Category Archives: Bibliography

Nollywood Dreams, Lagosian Realities: A Bibliography for the Capital of West Africa

In its section on Nigeria, Lonely Planet’s 1995 edition of its Rough Guide to West Africa advised that getting the most out of one’s visit to the country depended on avoiding “Lagos and the sprawling congested cities of Ibadan, Port Hartcourt, Enugu, and Onitsha.” Several years later, a 30th anniversary edition offered a more nuanced take suggesting that some travelers might find the city “compelling” but that the metropolis remained a wild ride: “Lagos is chaos theory made flesh and concrete.”[1]

To be fair, Lagos struggled mightily in the early 1990s. “Lagos’s prosperity peaked in the early 1980s,” notes sociologist Oka Obono, “before military coups and difficulties with the IMF drove Nigeria into recession.”[2] Military rule ensued, as did restrictions on civil liberties and a debilitating crime wave. Over time, although crime rates fluctuated on the whole they remained high. During 2007, 50 people per month perished in Lagos State robberies. “Home invasions were extremely common in Lagos in the 1990s, they still happen, though less frequently,” the unnamed protagonist of Teju Cole’s Everyday for the Thief —a Nigerian ex-pat returning to the city for the first time in over a decade—tells readers.[3]

During the ‘90s, the city became the epicenter for political resistance to the authoritarian government. Even with such dissent, Lagos had lost some of its governance mojo as Nigerian leaders moved the capital to Abuja in 1991. Abuja bloomed under the jaundiced influence of malfeasance and graft as greedy military leaders and contractors conspired to build the new capital for personal benefit and largely at the public’s expense. “The stink of corruption, presumed to be too much the vernacular of life in Lagos, become the breath of air in this Medina,” famed Nigerian poet Odia Ofeimun observed.[4]

Amidst economic, political and social struggle, Lagos still made its mark on Africa, let along Nigeria. The proliferation of VCR’s and hand-held recording devices during the late 1980s and early 1990s intersected with a city struggling through economic depression and a debilitating crime wave. No longer safe enough to venture out to the cinema nor able to afford its cost, Lagosians invested time and money in “home movies,” as they are sometimes referred. Film making on Lagos streets emerged as a popular new and widely disseminated media form. Known as Nollywood, Nigeria’s movie industry, the third largest in the world behind America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood, soon asserted itself continentally.

Due in part to Lagos’s “low capital” economy dominated by informal employment, directors and producers discovered cost efficient strategies to scatter celluloid stardust across Africa. “Nollywood is cheap and nimble,” a 2010 Economist article summarized. “Films are shot on digital video cameras. Scripts are improvised.” Pirates understood how to smuggle and distribute Nollywood products across national boundaries and over vast distances, thereby creating the pan-African movie market. It gave voice and representation to not only Lagosians and Nigerians, but Africans generally. “Nollywood is the voice of Africa, the answer to CNN,” Lancelot Idowu, one of Nigeria’s best-known directors noted. The Economist furthered this argument by declaring film “Africa’s dominant medium, replacing music and dance. It links distant societies, fosters the exchange of ideas and drives fashion trends.”[5]

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“New Money” one of the most popular Nollywood films of 2018 courtesy of pulse.ng

Due in part to Nollywood and a burgeoning art scene, a new Lagos—or, at the very least, a new projection of Lagos—has come to dominate the media narrative about the city. A February 2019 New York Times article depicted the Lagos art world as an edgy, transnational, and still developing affair, though emergent enough that Lagosians refer to it as an art “ecosystem.” Gallery showings draw Lagos’ upper crust and exude an air of excitement amidst the chaos that many point to as the metropolis’s defining characteristic. “Cars snaked out from the hideous traffic and deposited the city’s elite, dressed to impress, at the Civic Center, a concrete-and-steel edifice fronting Lagos Lagoon,” journalist Siddhartha Mitter noted. “Women exuding Vogue beauty and power paused on the patio to give television interviews.”

Do not underestimate the importance of such developments. “Literature, music, visual arts, theater, film. The most convincing signs of life I see in Nigeria are connected to the practices of the arts,” Cole’s aforementioned protagonist remarks. “And it is like this. Each time I am sure that, in returning to Lagos, I have inadvertently wandered into a region of hell, something else emerges to give me hope.”[6]

Keep in mind, on the one hand, 21st century Lagos is replete with chaotic traffic, electricity blackouts, violent crime, and overcrowded housing. On the other hand, it boasts glittering skyscrapers, a burgeoning art scene and an ascendant film industry. Today’s Lagos did not emerge from a vacuum but rather took its shape from a postcolonial order over the course of six decades.

In 1950, fewer than 300,000 people resided in Lagos, but by 1963, 1.14 million residents lived there; thirteen years later, the population had climbed to 2.55 million. By 1982, the city counted just over 4 million residents, and today estimates often exceed 21 million. Industry took root in Lagos even before independence, such that by 1965 roughly a third of the nation’s manufacturing could be found in the metropolitan area.[7] The rise of Lagosian industry in turn set off migration from the countryside to the city. Over the course of the second half of the 20th century, the city’s overall growth rate averaged 6%. Due in part to this industrialization, particularly after 1960, the annual growth rate of Lagos State averaged just below 10% from 1970 to 1980, three times the national standard. Many of the newcomers hacked it out as squatters or found spaces in illegal housing. For example, in 1952, 22% of families lived in unplanned areas; just over two decades later, this figure had more than doubled to 50%.[8]

Though massive slum clearance legislation passed in 1955 and persisted into the post-colonial era, colonial rulers made few if any concessions for this migration. The only sections of Lagos that appeared to have been actually planned were those inhabited by Europeans. The rest of the metropolis would be shaped by economic forces rather than direct government intervention.[9]

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Mural on the NITEL telecom tower by Nickson Borys Architects, completed in the 1960s in Old Lagos courtesy of The British Council

Lagosian urban renewal focused on projecting a newly independent Lagos as a symbol of national standing. Much as in American cities of the time, the Lagos business district along Marina Road, Broad Street, and Nnamdi Azikiwe Street received special attention. Nigerian architects adapted the international style of Europe to the African climate, inventing tropical modernism. “Slim, streamlined slabs of reinforced concrete with unadorned faces – the signs of modernism in Europe – were also the markers of tropical modernism,” writes historian Daniel Immerwahr. The excitement of independence allowed for adaptations such that Nigerian architects “let fly with all the clichés, gambits and stylistic treatments” that European tastes and regulations forbade.[10]

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Western House by Nickson Borys Architects, Old Lagos. An example of tropical modernism courtesy of The British Council

Yet tropical modernism represented only one side of the coin in the nation and city’s bifurcated housing policy. The new architectural style would be reserved for government offices and downtown buildings, but government housing estates would follow European models. While tropical modernism represented an exciting break from the colonial past replete with Nigeria’s personal stamp, housing estates signaled the newly independent nation’s stability and power as it drew upon the modern, though not necessarily modernist, styles of Europe. The yolk of colonialism persisted even after independence: the “respectability politics” of architecture.

For example, one of the earliest housing estates built, Surlure, was constructed on the British Garden City model and looked much like the contemporaneous “automobile suburbs of the U.S.” As one of the state’s first such efforts, it established a pattern for public housing regimes. Erected during an oil boom on the northern section of Lagos’ mainland, much like public housing in the United States, Surlure was isolated; its location made work commutes difficult and attempts by the government to transform “slum dwellers” into “polite suburbanites” proved misguided and unsuccessful. [11]

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The award winning British Council building in Lagos, an updated version of tropical modernism. Courtesy of the British Council.

Government housing provisions established in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s placed regulations on housing that made its cost prohibitive for many city residents. Unplanned communities sprouted. To the extent one can assign a noticeable design influence, the Brazilian bungalow model brought to Nigeria by formerly enslaved Muslims and Catholics who settled in Nigeria in the latter half of the nineteenth century would be the best example. The inability or unwillingness to follow regulations did not hamper the growth of such communities since the government failed to enforce their provisions, until crime, depression, and political decline assaulted Lagos during the 1980s.

