any indicator, the panel will enjoy a deservedly very large audience. Wanting neither low attendance at the meet up nor to draw attention away from the late, great Professor Hirsch the UHA event has been rescheduled for 8:30 am – 10 am on the same day, same location and so forth. Network with your fellow urbanists then make your way to what promises to be an eye opening discussion of Hirsch’s work.  We’ve included the original write up by the eminent  Nicolaides below with all the updated information regarding the event further down. Hope to see you there!

Chicago Bulls basketball game at the United Center, Chicago, Illinois, Carol M. Highsmith, after 1994, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The annual American Historical Association (AHA) conference is a big, rich space for historians but can be a little overwhelming, especially for newcomers.  This year at the AHA, we are trying something new:  informal “meet ups” to help people with shared interests find each other at the conference.  I’m happy to be co-hosting a meet-up for urban historians at the upcoming AHA conference in Chicago, welcoming in folks working on all urban/suburban/metro geographies, time periods, themes, you name it. It will be informal, no agenda, just a chance to find old and new friends in the field and share what you’ve been up to, over coffee and croissants. I’ll be there along with Carol McKibben to welcome you. We are grateful to the UHA for generously underwriting the costs of refreshments.  Drop by if you can, bring your business cards, and hope to see you there!

When: Saturday January 5, 8:30 – 10am 

Where Salon 8, Palmer House, Chicago, IL


Becky Nicolaides, Councilor, Research Division, AHA Council, and Research Affiliate, USC and UCLA
Carol McKibben, Lecturer, Stanford University

Hosted jointly with the Urban History Association

Featured image (at top): Night view of Chicago Federal Center, Chicago, Illinois, Carol M. Highsmith, July 27, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

Reflections on Disciplining the City

By Matt Guariglia 

This year the New York City Police Department announced that it would be integrating a new fleet of drones into its policing procedure for large events. In 2018, the NYPD also announced that it was experimenting with a lasso that would subdue citizens during mental health crises. Even as policing becomes more technologically advanced (see: predictive policing) it also serves us constant reminders that it is an institution temporally trapped. As often as they go to cutting edge technologies to mitigate problems, they also draw upon the well of history—even if that means redeploying tactics that would have looked familiar a century and a half ago. This is why, 2018 was a year in which studying the history of policing, crime, and incarceration was more pivotal than ever.

Armed policeman holding newspaper “Muhammad Speaks,” taken from the trunk of a car following shootout near a Black Muslim mosque in Los Angeles, 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

All year the increasingly frequent overlapping worlds of public scholarship and academic publishing have been rife with important work to help us contextualize both this change over time and the continuity in the history criminal justice and state power. University of North Carolina Press’s intrepid “Justice, Power, and Politics” series edited by Heather Ann Thompson and Rhonda Y. Williams has published incredible works including Max Felker-Kantor’s Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance and the Rise of the LAPD, Tera Eva Agyepong’s The Criminalization of Black Children: Race, Gender, and Delinquency in Chicago’s Juvenile Justice System, 1899-1945, and Adam Malka’s The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation, which helps historians fill in that pivotal moment as the state and its deputized mobs transitioned from attempting to subordinate enslaved individuals to attempting to exert control over free citizens. Similarly, Monica Muñoz Martinez’s 2018 book The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas from Harvard University Press provides an analysis of how state and non-state violence on the U.S.-Mexican border was interwoven. The findings of this book, including its essential chronicling of the Texas Rangers, should now be at the center all of historians’ analysis of state violence, police power, and U.S. imperialism.

51ofMqWFZmL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Other books that came out this year also open up new directions for how historians in the future can better understand police, not as faceless agents of the state, but as people and laborers with their own ideologies. Timothy Lombardo’s Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics from University of Pennsylvania Press provides historians and readers with an understanding of law and order politics from the ground up as it chronicles Philadelphia police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo’s rise to power by playing on the politics of race, place, and blue-collar white ethnicity. As the news media becomes increasingly aware of how prevalent extreme ring-wing and white supremacist ideologies are within the ranks of police and the military in the United States, Kathleen Belew’s earth shattering new book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America from Harvard University Press, is increasingly essential. It should now be an expectation that all scholars of state institutions like the military and police departments look at the types of networks and ideologies that can form within those infrastructures.

In addition to each of these authors making a number of media appearances to discuss their books and expertise, good scholarly analysis of policing and incarceration have also been prevalent in forums like the Washington Post’s “Made By History,” including Dan Berger’s article on the Florida prison strike or Susan Pearson’s article connecting state management of birth certificates with Jim Crow and racial state building . The Boston Review’s most recent issue “Evil Empire: A Reckoning With Power” also features a number of historians of racial state building, empire, and state violence including Marisol LeBrón, Nikhil Pal Singh, and Stuart Schrader. This very blog, The Metropole and its “Disciplining the City” series ran a number of incredibly interesting and useful pieces this year, including Carolyn Levy’s article on policing a gendered morality in 19th century San Francisco.

2019 will be a bigger year for scholars and students hoping to enrich the growing field of carceral studies. In the upcoming year, the field will continue to grow as scholars expand what we consider the boundaries of the carceral state. Historians of politics, surveillance, immigration restrictions, the policing of gender and sexuality, the relationship between the state and segregation, all have an opportunity to contribute to our understanding of the development of carceral logic. In the current climate where people divulge an overwhelming amount of personal data—from taste in shoes to DNA—to profit-seeking corporations known to cooperate with the police, it is essential that historians of prisons and policing understand surveillance and knowledge production about subjects as central to the carceral project. Books like Sarah Igo’s The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America and 2017’s Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America by Josh Lauer, and Simone Brown’s 2015 book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness are as requisite reading for scholars grappling with how the state learned how to build a its current system and who to inhabit it with.

Across the country, scholars interested in the carceral state spoke to politicians, law schools, and served as experts and consultants on questions of criminal justice and prison reform. Scholars also used their positions in and out of universities to contribute to invaluable prison education programs and to bring attention to the indignities of modern incarceration. Around the country scholars have also lead symposia, conferences, workshops, with students, the public, and incarcerated people to discuss the meaning and history of the carceral state and how it effects the lives of so many. The Urban History Association, the purveyors of this blog, hosted close to ten panels at its 2018 conference in Columbia, South Carolina that touched on issues of incarceration, crime, and policing.