By then, the government imposed its draconian will with overly zealous policing and intervention into daily affairs.[12] The latter was exemplified by the government’s “War Against Indiscipline,” begun in 1984, which attempted to raze the city’s informal sector by eradicating slums, disrupting local markets, and getting Nigerians to “queue patiently at bus stops, shops, and government offices.” Between 1985 and 1986, the government demolished nearly 5,000 illegal structures. The “War Against Filth” followed, which required Lagosians to clean their homes and yards during the last Saturday of every month from 7am to 10 am. While it sounds like a noble goal, in reality, it functioned as a carrot for the well off and a stick for the working classes and poor.[13]

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Market in Mushin, December 2017, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Those driven out by land speculation settled in what the United Nations describes as “peri-urban” areas, almost like slum satellite cities. In Lagos, “new shantytowns grow all the time like shifting sands” in the ever expanding mega-city, journalist Kaye Whiteman points out, notably along Badagry Road, Agege Motor Road, and the Ibadan Expressway.[14] Others end up moving to mainland slums like Mushin, living in “rectangular concrete-block houses” with seven to eight people to a “single, mosquito infested room – in bunks or on the floor – along a narrow corridor of opposing chambers,” as the New Yorker’s George Packer observed in 2006. Both famously and troublingly, only .4% of the Lagos population resides in a home with a toilet connected to a sewer system; two of three residents lack direct access to clean drinking water, electricity, waste disposal or roads.[15]

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“Unplanned housing” in Lagos, photo by CE Blueclouds via Flickr, April 14, 2017.

Despite a problematic housing policy and authoritarian regimes, democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999. From the quick, but especially over the last twenty years, Lagosians discovered new ways to navigate the city—notably by building on its long-existing informal economy. In 1963, 70% of women in the city depended on petty trading and related activities to buoy their finances. Hawking one’s wares and services from the home or a nearby sidewalk beat paying rent for a storefront.[16] By the mid 1970s over half the city claimed a foothold in the informal economy.[17] Such hustle, as it is widely known, still accounts for much of the Lagosian economy. As of 2006, informal transaction accounted for over 60% of economic activity. “Everywhere is a market,” one resident told Packer. “The market – as the essence of the city – is always alive with possibility and danger,” Cole’s narrator tells us.[18]

Few things exemplify the complicated existence of Lagos more than its traffic jams and the informal economy that inexplicitly buzzes around them. Markets pop up spontaneously around them; cottage industries such as okadas, motorbikes that traverse traffic congestion far more quickly and cheaply (if at greater risk) than cars and which ferry low-income workers to their place of employment, have gained traction in the informal economy. The “hustle” is literal and metaphorical.

Of course, one should not lionize such developments too much. After all, okadas represent a survival tactic by workers facing structural readjustments in the economy, a nod to the fact that pay in the “regular economy” declined significantly over the course of the 21st century. Traffic jams at once embody the resourcefulness of Lagosians but also the ways in which they remain subject to neoliberal forces of the megacity. “To mention traffic jams is like twiddling a raw nerve in many cities: In Lagos, it is the rawest nerve,” Nigerian poet Ofeimun reminds us.

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“It’s like Armageddon,” says one resident of Lagos traffic told the City Journal. George Osodi/AP Photo, courtesy of City Journal.

Middle class Lagosians do not have it easy either. Take, for example, the fictional case of Ifemelu, the protagonist and returning Lagos ex-pat from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah. Despite returning to Lagos after many years abroad as a fairly successful professional writer, she must temper her expectations for housing. “The other flats she liked were too expensive. Even though pipes poked out under the kitchen sink and the toilet was lopsided and the bathroom tiles shoddily laid, this was the best she could afford.” Her rent payment helps to explain why illegal housing proves so attractive to many residents. “She wrote the check for two years’ rent. This was why people took bribes and asked for bribes; how else could anyone honestly pay two years’ rent in advance?”[19]

As Whiteman admits, though troubled, Lagos remains a buzzing hive of human ingenuity; in the face of deprivation and with neoliberalism run amok, it contains a “deep and complex cultural richness,” the source of “a multitude of creativities.”[20] The power of Lagos lies in its people, relentlessly hustling and endlessly defiant. “Lagos is more than just a city or megacity; it is in its essential form a ‘spirit of defiance.’ Everything that works can be subverted to some other use,” writes Obono.[21]

Nor can the city or its residents rest on its historical laurels. There can be no dependence on past glories but rather an emphasis on future progress. “Nigerians don’t buy houses because they’re old. A renovated two-hundred-year-old mill granary, you know, the kind of thing Europeans like. It doesn’t work here at all,” Obinze, Ifemelu’s main love interest in Americanah, tells her upon her return to Lagos. “But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of the past.”[22]

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Lagos by night, photo by CE Blueclouds via Flickr, April 17, 2016.

Lagosians have always specialized in making something out of very little. Enduring very similar urban policies and navigating far more corrupt systems of graft and governance, Lagos’ citizens have carved out their place in Africa and the world – a booming film industry, an expanding art scene, and an unabated hustle. Lagos, despite all its contradictions, remains an entrepot of promise and opportunity. Peril undoubtedly lingers, but on the streets of Lagos everyone is the star of their own movie.

As always, we’ve provided a bibliography of the city below.  Great thanks to Titilola Halimat Somotan and Susan Rosenfeld for their help in compiling the bibliography. The Metropole realizes that we might have left some essential works off of the list, so please fell free to add those titles we missed in the comments!

Bibliography

Adebanwi, Wale. “The City, Hegemony and Ethno-spatial Politics: The Press and the Struggle for Lagos in Colonial Nigeria.” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 9, no. 4 (2004): 25-51.

Adefuye, Ade, Babatunde Agiri, Akinjide Osuntokun, eds. History of the Peoples of Lagos State. Lagos, Nigeria: Lantern Books, 1987.

Adelusi-Adeluyi, Ademide. “Historical Tours of ‘New’ Lagos: Performance, Place Making, and Cartography in the 1880s.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 38, no. 3 (December 1, 2018): 443–54. https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-7208790.

Aderibigbe, A.B., ed. Lagos: The Development of an African City. Nigeria: Longmans, 1975.

Aderinto, Saheed. When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1958. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015

Agbola, Tunde. The Architecture of Fear: Urban Design and Construction Response to Urban Violence in Lagos, Nigeria. Ibadan: Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique, 1997.

Akinsemoyin, Kunle and Alan Vaughan Richards. Building Lagos. Jersey: Pengrail, 1976.

Akinyele, Rufus T. “Contesting for Space in an Urban Centre: The Omo Onile Syndrome in Lagos.” In African Cities, eds. Francesca Locatelli and Paul Nugent. Brill, 2009, 109–134.

Apter, Andrew A. The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Baker, Pauline. Urbanization and Political Change: The Politics of Lagos: 1917-1967. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

Barnes, Sandra T. Patrons and Power: Creating a Political Community in Metropolitan Lagos. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986.

Bigon, Liora. “The Former Names of Lagos (Nigeria) in Historical Perspective.” Names 59, no. 4 (December 1, 2011): 229–40. https://doi.org/10.1179/002777311X13148870565437.

Bourne, Richard. Nigeria: A New History in a Turbulent Century. London: Zed Books, 2015.

Cole, Patrick. Modern and Traditional Elites in the Politics of Lagos. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Davies, Lanre. “Gentrification in Lagos, 1929–1990.” Urban History (February 2018): 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963926817000670.

Echeruo, M.J. Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life. London: Macmillan, 1977.

Falola, Toyin and Matthew Heaton. A History of Nigeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Fapohunda, Olanreqaju J. The Informal Sector of Lagos: An Inquiry into Urban Poverty and Employment. Lagos: University Press Limited, 1985.

Fourchard, Laurent. “Lagos and the Invention of Juvenile Delinquency in Nigeria, 1920–60.” The Journal of African History 47, no. 1 (2006): 115-137.

Gandy, Matthew. “Planning, anti-planning and the infrastructure crisis facing metropolitan Lagos.” Urban Studies 43 (2006): 371–96.

George, Abosede. Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor, and Social Development in Colonial Lagos. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014.

George, Abosede. “Introduction: The Imaginative Capital of Lagos.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 38, no. 3 (2018): 439–42.

Giles, Omezi. “Nigerian Modernity and the City: Lagos 1960-1980.” In The Arts of Citizenship in African Cities: infrastructures and spaces of belonging, edited by Mamadou Diouf and Rosalinds Fredericks. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 277-298.

Godlewski, Joseph. “Alien and Distant: Rem Koolhaas on Film in Lagos, Nigeria.” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 21, no. 2 (Spring 2010): 7-19.

Hargreaves, John. Prelude to the Partition of West Africa. London: Macmillan, 1963.

Haynes, Jonathan. “Nollywood is Lagos, Lagos in Nollywood Films.” Africa Today 54, no. 2 (Winter, 2007): 131-150.

Immerwahr, Daniel. “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 19, no. 2 (December 2007): 165-186.

“Lights, Camera, Africa,” The Economist, December 16, 2010.

Lindsay, Lisa A. “‘To return to the bosom of their fatherland’: Brazilian Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century Lagos.” Slavery & Abolition 15, no. 1 (1994): 22–50.

——–. “Domesticity and Difference: Male Breadwinners, Working Women, and Colonial Citizenship in the 1945 Nigerian General Strike.” American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (1999): 783-812.

——–. Atlantic Bonds: A Nineteenth Century Odyssey from America to Africa. UNC Press Books, 2016.

Mabogunje, Akin. Urbanization in Nigeria. New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1968.

Mann, Kristin. Marrying Well : Marriage, Status, and Social Change among the Educated Elite in Colonial Lagos. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

——–. Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007.

Marris, Peter. Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1962.

Matory, J. Lorand. “The English Professors of Brazil: On the Diasporic Roots of the Yorùbá Nation.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 41, no. 1 (1999): 72–103.

Mitter, Siddhartha. “Lagos, City of Hustle, Builds an Art ‘Ecosystem.’” The New York Times, 8 February 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/08/arts/design/lagos-nigeria-art-x-art.html.

Muritala, Monsuru Olalekan. “Urban Livelihood in Lagos, 1861-1960.” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 20 (2011): 193-200.

Nzegwu, Nkiru. “Bypassing New York in Re-Presenting Eko: Production of Space in a Nigerian City.” In Re-Presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital and Culture in the 21st-Century Metropolis, ed. Anthony D. King. New York: New York University Press, 1996, 111–36.

Obono, Oka. “A Lagos Thing: Rules and Realities in the Nigerian Megacity.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 8, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2007): 31-37.

Ofeimun, Odia. “Imagination & the City.” African Quarterly on the Arts vol. 3, no. 2 (2001): 12-15, 137-141.

Olukoju, Ayodeji. The “Liverpool” of West Africa: The Dynamics and Impact of Maritime Trade in Lagos, 1900-1950. Africa World Press, 2004.

Olorunyomi, Sola. Afrobeat! Fela and the Imagined Continent. Ibadan: IFRA, revised edition, 2005.

Oluwasegun, Jimoh Mufutau. “The British Mosquito Eradication Campaign in Colonial Lagos, 1902-1950.” Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne Des Études Africaines 51, no. 2 (May 4, 2017): 217–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/00083968.2017.1302808.

Osifodunrin, Paul. “Strangers, Indigenes and Child Kidnapping in Late Colonial Lagos.” Lagos Historical Review 13 (July 2013): 1–16. https://doi.org/10.4314/lhr.v13i1.1.

Onajide, M. O. The Development of Housing Policy in Nigeria, 1952-1983: A Case Study of Western Nigeria. Abuja: National Library of Nigeria, 1988.

Peil, Margaret. Cities and Suburbs: Urban Life in West Africa. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1981.

—–. Lagos: The City is the People. London: Belhaven Press, 1991.

Packer, George. “The Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos.” New Yorker, November 13, 2006. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/11/13/the-megacity

Peel, J.D.Y. Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000.

Sawada, Nozomi. “Selecting Those ‘Worthy’ of Remembering: Memorialization in Early Lagos Newspapers.” Journal of West African History 2, no. 2 (2016): 79-108. doi:10.14321/jwestafrihist.2.2.0079.

Sydney Smith, Robert. The Lagos Consulate: 1851-1861. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979.

Whiteman, Kaye. Lagos: A Cultural History. Northampton, MA: Interlink Books, 2014.

Wright, Gwendolyn. The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Fiction

Abani, Chris (ed.). Lagos Noir. Brooklyn, NY: Akashic Books, 2018.

Achebe, Chinua. No Longer at Ease. http://www.bnpublishing.net: 2009.

Cole, Teju. Everyday is for the Thief. New York: Random House, 2007.

Ekwensi, Cyprian. Jagua Nana. London: Hutchinson, c1961.

——-. Lokotown and Other Stories. London: Heinemann, 1966.

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda. Americanah. New York: Anchor, 2014.

Onuzo, Chibundu. Welcome to Lagos. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.

Saro-Wiwa, Ken. Basi and Company. Port Harcourt: Saros Publishers, 1987.

Featured image (at top): Lagos skyline at night, photo by CE Blueclouds via Flickr, July 7, 2018.

[1] Kaye Whiteman, Lagos: A Cultural History, (Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing, 2014), 113.

[2] Oka Obono, “A Lagos Thing: Rules and Realities in the Nigerian Megacity,” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 8, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2007): 32-33.

[3] Obono, “A Lagos Thing,” 35; Teju Cole, Everyday is for the Thief, (New York: Random House, 2007), 45.

[4] Odia Ofeimun, “Imagination & the City,” African Quarterly on the Arts 3, no.2: 12-15, 135-141.

[5] “Lights, Camera, Africa,” Economist, December 16, 2010.

[6] Cole, Everyday is for the Thief, 87.

[7] Oka Obono, “A Lagos Thing: Rules and Realities in the Nigerian Megacity,” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 8, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2007): 32.

[8] Daniel Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” Journal of African Cultural Studies 19, no.2 (December 2007): 166, 176; George Packer, “The Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos,” New Yorker, November 13, 2006, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/11/13/the-megacity.

[9] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 170-171.

[10] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 168-169.

[11] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 171-175.

[12] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 178.

[13] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 179.

[14] Whiteman, Lagos: A Cultural History, 52.

[15] Obono, “A Lagos Thing,” 36.

[16] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 173.

[17] Immerwahr, “The Politics of Architecture and Urbanism in Postcolonial Lagos, 1960-1986,” 173.

[18] George Packer, “The Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos,” New Yorker, November 13, 2006, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/11/13/the-megacity; Cole, Everyday is for the Thief, 57.

[19] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, (New York: Anchor, 2014), 486.

[20] Whiteman, Lagos: A Cultural History, 89.

[21] Obono, “A Lagos Thing,” 36.

[22] Adichie, Americanah, 358.

The Complexities of Brotherly Love: Frank Rizzo, Blue Collar Conservatism and LGBTQ Rights in 1970’s Philadelphia

Editor’s note: In anticipation of next’s month’s #OAH2019/#OAH19 in Philadelphia, the March Metro of the Month is the City of Brotherly love. To get more info about the conference click over to the organization’s website, where you can also download the OAH’s program for the event.

“You know how it works in South Philly. Our strength has always been in our numbers.” local barkeep Max tells Philadelphia Eagles hopeful Vincent Papale in 2006’s Invincible. The underemployed Papale, a part-time bartender and substitute teacher, epitomized the downward economic trajectory of his fellow blue-collar white ethnics in 1976. The union was on strike, manufacturing was fleeing the city, and the Eagles were terrible. As the elder Frank Papale exhaustingly proclaims earlier in the film, “A man can only take so much failure.”

Despite the 1976 bicentennial, the city and nation had seen better days; a “crisis of confidence” had struck the nation, President Jimmy Carter would tell Americans in 1979. Though the Papales might not have articulated it in such terms, Philadelphia and the United States were both mired in “collective ‘existential despair.’”[1]

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Broing down with Mark Wahlberg

A brogasm of Wahlbergian spectacle, Invincible depicts Philadelphia in all its white working-class patina-tinged glory; Mark Wahlberg’s everyman struggles to earn his place on a dismal Eagles team that resents his amateur presence, yet his plight captures his fellow citizens’ imaginations and attention as the newly appointed head coach, Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), attempts to right a ship that had gone far off course.