As the field of imprisonment and policing history becomes larger in the coming years, my hope is that the scope of that field will stay wide and inclusive. More scholars and more scholarship means we can all continue to grapple with how diffuse the power of the state and its deputized civilians and corporations can be. As many scholars have shown, policing and incarceration directed at vulnerable people on the edges of society inform what happens at the center, and how policing looks in the center informs the type of policing used at the edges. Historians, however, have never been better equipped to excavate, to quote Kelly Lytle Hernández, “incarceration—and the patterns it harbors.”

Featured image (at top): Composite photograph group of the Chiefs of Police, New York City, 1889, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Matthew Guariglia is the editor of The Metropole’s Disciplining the City series and a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut. His most recent work exploring Donald Trump’s use of MS-13 in rhetorical fear mongering appeared in the Washington Post in April. 

New Years Resolutions inspired by recent Members of the Week

By Avigail Oren

My best teacher this past year was the collective wisdom of the The Metropole’s many contributors. We will end 2018 with over 130 posts, totaling over 200,000 words—all of which I read, sometimes multiple times! While I learned a ton of history from our Metropolis of the Month posts, book reviews, Disciplining the City series, and Graduate Student Blogging Contest submissions, I learned just as much about how to live the good (historian) life from our Members of the Week.

In 2018 we featured 33 UHA members ranging from 2-year MA students to Senior Archivists. We ran two themed series of posts, the first featuring UHA conference committee chairs and the second featuring incoming board members. Also for the first time, we awarded a Member of the Week post to the winner of the #UHA2018 Dope Orange Sweater Twitter Award (DOSTA) bestowed on the attendee with the best conference-related twitter feed. Each interview yielded some insight or advice about research, teaching, careers, and how we as historians should engage with the world.

As I was looking over the most recent Member of the Week posts—those since #UHA2018—I picked out five bits of wisdom from the interviews that I thought would make great New Years Resolutions for historians.

Resolution 1: Cast wider nets

Although Emily Callaci was specifically referring to sources when she advised historians to “cast a wide net when it comes to thinking about what constitutes an archive,” there are many ways in which scholars can and should take a more expansive approach to their work. Indeed, a common theme in Member of the Week posts is the celebration of urban history as a multidisciplinary field. Many UHA members also write for, conference with, and teach other sub-disciplines that are distinct from (but adjacent to) urban studies.

And yet we can always find new ways to push boundaries, whether it’s poking at preconceptions, widening our geographic or temporal focus, examining new sources, or simply working to be inclusive of new colleagues or audiences. Let us all personally vow to take a step outside our comfort zone in 2019.

Resolution 2: Experiment with form

Certain formulas persist in writing and teaching history because they are tried-and-true methods of communicating complicated ideas. Other formulas persist for structural reasons—they’re easy for overworked scholars and teachers to execute. But Kevin Kruse’s Twitter offensive against Dinesh D’Souza, and Deborah Harkness’s best selling Discovery of Witches trilogy, and the explosion of history podcasts demonstrate that there’s a robust public appetite for history should we be willing to experiment with form.

Extending this into the classroom, Dorothee Brantz wrote that she is “playing with a new idea: rather than working with a set syllabus, [her next Masters seminar] will start with “What is a City?” from Deyan Sudjic’s, The Language of Cities and based on it, each student will identify topics of interest that they will independently pursue in research groups and then present to the rest of the class.” Whether taking on a student-guided approach, flipping a classroom, launching a YouTube channel, or writing a history book on Instagram, we can use 2019 as an opportunity to connect with new audiences while also deepening our connection to old ones.

Resolution 3: Infuse all work with scholarly knowledge

For the sizable continent of urbanists and historians who work partially or completely outside of the academy, it’s likely that many sympathize with the conundrum that Patrice Green articulated in her Member of the Week post: “Marrying my research and scholarly interests to the actual work I do has been a challenge.” While there are tasks that will never lend themselves towards critical inquiry—reconciling receipts with accounts, for example—the overwhelming majority of all work jives with aspects of scholarship. Every networking event demands an analysis of power relations. Most forms of activism and advocacy require an understanding of municipal, regional, and federal politics and policy. Serving a public, be they customers or clients, allows for constant consideration regarding the intersections of race, class, religion, gender, sexuality, and other myriad identities. Of course, none of these are the same as using your content expertise in your work. But at its heart scholarship is about the constant pursuit of new knowledge! So a 2019 resolution can be to reframe this challenge in a positive light, to find ways to apply some expertise to incongruent tasks, or to lean into a new expertise.

Resolution 4: Revisit an influential text

As our to-be-read piles grow and we feel increasingly behind on the current literature, it can be hard to justify devoting time to re-reading a book. But these experiences can be grounding and reinvigorating, as James Wolfinger reminded us when he described Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery as “the work that helped me see the power of history to illuminate the past and better understand the present.” “To me,” Wolfinger wrote, “Morgan analyzed the central issue for understanding the American experience: the vexed relationship between race and class throughout all of American history.” This resolution is simple: make time in 2019 to pick up that book that made you want to be a historian in the first place, inspired your dissertation topic, or that simply blew your mind the first time you read it.

Resolution 5: Fight against structures that marginalize, exploit, and imprison populations.

So many historians are already active, on so many fronts, in struggles for justice. Llana Barber wrote in her Member of the Week post that “Being an urban historian has made me particularly attentive to the fact that dramatic inequality can be created and maintained by restricting human mobility across space, and that force, law, and discourse have long been used in concert to contain marginalized populations.” Such clarity about our historical expertise can be put to good use in 2019, whether through grassroots organizing, expert testimony, education, or acts of protest.

Wishing everyone a happy new year!



The One-Way Street of Integration: Edward Goetz Responds

By Edward G. Goetz

I want to thank Eric Michael Rhodes for his thoughtful read of my book, The One-Way Street of Integration. The great challenge of writing the book, which Mr. Rhodes seems to have sensed in his remarks at the end of his review, was in articulating a vision for how to use housing policy in the pursuit of racial justice and regional equity without reducing that effort to a series of variations on the single theme of shifting lower-income people of color across the metropolitan landscape. The policy debate, about which Mr. Rhodes makes fair observations, will go on – my book is quite unlikely to resolve that disagreement. His engaging review, however, provides me with the opportunity to elaborate my argument.