As with their team, white, blue-collar Philadelphians similarly found themselves drifting listlessly into economic uncertainty; Wahlberg’s quest for a roster spot at least gave his fellow struggling white ethnics some measure of validation. “You’re one of us,” Max assures Papale. Papale securing a roster spot in the NFL pushed back against the erosion of national and local confidence, or as Carter put it, “the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives.”[2]

Unsurprisingly, the 1970s offered no shortage of similar takes on the city, the most obvious example being Rocky, a film released the same year as the real-life Papale’s ascent onto the Eagles roster. Its most iconic scene, Rocky Balboa “atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” was “made possible by the Bicentennial.” Historian Christopher Capozzola writes that “the museum’s renovation” was financed as “part of the city’s Bicentennial cleanup campaign.”[3]

More recently, “Breaking Bad”—and to a far greater extent, “Better Call Saul”—featured the travails of the former Philadelphia cop Mike “No Half Measures” Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Ehrmantraut’s character is particularly resonant since the city’s police force helped to define the white blue-collar identity depicted so faithfully in contemporaneous films (such as the aforementioned Rocky and later, nostalgically, in Invincible). “Police work was a blue collar job and tradition, often passed down generation to generation,” notes Timothy Lombardo in his most recent work. “White police officers also shared the blue collar identity that developed in the city’s white working and middle class neighborhood.” Police embodied the identity and at the time, their work literally defended white interests. When White ethnic Philadelphians’ defended of local law enforcement, it only underscored this deeper connection.[4] Officers helped to defend their communities from crime and upheld long-standing values such as tradition, honor, hard work, and law and order.

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4th of July, 1976 : demonstrate! : Philadelphia“, July 4th Coalition, Artworks Organization, 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While the end of the ‘70s remains defined by malaise, during the late 1960s and early 1970s white blue collar Philadelphians enjoyed cultural, and to some extent political ascendency behind the populist and controversial Mayor Frank Rizzo who himself had risen from the ranks of the PPD—first to Chief of Police during the mid-1960s, and later to the city’s highest office in 1972.

 

Long the junior party to Philadelphia’s WASP elite, the white working class residents envisioned a city remade in their image. Rizzo, described as “a cop’s cop,” embodied the hopes, resentments, and fears of his fellow white ethnics. He decried elites, personified working class masculinity, and criticized civil rights activists through a studied colorblind discourse that understood open displays of racism were no longer politically and socially viable. “If there is one thing I’m not,” he told a local journalist, “it’s against somebody because they are Negro or an Irishman, or anything else.”[5]

The former police chief crafted campaign slogans that effectively conveyed double meanings but steered clear of overt racial appeals. One, “Rizzo Means Business,” promoted his no nonsense blue collar approach and juxtaposed his masculinity against both the effete, pinheaded intellectual class and the burgeoning threat of Black Power activists. It also evoked the kind of “law and order” policies that defended the very neighborhoods inhabited by his supporters.[6] Rizzo understood the value of symbolism, be it appearing at an urban disturbance in a tuxedo with a billy club protruding from his cummerbund or endorsing Richard Nixon and handing the President a lighter emblazoned with Snoopy and the words “Fuck McGovern.”[7]

Yet Frank Rizzo’s ascendency has as much to do with the arc of twentieth century urban history and municipal policies as his combative style. Postwar reformers embraced New Deal municipal programs that promised (and sometimes delivered) benefits to its white residents, but that also reified structural inequalities, particularly in regard to race. “The gulf between the promises and limitations of urban liberalism established the urban crisis that shaped Philadelphia’s long postwar period,” Lombardo points out.[8] Public housing further carved the city’s neighborhoods into racial fiefdoms. Critically, it naturalized white privilege—or, to paraphrase William Upski Wimsatt from his underground 1994 memoir on tagging, Bomb the Suburbs, whites believed that having the proverbial wind at their back was the natural order of things.

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GENERAL VIEW – Falls Bridge, Spanning Schuylkill River, connecting East & West River Drives, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA, Jack E. Boucher, 1972, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

When urban decline and deindustrialization began to chip away at metropolitan economies, racial conflicts blossomed into urban tensions and uprisings. When civil rights activists demanded a piece of the share from which they had been denied, white ethnics revolted, embracing their cultural identity and retreating to neighborhoods like Bridesburg, Whitman, and Morrell Park in Greater Northeast Philadelphia.

“‘Defense of the neighborhood’ was at the root of nearly every conflict that contributed to the transformation in white working and middle class politics of the 1960s and 1970s,” writes Lombardo.[9] School integration and busing enabled Philadelphia’s Italian, Irish, and German American residents to organize around the collective identity they had come to define and the communities in which they resided. The Northeast became its own territory. “This isn’t Philly,” one civic leader noted. “This is Bridesburg.”[10]

If police officers represented one distillation of the blue-collar identity, construction work embodied another and also helps to explain how liberal urban policies contributed to the sort of expectations and disappointments that fueled white, blue-collar politics. By the mid-1960s, federal, state, and municipal expenditures on economic development poured over 17 billion into construction coffers; even as the city shed manufacturing employment during the 1950s and 1960s, federal urban renewal programs maintained a steady stream of work.

Attempts to broaden the workforce’s diversity met with resistance. Building and trade unions pushed back against attempts to integrate. “I never said no to a negro,” Joseph Burke of the Sheet Metal Workers told journalists, admitting in the same breath that “We didn’t go out looking for them either.”[11]

Leaders like Burke insisted the union hall promised black construction laborers their best hopes for work, yet refused to acknowledge the ways in which their control over apprentice programs and rules privileging seniority prevented black workers from gaining a real foothold in the industry.[12]

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VIEW OF BROAD STREET FACADE – Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Broad & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA, Jack E. Boucher, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In spite or maybe because of this, the affirmative action plan the city enacted in 1967 became the nation’s first; it would develop into a national model. However, the Nixon administration’s institutionalization of the program had less to do with a sense of concern for the plight of non-white workers but rather, as Jefferson Cowie writes, as a means to outflank “the liberals and … flood the inflation-minded labor market.” Secretary of Labor George Schultz warned that the integration of the building trades would probably “help foment conflict between the two core constituents of the New Deal – labor and blacks.” A conflict that, as historians such as Rick Perlstein and Bruce Schulman contend, the president (and by extension Rizzo) had few qualms about fanning.[13]

 

Then again, white ethnic blue-collar Philadelphians did not hold a monopoly on identity formation during this period. The city’s gay community also asserted itself, amidst the same forces that produced its full-throated white, working class howl. As historian Kevin J. Mumford notes, the LGBTQ community’s quest for equal protection led to clashes with “religious and racial conservatives who challenged not only their rights but also their legitimacy as a minority.” The process necessitated a reconstruction of identities while “negotiating race relations and extending liberal impulses of the 1960s into the 1980s.”[14] In contrast to the blue-collar revolt that rejected racial compromise and built an identity in opposition to the liberal policies that helped buoy them, the push for LGBT equality worked, with admittedly varying degrees of success, to navigate racial tensions and harness social liberalism rather than repudiate each.

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Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings circa 1965 in the nation’s capital. The two LGBTQ leaders helped to organize the 1965 Annual Reminder demonstration in Philadelphia the same year, c. 1965, Frank Kameny Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

In 1965, the Janus Society conducted sit-ins at a Philadelphia restaurant following an incident in which the manager refused to serve customers on the suspicion of their homosexuality. The protest resulted in several arrests, but more importantly drew publicity for the cause. On July 4th of the same year, Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Lilli Vincenz, among others, organized the first Annual Reminder demonstration outside Independence Hall emphasizing their rights as citizens.[15] These protests pre-dated the Stonewall Rebellion by several years and helped to lay the groundwork for a more militant Gay Liberation Movement, perhaps best represented by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), that blossomed during the early 1970s.

In Philadelphia, the GLF established a branch in 1971. Influenced by the Black Power movement, activists began declaring “gay is good” much as Stokely Carmichael coined the slogan “black is beautiful.” Even the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), which had been critical of BPP’s homophobia and had formed after objecting to the GLF’s attempts to court the local Black Panther Party (BPP), was clearly influenced by Black Power rhetoric. Though perceived as whiter, more academic, and less street oriented, the GAA adopted BPP language in its fliers and memos declaring “gay is angry!” and “gay is proud!”[16]

Despite this apparent convergence in the effort for equal rights, Philadelphia’s black community did not warm to the LGBT movement initially. Homophobia pervaded many of the “rights movements” of the time. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), feminism, and the New Left all struggled with such bigotry, and the Black Power movement was no exception. Many leading black religious figures criticized efforts by the gay community to establish a city council bill protecting the rights of the homosexual community, both due to their Christianity and worries about “the politics of respectability.” Reverend Melvin Floyd, a former Philadelphia cop who had established Neighborhood Crusade, Inc. and dedicated his life to social uplift, particularly in regard to the black community, questioned the effort. “The one thing about everything else that can destroy that kind of manhood is to come up with a generation or generations of homosexual black males,” he told the council during hearings. He also pointed to one of the LGBT movement’s largest weaknesses, its lack of diversity. “100 percent [of the people] of any organizations of gay rights are white.”[17]

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President Gerald Ford at a farmers’ market in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marion Trikosko, September 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

However, there existed a wide diversity of viewpoints on the matter within the larger black community. According to a 1977 Gallup opinion poll, non-whites expressed “slightly more tolerance for homosexuals” than white respondents. Brother Grant Michael Fitzgerald, member of the Catholic religious order Society of the Divine Savior and a black gay activist, defended the bill during the same hearings. Gay men and women should be able to publicly hold hands just as “black people … and interracial couples can do … today,” he told council members. The black newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, which admittedly sometimes trafficked in sensationalism when it came to the city’s LGBT community and was not always a reliable ally in this regard, decried Floyd’s remarks as “absurd.”

Rizzo’s hypermasculinity and penchant for saying things such as “I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot” failed to endear him to the city’s gay residents.[18] The rise of the New Right, Anita Bryant’s homophobic crusades of the 1970s, and Rizzo’s own rhetoric sparked fresh activism in the city such as the formation of Gays at Penn in 1975, which consisted of staff and students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Three years later, behind Reverend James H. Littrell and organized by Penn staff and students, Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force (PLGTF) was established and it soon aligned itself with the Philadelphia Coalition of Black Gays. During the 1980s lesbian feminist activist Rita Addessa took the helm and the PLGTF launched a new effort to get a major rights bill passed in Philadelphia. The end of Rizzo’s administration, new elections, and a new mayor who publically supported gay rights marked a new day and in 1982 hearings on a new bill went very differently. Granted, the new law, Bill 1358, failed to pass, but the council agreed to amend the Fair Practices Ordinance by adding sexual orientation. Unlike Rizzo and his followers, gay rights advocates, though “slow to grapple with intersections of identity” such that its political base had become too white and too male, still “drew on the long civil rights movement and sought protection from discrimination in what were essentially civil rights statutes,” writes Mumford.[19]

Post-Rizzo Philadelphia, like its football team, struggled as the 1970s ended and the 1980s commenced. The MOVE bombing of 1985 arguably represented its nadir. Though his administration deployed rhetoric and policies favored by the city’s white, blue-collar community, the addition of sexual orientation as a protected class to city statues represented only one aspect of “Rizzocrat” frailty. Throughout the 1970s, deindustrialization was afoot and no amount of rhetoric could change that fact. “Blue collar ascendency did not change the reality of blue collar decline,” writes Lombardo. Even as Rizzo burnished Philly’s white working class bonafides, the ground underneath it had already shifted. “Ironically, Philadelphia’s blue collar reputation emerged just as it was in the midst of a transition to a more white collar and service sector economy.”[20]

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Twin towers of Liberty Place, photographed here at dusk, rose in 1987 and 1990 respectively in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As the city stumbled out of the twentieth and into the twenty first century, Philly was, as the kids like to say, very seen. The 1993 movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer named Andrew Beckett who was fired by his firm for both his contraction of HIV and his sexuality, neatly captures the limits of the LGBT community’s success in the city. The only attorney willing to take his case, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), cannot hide his own homophobia, though much like black leaders in the early 1980s, he too comes around on the issue of sexuality by the film’s conclusion.

Later the nihilistic but often very funny sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” followed the exploits of “The Gang,” their South Philly Irish bar and their various morally dubious adventures. Silver Linings Playbook came after (2012), continuing the theme of tortured Eagles fans—though no one would describe Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as distinctly blue collar or particularly ethnic.

Today, Philly is known as much for its ascendant professional sports teams and burgeoning hipster art and music scene as for its white, working class. The War on Drugs epitomizes the latter—hardly a testament to Rizzo’s legacy, though one could argue that the Flyers mascot, Gritty exists as nod to this past. Yet one barely need mention, if you look at our political debates nationally, the late mayor seems to have represented more than just an undercurrent in American politics.

As always, you’ll find our bibliography below, with special thanks to James Wolfinger and Abigail Perkiss for their recommendations. We know it’s incomplete so any book recommendations exploring eighteenth and nineteenth century Philly are very welcome, as are any others we might have missed that examine city during the last and current century. All suggestions welcome in the comments!

Bibliography

Adams, Carolyn. Philadelphia: Neighborhoods, Division, and Conflict in a Postindustrial City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
Arnold, Stanley. Building the Beloved Community: Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Organizations and Race Relations, 1930-1970. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014.
Banner-Haley, Charles. To Do Good and To Do Well: Middle-Class Blacks and the Depression, Philadelphia, 1929-1941. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1993.
Bauman, John. Public Housing, Race, and Renewal: Urban Planning in Philadelphia, 1920-1974. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.

Binzen, Peter, and Joseph R. Daughen. The Cop Who Would Be King: The Honorable Frank Rizzo. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.

Birger, Jon S. “Race, Reaction, and Reform: The Three Rs of Philadelphia School Politics, 1965– 1971.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 120, no. 3 (July 2006).

Clark, Dennis. The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.
Cole, Peter. Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Countryman, Matthew. Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Curry, Leonard. “Philadelphia’s Free Blacks: Two Views.” Journal of Urban History 16, no. 3 (1990): 319-325, https://doi.org/10.1177/009614429001600305

Davis, Allen F. and Mark H. Haller, eds. The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.
Delmont, Matthew. The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

——-. “Making Philadelphia Safe for ‘WFIL-adelphia’: Television, Housing and Defensive Localism in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 1 (2012): 193-213, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144211420644

Davidow, Julia. “The Crusade is Now Begun in Philadelphia: Municipal Reformers, Southern Moderates and African American Politics.” Journal of Urban History 44, no. 2 (2018): 153-168, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144217746162

DuBois, W.E.B. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1899. Reprint, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Feffer, Andrew. “Show Down in City Center: Staging Redevelopment and Citizenship in Bicentennial Philadelphia, 1974-1977.” Journal of Urban History 30, no. 6 (2004): 791-825, DOI: 10.1177/0096144204263814

Ferman, Barbara, Theresa Singleton, and Don DeMarco. “West Mount Airy, Philadelphia.” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 4, no. 2 (1998).

Grant, Elizabeth. “Race and Tourism in America’s First City.” Journal of Urban History 31, no. 6: 850-871.

Heller, Gregory L. Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Hempell, C. Dallett. “Review Essay: Whose City? Whose History?: Three Class Histories of Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 33, no. 1 (2006):108-119, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0096144206291107

Hepp IV, John. The Middle-Class City: Transforming Space and Time in Philadelphia, 1876-1926. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Hershberg, Theodore, ed. Philadelphia: Work, Space, Family, and Group Experience in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Hillier, Amy. “Who Received Loans? Home Owners’ Loan Corporation Lending and Discrimination in Philadelphia in the 1930s.” Journal of Planning History 2, no. 1 (2003).

——-. “Redlining the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation.” Journal of Urban History 29, no. 4 (2003): 394-420, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0096144203029004002.