First, practical matters: We need to reclaim the notion of “fair housing” from those who reduce it to merely an integration objective. The lack of good, decent, affordable housing in communities of color is also a fair housing issue and one that would be addressed by an aggressive housing improvement initiative across the country. The disproportionate occupancy of substandard housing by people of color is part of that fair housing issue. Perhaps more to the point given the housing trends in major U.S. cities, the forced relocation of lower-income people of color from neighborhoods that have for decades experienced disinvestment and neglect but that are now receiving renewed investment, either through processes of gentrification or large scale public housing redevelopment, is a fair housing issue. And yet fair housing lawyers oppose efforts by local governments and activists to provide preferences to neighborhood residents for affordable housing that might insulate those families from forced displacement. It is a myopic vision of fair housing at best.

Second, we flatter ourselves and slide into paternalism when we act on the idea that we know best about where lower income POC should live. Third, we rob communities of color and their leadership of agency if we do not acknowledge and attempt to facilitate a stay-in-place option. Fourth, we take our eyes off of the real objectives; the enhancement of housing choices for low-income POC, if we pretend to know which is the best choice for them, and when we fashion our policies to incentivize or require that choice. Fifth, we need to refocus on breaking down barriers to choice, including building subsidized housing in exclusive white enclaves.

But beyond practical policy matters, defining the disadvantages faced by people of color in our metropolitan areas solely, or even chiefly in terms of segregation, obscures the deeply embedded racism and the structures of public and private racial subordination that operate in this country. Integrationism imagines that the rearrangement of people in space is a substitute for the hard work of dismantling structural racism. Further, it underappreciates the subtle and not so subtle ways in which it legitimates and ratifies that racism. By positing integration into predominantly white neighborhoods as the means of uplift for lower income people of color we incorporate white racism into our public policy approaches. We define the ideal neighborhood as one that is mostly white. We incorporate and ratify the white racism that would lead to white flight if ‘too many’ people of color entered a community. As Cheryl Harris wrote in 1993, we, in fact, define our goals in ways to avoid disturbing “the settled expectations of whites that their interests – particularly the relative privilege accorded by their whiteness – would not be violated.”

Cheryl I. Harris, 1993. “Whiteness as property.” Harvard Law Review, 106, 8, June.

Edward G. Goetz is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and the Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He has served as Associate Dean and as Director of the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at the Humphrey School. He specializes in housing and local community development planning and policy. His research focuses on issues of race and poverty and how they affect housing policy planning and implementation.

Bipartisan Brutalism: The Rise and Fall of the Yorkshire Post Building in Leeds

 By Moritz Föllmer

Architectural brutalism is anathema to British conservatives.[1] In 2016, a Tory government minister declared it “aesthetically worthless, simply because it is ugly.” Those who beg to differ, whether they merely fetishize brutalist architecture or recall its social agenda to provide affordable housing, situate themselves on the left. But this has not always been so. In the 1960s, the renewal of city centers commanded support across a wide political spectrum. It was driven both by demands for social housing and pressures for commercial development.[2] To the Tories, generally more hesitant about modernization than Labour, it promised a capitalist future beyond smoking chimneys and densely populated working-class neighborhoods. “I want to see the guts torn out of our older industrial cities,” asserted their coming leader Edward Heath in 1964, “and new civic centers and shopping areas built there, the older houses torn down and new ones in their place.”[3] Offering an allure of progress while allowing for cheap construction, brutalist architecture was the logical expression of this consensus.

One case in point is the joint headquarters of the Yorkshire Post, a long-standing voice of regional and even national conservatism, and the Yorkshire Evening Post, a centrist newspaper focusing on Leeds itself.

Bipartisan Brutalism-Image 1
Yorkshire Post Building, autumn 2009. ©Michael Taylor, Wikimedia Commons.

Designed by John Madin, better known for the Central Library and a number of other projects in his native Birmingham, the building was completed in late 1970. It replaced the newspapers’ previous headquarters in a cramped Victorian building on one of Leeds’s major commercial streets, which was in turn demolished to make way for a shopping center. With help of the Labour-dominated City Council, a new site had been found to the west, on the premises of a demolished textile mill. In close proximity, other landmark buildings had recently opened, namely the International Swimming Pool and the Yorkshire Television Studios. The Inner Ring Road, whose third stage was then under construction, promised a direct connection to the motorway and thereby the entire region. Further west lay the working-class areas of Armley and Kirkstall, whose streets with back-to-back housing were increasingly juxtaposed with through roads, carparks, and supermarkets. The Yorkshire Post Building on the fringe of the center was thus an integral part of Leeds’s transformation from an industrial and still recognizably Victorian city to the self-proclaimed “Motorway City of the Seventies.”

Bipartisan Brutalism-Image 2
Construction of the Inner Ring Road, with the Yorkshire Post Building visible to the right, 1974. © Leeds Library and Information Service, www.leodis.net.

In an apparent historical irony, none other than the Prince of Wales performed the official opening. The 22-year-old heir to the throne was not yet known as Britain’s foremost critic of architectural modernism, a role he was to assume in the 1980s. In line with the monarchy’s attempts to present a forward-looking face, Charles came across as a man with a keen interest in technology and a humorous manner when chatting to the staff. The chairman of the Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd. spoke of a “building for the generation now approaching maturity,” appropriately inaugurated by “one who has already shown himself to be a leader of that generation.”[4]

When the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded the building a bronze medal, it cited both the “dramatic contribution” it made to Leeds’s cityscape and the “extremely successful solution” it provided to the client’s “very complex planning problem.” This complexity stemmed from accommodating the entire enterprise of two distinct newspapers under one roof. Communication flowed seamlessly both within and between the different departments. Internal barriers were abolished, facilitating vertical movement. Copy came in “either from the editorial floor above, or from below, where the classified advertisement is.”[5] With computers performing the typesetting and the “largest hybrid press installation in the world” integrating established and new printing technologies, production was united on the middle floor.

Bipartisan Brutalism-Image 3
Advertisement in Yorkshire Post Newspapers New Building Edition, December 9/10, 1970

The newspapers were stacked automatically, whereupon conveyor belts carried the bundles to the trucks for distribution.

Even so, there did not seem to be a contradiction between advanced technology and human employment. Well over a thousand staff members were taking calls, typing up copy, and manning various machines. With more sales than ever, the newspapers could afford numerous journalists. As one veteran recalls, articles were written in two huge newsrooms filled with cigarette smoke, the sound of ringing phones, and a fair amount of adrenaline. Authoritarian editors reigned supreme, calling journalists to their offices for a telling off or a triple gin. The modernity of the print media was thus simultaneously impersonal in outlook and controlled by powerful male personalities. The division between gender roles permeated the entire process of newspaper making. The classified advertisement team, for instance, comprised the “pretty girl [who] will hang on your every word” alongside the “creative ideas man” in a sharp suit and company car.


Bipartisan Brutalism-Image 4
Advertisement in Yorkshire Post, December 28, 1970.

The self-presentation of the newspapers at their new site thus combined the allure of modernity with a promise of continuity. “The idea was a building of rugged strength,” enthused the company’s managing director, “it was to be symbolic of Yorkshire and of a new age. But it had to blend with the Leeds of the past and with the architecture of those days.” In a promotional film, the conservative Yorkshire Post stressed that massively improved communication and distribution would connect it even more closely with the county’s farmers, gardeners, and cricket players.

The newspapers’ rootedness in tradition, however, limited their ability to come to terms with the changing face of Leeds as a whole. Their endorsement of new buildings and roads went hand in hand with a grim outlook on urban society. Residents appeared to be hampered by strikes and threatened by violent criminals, even before the Yorkshire Ripper rose to sinister prominence. It was barely acknowledged that not all of them were white, notwithstanding the sizeable Asian and Caribbean communities. Far from seeing diversity as an asset, the city was increasingly perceived as fractured, and the specter of urban decline came to the fore. While the Yorkshire Post Building retained its functionality, the cultural foundations of bipartisan brutalism eroded.[6]

It was only in the 1990s and 2000s that a spirit of optimism returned to Leeds, but this benefited neither the print media nor the modernist architectural heritage. Crisis after crisis caused the staff of the two newspapers to shrink.

Meanwhile, older shopping centers as well as the International Swimming Pool were demolished to make way for new commercial and residential buildings. The Yorkshire Post Building’s turn came in 2012, after printing had been outsourced and the remaining journalists had moved to a smaller location. Its fitness for purpose now limited the possibility of reuse. None of the prospective investors was interested in costly preservation. English Heritage refused to list the building, dryly noting that its value lay less in its design, which lacked “coherence,” than in its “original function,” which was now lost for good.


Bipartisan Brutalism-Image 5
Demolition of the Yorkshire Post Building, spring 2014. ©Moritz Föllmer.

With protest too timid to amount to a campaign, there were only some nostalgic musings about the loss of Leeds’s 1960s heritage. Perhaps the commentator asking what better end there could be “for a truly modernist building than demolition, to make way for the future” hit the nail on the head. The rise and fall of the Yorkshire Post Building attests to a culture of urban capitalism whose knack for radical transformation has been thinly disguised by reassuring narratives of continuity. The next reiteration of this culture on the same site will be a somewhat predictably designed combination of office, residential, and leisure facilities.

StudioHeno 22665-38.jpgMoritz Föllmer is Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Amsterdam and has widely written on European cities in the twentieth century. Before moving to the Netherlands, he taught at the University of Leeds and lived on the City Island development behind the Yorkshire Post Building.

[1] This established term has nothing to do with brutality but derives from the French béton brut (raw concrete).

[2] See Peter Mandler, “New Towns for Old: The Fate of the Town Center,” in Becky Conegin, Frank Mort, and Chris Waters, eds., Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1964 (London: Rivers Oram, 1998), 208-27.

[3] Quoted in Brian Harrison, Seeking a Role: The United Kingdom, 1951-1970 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 152.

[4] “A Yorkshire Toast to the Prince,” Yorkshire Post, December 11, 1970.

[5]  This and the following quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the Yorkshire Evening Post’s “Yorkshire Post Newspapers New Building Edition,” December 9/10, 1970.

[6] Compare Simon Gunn, “Ring Road: Birmingham and the Collapse of the Motor City Ideal in 1970s Britain,” Historical Journal 61 (2018), 227-48.


“Urban History Meet Up” at the AHA

The annual American Historical Association (AHA) conference is a big, rich space for historians but can be a little overwhelming, especially for newcomers.  This year at the AHA, we are trying something new:  informal “meet ups” to help people with shared interests find each other at the conference.  I’m happy to be co-hosting a meet-up for urban historians at the upcoming AHA conference in Chicago, welcoming in folks working on all urban/suburban/metro geographies, time periods, themes, you name it. It will be informal, no agenda, just a chance to find old and new friends in the field and share what you’ve been up to, over coffee and croissants. I’ll be there along with Carol McKibben to welcome you. We are grateful to the UHA for generously underwriting the costs of refreshments.  Drop by if you can, bring your business cards, and hope to see you there!

Aerial view of Chicago, Illinois. The black skyscraper is Willis Tower, previously known as Sears Tower, a Chicago landmark, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

When: Saturday January 5, 8:30 – 10am 

Where Salon 8, Palmer House, Chicago, IL


Becky Nicolaides, Councilor, Research Division, AHA Council, and Research Affiliate, USC and UCLA
Carol McKibben, Lecturer, Stanford University

Hosted jointly with the Urban History Association

Featured image (at top): Marquee of the historic Chicago Theater, which opened in 1921, Chicago, Illinois, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Metropole November Round Up

As we close out November with stuffed bellies and eyes toward impending December holidays, The Metropole’s editors would be remiss not to draw attention to one of the blog’s strongest months since its founding in 2017. With a new UHA board, filled with recent arrivals, readying to assume responsibilities in January, we profiled four incoming members: Llana Barber, James Wolfinger, Emily Callaci, and Dorothee Brantz. Get to know your new board!

December 1st also brought to an end to our most prolific Metro of the Month, Baltimore. In November, The Metropole published, counting our usual overview, eight pieces of scholarship on Charm City. We’ve provided a round up of each below. Delve into the history of the iconic Mid-Atlantic metropolis!

Baltimore, Maryland Row Houses
Row houses, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, November 1, 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Mobs, Monuments, and Charm: A Baltimore Bibliography: From current 21st century popular culture attentions to the city (The Corner, The Wire, Beach House, Future Islands) to the story of Charm City’s unfortunately very influential residential segregation laws of the early 1910s, our annual overview/bibliography provides a bite sized bite of the larger whole.

House in Negro section. Baltimore, Maryland, John Vachon, July 1938, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Race in Baltimore:

Longtime resident and Johns Hopkins University political scientist Matt Crenson, author of 2017’s Baltimore: A Political History, reflects on the city’s struggle with race relations. Equal parts academic analysis and memoir, Crenson juxtaposes his lived experience with the historical reality of the city.