Katz, Michael B., and Thomas J. Sugrue. W. E. B. DuBois, Race, and the City: “The Philadelphia Negro” and Its Legacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

Kilbride, Daniel. “The Cosmopolitan South: Privileged Southerners, Philadelphia, and the Fashionable Tour in the Antebellum Era.” Journal of Urban History 26, no. 5 (2000): 563-590, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/009614420002600501

Knowles, Scott Gabriel, ed. Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Lane, Roger. Roots of Violence in Black Philadelphia, 1860-1900. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Levenstein, Lisa. A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Licht, Walter. Getting Work: Philadelphia, 1840-1950. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Lombardo, Timothy J. Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
Lyons, Paul. Philadelphia Communists, 1936-1956. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982.
McKee, Guian. The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

——-. “Are Urban Histories Bowling Alone?: Social Capital Theory and Urban History.” Journal of Urban History 36, no. 5 (2010): 709-717, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144210365681.

Metraux, Stephen. “Waiting for the Wrecking Ball: Skidrow in Postindustrial Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 25, no. 5 (1999): 690-715, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/009614429902500503.

Mumford, Kevin J. “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982.” Journal of American History 98, no. 1 (June 2011): 48-72.

Paolantonio, S. A. Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America. Philadelphia: Camino Books, 1993.

Perkiss, Abigail. Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.

——-. “Managed Diversity: Contested Meanings of Integration in Post-WWII Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 3: 410-429, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144212445451

Resnik, Henry S. Turning on the System: War in the Philadelphia Public Schools. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.

Rosswurm, Steve. “Emancipation in New York and Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 21, no. 4 (1995): 505-510, https://doi.org/10.1177/009614429502100404.

Royles, Dan. “Don’t We Die Too?”: The Politics of Race and AIDS in Philadelphia,” in Rethinking Sexual Politics: Gay Rights and the Challenge of Urban Diversity in the Post-Civil Rights Era, ed. Jonathan Bell. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.

Ryan, Francis. AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story: Municipal Workers and Urban Power in the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Ryberg, Stephanie R. “Historic Preservation’s Urban Renewal Roots: Preservation and Planning in Midcentury Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 39, no. 2 (2013): 193-213, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144212440177

Salinger, Sharon V. “The Phoenix of the ‘New Urban History’: Old Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 18, no. 3 (1992): 330-337, https://doi.org/10.1177/009614429201800304

Savage, Michael. “Beyond Boundaries: Envisioning Metropolitan School Desegregation in Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History, (online, 2018) https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144218801595

Schneider, Eric C., Christopher Agee, and Themis Chronopolous. “Dirty Work: Police and Community Relations and the Limits of Liberalism in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History, (online, 2017), https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144217705497

Stein, Marc. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Stranger-Ross, Jordan. “Neither Fight Nor Flight: Urban Synagogues in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 32, no. 6 (2006): 791-812. https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144205284400

Toloudis, Nicholas. “How Local 192 Fought for Academic Freedom and Civil Rights in Philadelphia, 1934-1941.” Journal of Urban History, (Online, 2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144218778552

Vietillo, Dominic. “Machine Building and City Building: Urban Planning and Restructuring in Philadelphia, 1894-1928.” Journal of Urban History 34, no. 3 (2008): 399-434, https://doi.org/10.1177/0096144207311184

Warner, Sam Bass Jr. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

Weigley, Russell, ed. Philadelphia: A 300 Year History. New York: Norton, 1982.

Willis, Arthur C. Cecil’s City: A History of Blacks in Philadelphia, 1638–1979. New York: Carlton Press, 1990.

Wolfinger, James. Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

——-. Running the Rails: Capital and Labor in the Philadelphia Transit Industry. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2016.

Young, David W. “The Battles of Germantown: Public History and Preservation in America’s Most Historic Neighborhood during the Twentieth Century.” PhD diss., Ohio State University Press, 2009.

Featured image (at top): Philadelphia Museum of Art, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress 

[1] William Graebner, “America’s Poseidon Adventure: A Nation in Existential Despair,” in America in the 70s, eds. Beth Bailey and David Farber (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2004), 157-158.

[2] Graebner, “America’s Poseidon Adventure,” 158.

[3] Christopher Capozzola, “It Makes You Want to Believe in the Country,” in America in the 70s, eds. Beth Bailey and David Farber (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2004), 29.

[4] Timothy Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 52.

[5] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 136.

[6] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 138,148.

[7] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 133, 157.

[8] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 24.

[9] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 25.

[10] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 41.

[11] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 118.

[12] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 119.

[13] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 117; Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: The New Press, 2010), 150; Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008); Bruce Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (New York: Da Capo Press, 2002).

[14] Kevin J. Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982,” Journal of American History (June 2011): 49-50.

[15] John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983), 174.

[16] “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 54-55.

[17] Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 52, 54-5, 60.

[18] Capozzola, “It Makes You Want to Believe in the Country,” 41.

[19] Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 68-72.

[20] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 158.

The Capital’s Surveillance Shadow: A Northern Virginia Bibliography

Editor’s note: Remember that SACRPH 2019, the organization’s 18th conference, is in Northern Virginia (NOVA or NoVa)  this October/November from October 31 – November 3, the deadline for the CFP, which you can view here, is March 15. With this in mind, we begin our focus on NoVa as our Metro of the Month.  Submit your panels everyone! 

In the 1987 thriller, No Way Out (NWO), Navy Commander Scott Farrell, played by the allegedly dreamy, inexplicable leading man of the era, Kevin Costner, finds himself embroiled in a murderous love triangle featuring a nefarious Secretary of Defense, David Brice (Gene Hackman) and a dizzy D.C. courtier, Susan Atwell (Sean Young). Being the late 1980s, healthy dollops of Cold War espionage are also mixed into plot, as are a few regrettable homophobic and misogynistic tropes.

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Even Kevin Costner circa 1987 doesn’t understand his own appeal. From No Way Out

Yet, when one watches it today, the architecture of the capital and Northern Virginia stand out as much as the film’s dated social mores and loopy military/spy thriller vibe. NWO’s opening shot slowly trawls across the NOVA/DC landscape, capturing the usual suspects – The Pentagon, the Mount Vernon bike trail along the river, the Library of Congress, the Washington Monument, and so forth – before settling on the Arlington side of the river, staring, with an impending sense of foreboding, at the capital across the water.

Even a notorious sex scene in the film (scandalous for 1987 but pedestrian for 2019) functions as a tour of the city’s monuments as much as it is a testament to the button down freakiness of Washington D.C. diplomats, advisors and lobbyists. After all, who doesn’t gaze at the Lincoln Memorial and imagine limousine-aided carnal relations?

Despite the familiarity of the Washington Mall, Congress, and other D.C. federal institutions, the architecture of the security state located largely in Northern Virginia defines the movie’s conspiratorial narrative. All the Presidents Men (1976) schemed to achieve something similar; Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), evoked a similar sentiment more recently, albeit aided by a great deal of CGI.

In NWO, the Pentagon casts its imperial shadow across the metropolitan region while its workers, many from the NOVA suburbs, scurry about in its endless regimented corridors. The CIA’s Langley Headquarters surveys the intellectual community hidden amidst a sea of green. When trying to thwart actions by a rival in the government, Farrell speeds down Georgetown’s Whitehurst Freeway with the Key Bridge and the Key Bridge Marriot in the background, the latter located just across the river in Arlington where according to historian Andrew Friedman, author of Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Virginia, C.I.A. agents clandestinely rendezvoused, eating and drinking their fill all while planning various covert actions abroad.

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Modern house in northern Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Granted, it never reaches the level of California noir, but the idea and reality of clandestine meetings between elites and operatives was planted in the NOVA soil during the region’s post-World War II development. During the 1950s, Eleanor Dulles’s Maclean, VA bungalow served as a modern day foreign policy salon, “a kind of Round Table for Cold War Washington,” where elites like Allen and John Foster Dulles among numerous others lazed about the pool, drank martinis, and played games of touch football while endeavoring to covertly remake the world in America’s interest. Later, as the nation began wading into Southeast Asia, Edward G. Landsdale (think Alden Pyle from Graham Greene’s The Quiet American), a famed CIA operative in Vietnam, held “hootenannies” at his NOVA home in an effort to create cultural and personal bonds between Washington and Vietnamese elites.[1]

For Friedman, the expansion of the intelligence community in Northern Virginia transformed its human geography from rural farmers and large landholders to suburban CIA agents plying their trade amidst a cartography of pleasantly bland intrigue: a “covert capital” “hidden in plain sight,” which more accurately embodied “U.S. imperial management on the ground” in places like Vietnam, Iran, and Central America.[2] Transnational relationships between agents abroad and elites in these places later led to resettlement in the region, further altering NOVA’s demographics, though not every group that gravitated to the region found new footholds on equal terms.