The Brotherhood of Liberty and Baltimore’s Place in the Black Freedom Struggle:

Virginia Tech historian Dennis Patrick Halpin draws upon his forthcoming work on the city, A Brotherhood of Liberty: Black Reconstruction and its Legacies in Baltimore, 1865-1920, to discusses the history of Baltimore’s first black-led civil rights organization (and one of the first nationally) and the struggles it encountered to deliver the rights of citizenship to Charm City’s African American community.

Baltimore (Convention Center Construction), Marion S. Trikosko, December 2, 1977, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Drug War in Baltimore: The Failure of the “Kingpin” Strategy in Charm City:

Walsh University historian Will Cooley delivers an account of 1970s and 1980s law enforcement drug policies in Baltimore. Unsurprisingly, the “Kingpin” approach failed to fully address the tragedy of the drug trade in the city. Cooley writes deft historical analysis with a journalistic eye in one of The Metropole’s most popular pieces of the last four months.

Baltimore, Maryland. Thursday night shoppers in a line outside a movie theatre, Marjory Collins, 1943, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

When Baltimore Was Hollywood East: Racial Exclusion and Cultural Development in the 1970s:

The world does not have enough cultural history that manages to both provide insight about material culture while also exploring how such cultural productions contribute to larger municipal policy goals, or in this case, failed to. University of Rutgers-Camden historian Mary Rizzo delves into 1970s Charm City to explore how municipal leaders and others hoped to create a new Mid-Atlantic Tinseltown that would also undergird urban renewal efforts.

Tyson Cartoon
From the Baltimore Evening Sun, June 3, 1959.

“Slum Clearance a la Mode”: The Battle for Baltimore’s Tyson Street:

As most urban historians know, highway construction in America’s cities hollowed out metropolitan America particularly for working class African Americans and other minorities who found themselves forcibly removed from their communities. Yet Seattle University historian Emily Lieb, whose forthcoming book examines the West Baltimore neighborhood of Rosemont, explores the question “But what happened when white people were in the way?” Her account captures numerous problematic aspects of “slum clearance” particularly in regard to race and class.

Mural in Baltimore, Maryland
Mural, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Segregated by Design: “Free Choice” and Public Housing in Baltimore:

Rhonda Y. Williams published her groundbreaking work, The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles Against Urban Inequality in 2004. Urban planner Sara Patenaude also saw in the city’s public housing history important historical data points. In this thumbnail summary of her dissertation, Patenaude documents how “choice” in public housing failed to lead to greater opportunity or integration for black residents.

Paul Coates, 1971 (courtesy of Harry)
Paul Coates during his Black Panthers days, 1971, courtesy of Harry

Activist Businesses and Baltimore’s Overlooked History of Social Movements:

When discussing social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, one often envisions collective action and critique of capitalist organization and impulses. But, what about those “activist entrepreneurs” who attempted to meld social justice with business? Drawing upon his recent book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, University of Baltimore historian Josh Clark Davis explores Baltimore’s forgotten social justice enterprises.

We look forward to delivering more content in December!

Featured image: Bohemian Beer special, Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore Maryland, Ryan Reft, 2015. 

Activist Businesses and Baltimore’s Overlooked History of Social Movements

By Joshua Clark Davis

Baltimore is not a city nationally known for its social movements. Urban historians have written extensively about the Black Power movement in Oakland, the labor movement in Detroit, Communists in Harlem, civil rights in Atlanta, radical feminists in Washington, D.C., and the LGBTQ movement in San Francisco. But aside from Rhonda Williams’s work on public housing activists and Andor Skotnes’s work on Depression-era labor unions, Baltimore’s social movements have received very little treatment in the way of historical monographs.

And yet, at the very same time, Baltimore has an incredibly rich history of social movements. It’s not that this history is invisible in scholarly literature. Rather, Charm City’s activists appear as part of broader stories on school desegregation or redlining in the city, or as part of accounts of a larger statewide civil rights movement, or they appear in brief essays on Black Power or second-wave feminism in Baltimore. Still, the histories of the city’s political activists generally receive far less attention than their counterparts in larger cities.

As I was researching for From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, my book on the history of social movement businesses in the 1960s and ‘70s, activists in Baltimore kept showing up, again and again. As I discovered, in 1970 a group of working-class teenagers in the city’s Hollins Market community launched the Pratt Street Conspiracy, a non-profit, cooperatively owned hippie head shop and clothing boutique that offered discount prices to low-income customers in and around the Hollins Market community. The co-op channeled any remaining funds after covering its costs back into two local anti-poverty community organizations and it was funded primarily by the Community Action Agency, a local group established through the federal Office of Economic Opportunity as part of the War on Poverty.[1]

Pratt Street Conspiracy, 1971 (courtesy of Harry)
The Pratt Street Conspiracy cooperative headshop, 1971, courtesy of Harry

Meanwhile, on the edge of the city’s Charles Village neighborhood, a pair of radical lesbian feminists with deep roots in the anti-war movement, Coletta Reid and KC Czarnik, launched Diana Press, an all-women’s print shop collective. By the mid-‘70s, the company had transformed into one of the leading feminist publishing houses in the country and helped to launch the careers of such writers as Rita Mae Brown.

In West Baltimore, there was Paul Coates, the local Black Panther Party Captain who opened a bookstore, The Black Book, in 1972 as an auxiliary of a campaign to provide reading materials to incarcerated individuals, the George Jackson Prison Book Movement. Decades later, Coates’ son, Ta-Nehisi, would dazzle readers with his explorations of growing up in Baltimore, housing segregation, and how young black men can survive in a white supremacist society.

Paul Coates, 1971 (courtesy of Harry)
Paul Coates during his Black Panthers days, 1971, courtesy of Harry

Thousands of activist businesses operated throughout in the country in the 1960s and ‘70s, but the ones I came across in Baltimore seemed unusually productive and influential, and some of them enjoyed afterlives that extended far beyond the 1970s, such as Black Classic Press, a company established Coates that publishes new and out-of-print works by Black authors. In 2018, the company celebrated its fortieth anniversary.

Not long after publishing my book last year, I started work on another book, this time joining Nicole King and Kate Drabinski in co-editing a forthcoming essay collection, Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City. For my own essay, I narrowed the focus of my first book but extended it chronologically. The activist businesses I’d uncovered in Baltimore had me asking myself a question that went beyond my typical time period: what was the long history of activist businesses over the entire sweep of progressive and radical movements in Baltimore?