The Vietnamese endured the residue of the Jim Crow South and U.S. resentment over military failure in Southeast Asia. Iranians, often better off and with ties to higher ranking intelligence officers, reestablished themselves in upper middle class suburbs. El Salvadorians, victims of America’s secret wars in Central America, arrived as almost invisible specters, working some of the hardest manual labor jobs in the region and ultimately existing in a “zone of illegality” often viewed as undocumented despite residing in the U.S. legally.

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Eden Center, Peter Reft, July 2014

Each cast a cultural influence. Eden Center in Falls Church recreates the markets of Ho Chi Minh City while El Salvadorians transformed neighborhoods such as Alexandria’s Chirilagua neighborhood. Many Iranians slid easily into real estate development and other management positions, thereby contributing to the region’s physical transformation. And NOVA’s diversity extends beyond these examples. By the early 1990s, an observer traversing the halls of its public schools would hear nearly 50 languages spoken, including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese.[3]

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Eden Center, Peter Reft, July 2014

Agents too brought remnants of their experiences abroad back with them, whether artifacts from Asia and Latin America as interior design or the imperial built environment they imported and embedded into the landscape. “The ephemeral newness and just-add-water domesticities frequently associated with the post-World War II suburbs, for transnational CIA families,” asserts Friedman, “became functional necessities, just as the neocolonial architecture seen as indigenous to these suburbs often played the double role of importing the comfort and style of colonial bungalows they inhabited abroad into their home environment.”[4]

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The blandly conspiratorial Key Bridge Marriott, Peter Reft, July 2014

Yet, while the intelligence community undoubtedly shaped NOVA, so too did the vast military industrial complex that ballooned in the post World War II period. In part under the leadership of Vannevar Bush, operations research (OR)—or to oversimplify, scientific applications used to align weapons systems and other armaments in the field—became the economic coin of the realm. RAND might have pioneered efforts in OR from its Santa Monica location but as Paul Ceruzzi notes, “the armed services wanted scientists nearby, and they established counterparts to RAND located in the Washington region.”[5]

It helped that after World War II worries that the concentration of military/intelligence agencies in cities would leave national security vulnerable to nuclear attack led Truman to embrace “industrial dispersion,” a “quiet effort that operated largely below the political radar screen,” as historian Margaret O’Mara writes. Dispersion resulted in the militarization of suburbia and the suburbanization of science and coincided with mass suburbanization. Dispersion along with the government’s increasing support of science as a form of economic development transformed the federal government into an extremely powerful consumer of industry while simultaneously increasing its interest in locating contractors in metropolitan areas outside of densely populated cities.[6]

Highway construction followed nationally, and more specifically, in Northern Virginia. Of numerous plans in circulation, only the infamous Beltway was ever fully realized. Its completion laid the groundwork for the growth of Reston, Dulles Airport and the Dulles Corridor. Tysons Corner, positioned at Beltway interchanges for routes 123 and 7, made it a prime location for housing, retail complexes, and corporate offices. Other destinations also benefitted, such as Annandale, but none to the extent of Tysons Corner.[7] Indeed, over the past several decades Tysons Corner has grown exponentially and today even has a silver line metro stop, though the station sits in the middle of two large thoroughfares and the “edge city’s” walkability remains marginal at best.

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Panorama aerial of Tysons Corner, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As the Cold War ramped up, the federal government created the National Science Foundation (NSF) and promoted the idea of science and tech research as economic development, or as O’Mara puts it, “city building.” The result has been the sort of “edge city” or “urbanized suburb” idealized by Joel Garrea, which has come to typify Northern Virginia.

Obvious parallels between Silicon Valley, Southern California’s aerospace industries, and NOVA exist. Today, Silicon Valley is seen as at the vanguard of the consumer electronics industry and social media, but it made its bones on federal contracts. Early on, Stanford’s Fredrick Terman, one of the individuals credited with laying the groundwork for today’s Silicon Valley, recognized that federal funds “served as seed money for industrial innovation.” Despite its long history of skepticism toward government and its promotion of free markets, Stanford (and others who established tech businesses in the Valley) quickly lined up at the trough of federal defense spending.[8]

Not to be outdone, Southern California, which historian Lisa McGirr argues is the birthplace of modern conservatism, also welcomed federal dollars for its aerospace industries, many of which relocated to or established offices in NOVA during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s: Computer Science Corporation (CSC), Science Applications International Corporations (SAIC), California Analysis Center Incorporated (CACI), DynCorp, and RAND, among others. Reagan’s SDI program brought these industries to a fever pitch by the mid 1980s, only to be consolidated under a handful of corporations later during the 1990s and 2000s.

Though not completely analogous, Silicon Valley had Stanford and the Stanford Research Park, while NOVA has George Mason University—which, behind the leadership of George Johnson in the late 1970s and early 1980s, oriented many of its programs toward OR and systems analysis. However, unlike Stanford, which pioneered this sort or relationship and created the model, GMU reacted to local firms, or, as Ceruzzi writes, “it is an effect, not a cause of the booming economy.”[9]

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Modern office building in northern Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

For all its benefits, NOVA also lacks the kind of entrepreneurial venture capitalists that scour its Northern California counterpart. For better or worse, the government remains the primary consumer of the kinds of products and services produced by NOVA firms. Finally, building an industry around military policy makers, in which they serve as the conduit for development, results in a much different working culture. In Silicon Valley, “it is always the engineer, the programmer, even the computer hacker, who ranks at the top, even if he or she may not be the CEO of the company or necessarily have gotten rich from his or her efforts,” notes Ceruzzi.[10] Admittedly, in the decade since Ceruzzi published Internet Alley: High Technology in Tyson’s Corner, 1945-2005, figures like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey have dominated the narrative around the Valley in a fashion that seems more hierarchical than he asserts in his 2008 work, but his point remains salient.

Of course, the growth of defense industry companies such as Raytheon and the government’s emphasis on science research only partially explains the region’s development. If not for John “Til” Hazel and his partner Milton Peterson, Northern Virginia might look very different.

Described by journalist Joel Garreau in his flawed but influential work Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, Hazel was both “legal sledgehammer” and “John the Baptist of Development.”[11] According to Garreau, only Pierre L’Enfant, the French designer of the capital, had “done more to shape the Washington area.” Hazel rejected affordable housing, depicted environmentalists as irrational, and viewed unfettered development as the holy grail of suburbanization. “If he brought no little arrogance to his vision, it was because he was creating no less than a new world,” writes Garraeu, “He was bringing civilization to the ‘howling wilderness’ … He was bringing it the benefits of modernity….”[12]

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Tysons Corner Center shopping mall, Tysons Corner, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Opponents like Audrey Moore and the slow growth movement she represented blunted some of Hazel’s efforts, but the Northern Virginia developer rode roughshod over the region for decades until his efforts to transform the Civil War battlefield site of Bull Run into a suburban shopping mall ran into a buzzsaw of well positioned resistance.[13] Ironically the military’s history and not the development of its future capabilities was what ultimately blunted NOVA’s suburbanization.

What has all this meant for the state of Virginia? By 1999, Fairfax County contained 14 percent of the state’s population and provided nearly a quarter of its tax revenue. Depending on the study consulted, and whether Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are included in the equation, the percentage of revenue to the state climbs to nearly 50 percent.[14] In 2008, NOVA accounted for one third of the state’s nearly 22 million residents, half of its economic development, and nearly the same in tax revenue, but only received back between 25 and 40 percent in cash and state services. “They treat us like the Bank of Fairfax,” said one county official at the time. Politically, over the course of the past two decades NOVA single-handedly transformed Virginia from red state to purple to blue. During the 2008 presidential campaign an advisor to the late John McCain told MSNBC that NOVA wasn’t “real Virginia.” The cognitive dissonance between Northern Virginia and its southern counterparts in Richmond led to a Washingtonian article that same year titled simply, “Will Northern Virginia become the 51st State?”