What I found was that the city had a remarkable history of activist businesses stretching from the 1820s to today. I want to reflect here on some on these businesses but also examine the question: how and why does Baltimore have such an extensive history of social movement activity?

First, and this almost goes without saying, for most of its history Baltimore qualified as a “big city.” While its contemporary reputation is as a small or medium-sized city compared to East Coast neighbors like Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia, Baltimore was one of the country’s five largest cities from 1790 to 1860, and then one of the ten most populous cities from 1870 to 1980. Big cities, as we all know, are places where social movements thrive. This is especially true for cities like Baltimore whose port and railroad connections have long brought together people from all over the world.

Baltimore’s demographics also made it fertile ground for social movements. Barely one hundred miles from Philadelphia, the city was home to a sizable Quaker community. More importantly, Baltimore’s free Black community was one of the most significant in the country. While slavery had thrived in the city in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, by 1860 the enslaved population had dwindled and the free Black population had swelled, so that free Blacks made up more than 80 percent of the city’s overall African American population. Over 30,000 lived in Baltimore, by far the most of any city in the country. In the decades before and after the Civil War, free Blacks organized numerous political organizations, especially through churches such as Sharp Street United Methodist, founded in 1787, and Bethel A.M.E., founded in 1814. The city was home to what may have been the most developed abolitionist movement in any Southern slaveholding city. Abolitionists established businesses in Baltimore as early as the 1820s, a decade that Michael Kazin identifies as the starting point for the United States’ first radical social movements. In 1826, anti-slavery activists Michael Lamb and Benjamin Lundy, the Quaker publisher of the abolitionist newspaper Genius of Universal Emancipation, opened a “free produce” store that banned any products produced by enslaved laborers. It was only the third of its kind in the United States. [2]

During Reconstruction, African American shipbuilders associated with the AME church led a collective effort to launch the worker-owned Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company in Fells Point. At the helm of this workers’ cooperative was Isaac Myers, a skilled ship caulker and later the president of Colored Caulkers’ Trade Union Society of Baltimore. Historian Philip Foner called Myers “the first important black labor leader in America.” The Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company employed three hundred African Americans within a year of its founding, paying them a generous wage of three dollars per hour on average.[3]

The Knights of Labor cooperative shirt company

Baltimore emerged as a major hub for a variety of industries, not only shipping but also railroads. By 1877, when the city was the site of massive labor unrest during the Great Railroad Strike on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, it became clear that Baltimore was at the national forefront of labor activity. Labor organizers started their own businesses, such as the Knights of Labor members who founded a bakery, a furniture company, and a textile firm in the 1880s, all of them cooperatives.[4] Later, in the 1930s, more radical critics of capitalism, namely the Communist Party of the United States of America, would launch a pair of bookstores in Baltimore.

By the ‘30s, Baltimore was home to an unusual blend of Southern-style de jure segregation and Northern de facto racism that was nonetheless blunted to a modest degree by a vibrant civil rights movement, including one of the largest and most organized chapters of the NAACP in the country. Following the Brown v. Board ruling, Baltimore’s city schools were among the very few in the South to desegregate immediately. In the 1960s, national media focused largely on desegregation campaigns in the Deep South, allowing whites in a place like Baltimore to cling to their identity as moderate Southerners. However, the massive uprising in Baltimore that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 would shatter the illusion of the city as a capital of white racial liberalism, as would the later emergence of a local Black Panther Party chapter.

Not exactly an activist business but JoJo South Record Shop is indicative of the left of center businesses that thrive in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, Ryan Reft, 2015.

Again in this period, activists started their own businesses—not only Coates’ bookstore but also Congress of Racial Equality organizer Walter Lively’s Liberation House Press. And as Baltimore became a hotbed for the anti-war movement and second-wave feminism, organizers in those movements started stores too, including Diana Press and the 31st Street Bookstore. Fast forward to today, and activist businesses are alive and well, as seen in companies such as the socially conscious ice cream sellers Taharka Brothers and the radical bookstore, vegan restaurant, and bar that make up Red Emma’s impressive worker-owned.

By exploring the broad range of Baltimore’s activist enterprises over the last two centuries, we can see that most left movements in the city, even for all their differences, experimented with business. In a sense, the history of these businesses offers us a map to the city’s rich but fragmented and often overlooked history of movements, allowing us to recognize how Baltimore’s progressives and radicals sought to further their movements and their values through storefronts and small shops from the 1820s all the way to today.

Head Shot More Smaller copy.jpgJoshua Clark Davis is an assistant professor at the University of Baltimore, where he teaches and researches broadly in twentieth-century United States history with a focus on social movements, capitalism, urban history, and African American history. His book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs (Columbia University Press, 2017) examines how small businesses such as natural foods stores, head shops, feminist storefronts, and African American booksellers emerged out of movements in the 1960s and ‘70s and sought to advance justice and equality in the marketplace. 


Featured image (at top): Though not an activist business, “Outpost” is representative of the sort of left of center business that still thrive in some Baltimore neighborhoods, Ryan Reft, 2015.

[1] Jo Ann Harris, “The Pratt Street Conspiracy Is a Boutique,” Baltimore Sun, February 7, 1971; Clementine Flatbush, “S.W. Baltimore Conspiracy,” Harry, January 8, 1971; “Pratt Street Conspiracy,” Harry, April 24–May 7, 1971.

[2] Michael Kazin, American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 5; Michael Lamb and Benjamin Lundy, “Produce of Free Labor: Circular to the Farmers, Planters, Merchants, and others, in the United States, and elsewhere,” Genius of Universal Emancipation, August 5, 1826.

[3] Philip S. Foner, Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1973 (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974), 21-46; Bettye C. Thomas, “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884: Reflections Upon Its Inception,” The Journal of Negro History 59.1 (January 1974), 1-12.

[4] Daniel R. Randall, Cooperation in Maryland and the South, ed. Herbert B. Adams (Baltimore: Publication Agency of the Johns Hopkins University, 1888), 494-501.

Segregated by Design: “Free Choice” and Baltimore Public Housing

By Sara Patenaude

On the morning of August 20, 1995 a crowd gathered in the streets of downtown Baltimore. Thirty thousand people formed an eight-block-long parade and party, complete with band performances and vendors selling commemorative t-shirts and souvenirs. At noon, a hush fell over the crowd, after which the countdown began. As the chant hit zero, a series of explosions could be heard, and felt. In just twenty seconds, the six high-rise towers of the Lafayette Courts housing projects crumbled into dust and rubble.[1]

This moment, decades in the making, bookended the rise and fall of public housing in Baltimore. Planners initially envisioned Lafayette Courts as one of Le Corbusier’s “towers in a park,” meant to replace overcrowded slums with clean, comfortable, affordable provisions for the city’s working poor. Built in the mid-1950s as Baltimore’s first high-rise public housing, Lafayette was also the first of Baltimore’s public housing to open as a desegregated project.[2] The first residents in the project “were begging to get into this place,” former resident and custodian Joe Lamma remembered.[3] By 1995, however, the towers were plagued by constant maintenance issues, crime, and categorical disinvestment by the city and the citizenry of Baltimore.

The rise and fall of public housing is a popular topic for urban historians. The story has been told for cities from Chicago to Los Angeles, New York to San Francisco. While the story in Baltimore may not, at first glance, seem unique, the city has become known for its public housing and related issues of poverty, drugs, corruption, and crime since the critically-acclaimed HBO series, The Wire, debuted in 2002. More recently, the tragic death of Freddie Gray and the resulting uprising in the city’s streets have brought Baltimore’s housing problems back to the public mainstream. Though its official motto is “The Greatest City in America,” Baltimore, Maryland is more likely to be colloquially referred to by the pejorative, “Bulletmore.”

Mural, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Yet the projects have been home to thousands of Baltimore residents since 1940, when Poe Homes (named for one of the city’s most famous residents, Edgar Allen Poe) opened in West Baltimore. Poe Homes, and the twelve housing projects that followed, were divided into “Negro” and “White” projects. After 1954, when the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) officially desegregated the projects in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, applicants to public housing were legally allowed to apply for residence in whichever projects they preferred, regardless of race.[4]

When it came to implementing these desegregation policies, however, the reality was not so simple. By ignoring the legacy of segregation and ongoing systemic racism, the focus on removing official barriers to “choice” did little to actually alleviate segregation among public housing residents. Even as federal officials mandated a new policy aimed at ending continued segregation, allowing local control provided Baltimore officials and residents ample opportunity to maintain several all-white projects—primarily in the interest of maintaining any white residents on their public housing rolls. In Baltimore, as elsewhere across the country, residential segregation was enforced not by government decree, but by individuals abandoning “block-busted” neighborhoods for the suburbs, pressuring elected officials to stop “encroachment,” and loudly proclaiming racially coded complaints about declining property values.[5]

Baltimore was one of the first cities in the nation to desegregate its public housing system in 1954, but the method with which they did so made little progress towards integration of the housing projects. Using a “freedom of choice” policy, officials in public housing removed the direct barriers which prevented black residents from applying for tenancy in white housing projects. This focus on free choice emphasized individual action, refusing to acknowledge systemic or community issues that could prevent black applicants from feeling safe moving into formerly all-white spaces. At the same time, it allowed elected officials and policy makers to act with decisive and swift action in a way that elided responsibility for healing any of these underlying problems.

After declaring the housing projects “desegregated,” officials had to grapple with the reverberating effects of post-war racial divides. Lower-class white people, afforded opportunity through FHA home loan programs and GI Bill benefits, moved in droves to the suburbs. In Baltimore, the city was soon left as a majority-black city surrounded by a majority-white county; with Baltimore’s unique municipal organization, the two were entirely separate political bodies. In Baltimore, public housing applicants submitted their applications to individual projects rather than being assigned by the central housing authority, a feature which officials insisted supported individual choice. Under the new desegregated application system, even those projects that did briefly meet the threshold of “integrated” quickly changed over to all-black occupancy.[6] More than a decade after the city’s “freedom of choice” plan was implemented, public housing remained effectively segregated; although the overwhelming majority of public housing residents in the city were black, three housing projects maintained all-white occupancy.[7] When HUD demanded affirmative steps to desegregate these three projects, local officials again turned to the rhetoric of “choice” to explain resistance by both white and black residents. Rather than racial animus on the part of officials, they insisted, allowing the continuance of these all-white projects was out of a desire to keep any white residents of public housing at all. Moreover, the reliance of public housing on tenant rents to pay for maintenance and operation costs made it necessary for the housing authority to capture as much rent as possible. The economics of race, then and now, meant that poor whites as a group were still better off economically than poor blacks.

Mural, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In the late 1960s, HUD revised their tenant selection policies and sought to phase out “freedom of choice” housing programs like Baltimore’s, with some limited success.[8] At the same time, HUD began efforts to deconcentrate public housing from low-income minority neighborhoods and experimented with new forms of public housing construction, forming the precursors to modern housing voucher programs. In Baltimore, officials struggled with decisions over how to deconcentrate public housing in a city that was rapidly losing white and middle-class residents. While the city’s public housing civil servants generally accepted HUD’s site selection guidelines and put forward requests to build housing in non-minority neighborhoods, elected officials refused permissions necessary to build new public housing outside of areas that were already majority black.[9] By 1970, the combination of white flight from the city, an ever-larger majority of black residents in public housing, and these site selection decisions created a situation in which integration of Baltimore’s public housing projects had become essentially impossible.

The continued disinvestment by local and federal officials created a perfect storm of underfunding, deferred maintenance, and underserved communities that changed public housing from programs of uplift to drug-addled areas of crime where residents succeeded despite, not because of, public housing programs. In 1995, the City of Baltimore received funds under HUD’s HOPE VI plan to finance demolition of the city’s public housing high-rises. Lafayette Courts was just the first of Baltimore’s public housing high-rises to come down. Less than a year later, 15,000 onlookers gathered for another “festive atmosphere” to see the five towers of Lexington Terrace fall.[10] Murphy Homes, with its four 14-story high rise towers and its grim moniker “Murder Homes,” followed in 1999.[11] Baltimore’s demolitions in the late twentieth century were part of a wider trend as public housing authorities across the country, supported by federal HOPE VI funds, divested from their large-scale public housing developments. As Baltimore Housing Authority spokesman Zack Germroth explained, “It made no sense to repair them from a sociological, physical or maintenance standpoint.”[12] Some units were replaced with new public housing in mixed-income projects, while others were converted into Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers. The last of Baltimore’s low-income high-rises came down with the 2001 demolition of Flag House Courts.[13]

The policy rhetoric of “freedom of choice” continued even as the high-rise housing projects came down. As with the original slum clearance efforts that gave rise to large-scale public housing, proponents of HUD’s HOPE VI plan often touted its benefits as giving low-income residents more choices about where to live––thus the moniker, “Housing Choice Vouchers.” Despite releasing residents from the problems of pre-built public housing projects, the shift to voucher programs has been unable to further meaningful choice because of its reliance on a private housing market that still operates within a society replete with systemic racism. Even as the housing projects have come down, the decisions made by public housing officials can be seen in the segregated residential patterns in Baltimore that remain today.

PatenaudeHeadshot.jpgSara Patenaude has a PhD in History from Georgia State University. Her scholarly work investigates the intersections of race, public policy, and city planning in the twentieth century United States. She currently works as a real estate and economic development consultant in Atlanta.

Featured image (at top): Mural, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

[1] JoAnna Daemmrich, “Lafayette Courts Ends in 20 Seconds of Explosions, Cheers, Tears,” Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1995; Charles Cohen, “Destroying a Housing Project, to Save it,” New York Times, August 21, 1995.

[2] Lafayette opened in 1956 as a desegregated project, a significant change by city officials following the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board declared “separate but equal” to be inherently unconstitutional.

[3] Cohen, “Destroying a Housing Project, to Save it”.

[4] The decision to desegregate was not an altruistic one. Housing authority officials worried that a delay in action would lead to federal intervention in a way that the city officials could not control. By forging and implementing their own policy ahead of any court orders, the commissioners hoped the housing authority might be subject to less scrutiny and oversight of their progress. Report on Racial Occupancy Policies of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City by Staff Committee, June 24, 1954, Baltimore City Archives; Oliver C. Winston, Speech entitled Desegregation Policy: An Address to All Employees of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, June 30, 1954.

[5] For more on blockbusting in Baltimore, see Edward Orser, Blockbusting in Baltimore: The Edmondson Village Story (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994) and Antero Pietila, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010).

[6] Despite all new housing projects after 1955 opening on a “desegregated” basis, all eight of these new projects were overwhelmingly black-occupied by 1970. Expert report of Karl Taeuber for the plaintiffs, Thompson v. HUD, ACLU collection, University of Baltimore Special Collections.

[7] Brooklyn Homes, Claremont Homes, and O’Donnell Heights were opened as all-white projects under the segregated public housing system. These same three projects remained overwhelmingly white-occupied into the 1980s. Eileen Canzian, “Baltimore Finds Integrating Public Housing an Elusive Goal”, Baltimore Sun, July 2, 1985.

[8] Assistant Secretary for Housing Management, Assistant Secretary for Equal Opportunity, HUD, Tenant Selection in the Public Housing Program, 1971 directives. When Baltimore’s program was questioned by HUD, local officials embarked on new efforts to encourage black tenants to move into white projects. The inverse was never attempted.

[9] Despite HUD guidance stating that new projects should be established outside of areas of minority concentration, Baltimore officials refused to allow innovative programs such as Section 23 Leased Housing to be implemented outside of designated “urban renewal areas,” all of which were in low-income, majority-black neighborhoods. Resolution No. 4 (Council No. 1349), Baltimore Ordinances 1965-66, 1045.

[10] “Baltimore to Demolish More Public Housing Units,” The Washington Post, September 30, 1995.

[11] Dylan Waugh and Megan Miller, “Murphy Homes Gone, Not Forgotten,” Capital News Service Maryland, December 19, 2008.

[12] Sharon Cohen, “Demolition of Dangerous, Decaying Public Housing Begins,” LA Times, May 26, 1996.

[13] Jewish Museum of Maryland, “Flag House Courts and Albemarle Square,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed June 3, 2018, https://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/374.

Member of the Week: Dorothee Brantz

TUB-BrantzProfDorothee04112013Dorothee Brantz

Center for Metropolitan Studies

Technische Universität Berlin, Germany

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

I am currently working on two new projects – one about the impact of seasons on urban life in the US and Europe between 1900 and 2000. The other asks about the role of nature in the transition from war to peace in 20th-century Berlin. As an urban environmental historian who doesn’t conceive of cities as simply human-made spaces, I am very interested in the ways natural forces continue to shape urban developments. Moreover, I am very curious about questions of temporality and how they manifest themselves in urban practices. Well, and as a historian of warfare and as a citizen in this contemporary world, I also keep wondering about the meaning of peace, which is quite puzzling to me.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

This semester I am actually on sabbatical, which is great, not the least because it gives me a chance to really think about what I want to teach next semester to our MA students in urban history. Currently, I am playing with a new idea: rather than working with a set syllabus, we will start with “What is a City?” from Deyan Sudjic’s, The Language of Cities and based on it, each student will identify topics of interest that they will independently pursue in research groups and then present to the rest of the class. It’s an attempt to get students actively engaged in what they learn and to get them thinking about developing research topics. I am certainly curious if that can work…

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

Right now I am reading Cynthia Barnett’s Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. She is an award-winning journalist and her book is absolutely fascinating in how it moves through the centuries making all kinds of rainy connections all the while telling a beautiful story. It’s a different kind of writing, maybe less academic but in that maybe also more accessible and I must say I learned a ton of new things. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about how we as urban scholars write books, and for whom? As an urban environmental historian I am very interested in generating a dialog with politicians, and urban policy makers as well as with a larger public, and traditional history books might not be the best way to do that.

As far as my own publications go, I just co-wrote a short piece with my colleague Avi Sharma, which was a very inspiring experience because it forced us to closely discuss a topic both on the level of content and narrative.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies? 

Think broadly about sources and potential inspirations! By that I mean read of course, but also walk, listen, smell, touch, and watch. Walk through the city and look around at urban life throughout the year. As urban scholars we have the great fortune to live in our field of research, so we should use all of our senses to tickle our minds and to continuously ask ourselves why we are studying the urban, why is it important? Be inspired by life!

Tell us about the transition from American to German universities. What was unexpectedly joyful about the move, and what made for a difficult adjustment?

Returning to Germany after receiving all of my secondary and university education in the US, it was quite a transition, not the least because I was trained as a historian, but now direct an interdisciplinary research center, so I had to learn a lot about the day-to-day workings of interdisciplinarity and also about management. The Center for Metropolitan Studies is a wonderful place because it brings together German and American perspectives on urban studies, in large part we usually have guest researchers from the US and Canada.

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