With changes afoot related to the arrival of half of Amazon’s HQ2 project, Northern Virginia remains far from static. Jeff Bezos’ online behemoth promises that the region’s growth will continue apace, perhaps in ways less dependent on the government—though contractors across the region whisper conspiratorially about the company’s alleged foray into federal contracting. Not exactly the stuff of late-1980s Kevin Costner spy thrillers, but, for good and for ill, compelling nonetheless.

Below you’ll find our usual attempts to craft a bibliography on the region. We’d like to extend special thanks to Krystyn Moon, Tommy Hill, and Lindsey Bestebreurtje for their expertise in building the bibliography; their efforts were immensely helpful. As always, we know we’ve probably missed something. If so, let us know in the comments!

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Aerial view with a focus on Francis Scott Key Bridge between Northern Virginia and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bibliography

Banham, Russ. The Fight for Fairfax: A Struggle for a Great American County. Virginia: GMU Presses, 2009.

Baker, Andrew. “Metropolitan Growth Along the Nation’s River: Power, Waste, and Environmental Politics in a Northern Virginia County, 1943-1971.” Journal of Urban History, 23, No. 5 (2015): 703-119.

Bestebreurtje, Lindsey. “Built By the People Themselves: African American Community Development in Arlington, Virginia from Civil War to Civil Rights.” PhD Diss., George Mason University, 2017.

Bestebreurtje, Lindsey. “A View from Hall’s Hill: African-American Community Development in Arlington.” Arlington Historical Magazine 15, No. 3 (Oct. 2015): 19-34.

Bunch-Lyone, Beverly and Nakeina Douglas. “The Falls Church Colored Citizens Protective League and the Establishment of Virginia’s First Rural Branch of the NAACP.” In Verney, et. al. Long is the Way and Hard: One Hundred Years of the NAACP. Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 2009.

Ceruzzi, Paul E. Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008.

Chacko, Elizabeth, and Ivan Cheung. “The Formation of Contemporary Ethnic Enclaves: Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.” In Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, 2nd ed., edited by John W. Frazier, Eugene L. Tettey-Fio, and Norah F. Henry, 129-41. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

Chacko, Elizabeth. “Ethiopian Ethos and the Making of Ethnic Places in the Washington Metropolitan Area.” Journal of Cultural Geography 20, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 2003): 21-42.

———. “Identity and Assimilation among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington.” Geographical Review 93, no. 4 (October 2003): 491-506.

———. “Washington, D.C.: From Biracial City to Multiethnic Gateway.” In Migrants to the Metropolis: The Rise of Immigrant Gateway Cities, edited by Marie Price and Lisa Benton-Short, 203-25. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2008.

———. “Ethiopian Taxicab Drivers: Forming an Occupational Niche in the US Capital.” African and Black Diaspora: An Internal Journal 9, no. 2 (July 2016): 200-13.

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Aerial view of Northern Virginia in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Friedman, Andrew. Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

Friedman, Samantha, Audrey Singer, Marie Price, and Ivan Cheung. “Race, Immigrants, and Residence: A New Racial Geography of Washington, D.C.” Geographical Review 95, no. 2 (April 2005): 210-30.

Gordon, Douglas. “Arlington Rebuilds a Community and its Roots.” Architecture + Design in the Mid-Atlantic 23, no. 4 (2012):18-28.

Hayden, Dolores. The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.

Hill, Thomas. “The Securitization of Security: Reorganization of Land, Military, and the State in the Pentagon’s Backyard.” Journal of Urban History 41, no. 1: 75-92.

Kaye, Anthony E. Joining Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Meyers, Jessica. “Pho and Apple Pie: Eden Center as a Representation of Vietnamese American Ethnic Identity in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, 1975-2005.” Journal of Asian American Studies 9, no. 1 (2006): 55-85.

Moon, Krystyn R. “The African American Housing Crisis in Alexandria, Virginia, 1930s-1960s.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 124, no. 1: 28-68

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Wolf Trap Concert Hall in northern Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

———. “The Alexandria YWCA, Race, and Urban (and Ethnic) Revival: The Scottish Christmas Walk, 1960s-1970s,” Journal of American Ethnic History 35, no. 4 (Summer 2016): 59-92.

Morris, James McGrath. “A Chink in the Armor: The Black-Led Struggle for School Desegregation in Arlington, Virginia, and the End of Massive Resistance.” Journal of Policy History 13, no. 3 (2001): 329-366.

Perry, Nancy. “The Influence of Geography on the Lives of African American Residents of Arlington County, Virginia, during Segregation.” PhD diss., 2013.

Nancy, Perry. “Everybody was Looking for a Good Government Job”: Occupational Choice during Segregation in Arlington, Virginia.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 4 (March 2014): 719-741.

Perry, Nancy, Spencer Crew, Nigel M. Waters. “‘We didn’t have any other place to live’: Residential Patterns in Segregated Arlington County, Virginia.” Southern Geographer 53, no. 4 (Winter 2013): 403-427

Petrozziello, Allison J. “Feminised Financial Flowers: How Gender Affects Remittances in Honduran-US Transnational Families.” Gender and Development 19, no. 1 (2011): 53-67.

Posey, Zakia L. “Oromo Transnationalism in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area: An Examination of the Development, Challenge, and Prospects of Gaining an Institutional Footing.” PhD diss., Michigan State University, 2014.

Price, Marie. “Placing Transnational Migration: The Sociospatial Networks of Bolivians in the United States,” 209-219. Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America. Edited by John Frazier. Binghamton University Publishing, 2006.

Price, Marie and Elizabeth Chacko. “Mixed Embeddedness of Ethnic Entrepreneurs in a New Immigrant Way.” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 7, no.3 (2009): 328-346.

Repak, Terry A. Waiting on Washington: Central American Workers in the Nation’s Capital. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

 Reston Town Center: Downtown for the 21st Century. Ed. Alan Ward, 1st edition. Washington, D.C.: Academy Press, 2006.

Schrag, Zachary M. “The Freeway Fight in Washington D.C.: The Three Sisters Bridge in Three Administrations.” Journal of Urban History 30, no. 5 (2004): 648-673.

———. The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro. Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Vogel, Steve. The Pentagon: A History – The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon, and to Restore it Sixty Years Later. New York: Random House, 2007.

Wilson, Jill H., and Shelly Habecker. “The Lure of the Capital City: An Anthro-Geographical Analysis of Recent African Immigration to Washington, DC.” Population Space & Place 14, no. 5 (September-October 2008): 433-48.

Wood, Joseph. “Vietnamese American Place Making in Northern Virginia.” Geographical Review 87, no. 1 (January 1, 1997): 58–72.

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Aerial view of high-rise neighborhood in Arlington’s fast-growing Rosslyn, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Primary Sources (oral histories, online exhibits, etc)

Bearinger, David. “From Bolivia to Virginia: Interview with Emma Violand-Sanchez.” Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Accessed December 14, 2016 (http://virginiahumanities.org/2013/06/from-bolivia-to-virginia/).

Lindsey Bestebreurtje, “Built By the People Themselves.” (http://lindseybestebreurtje.org/arlingtonhistory/)

“Echos of Little Saigon.” (https://littlesaigonclarendon.com)

“The Gray: Isaac Schwarz.” Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln’s City. Accessed November 14, 2015. http://www.jhsgw.org/exhibitions/online/lincolns-city/exhibits/show/mr-lincolns-city/blue-gray/isaac-schwarz.

Iacobelli, Amanda. “German and German-Jewish Immigrants: Michael German, Lewis Baar, David Bendheim, Max Pretzfelder, J.H Gerhard, and Henry and Isaac Schwarz”http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/historic/info/archaeology/AR500BlockGerman.pdf (2006).

Immigrant Alexandra Oral History Project. (https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/info/default.aspx?id=86067) .

“Life Across the River.” Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln’s City, Accessed November 14, 2015. http://www.jhsgw.org/exhibitions/online/lincolns-city/exhibits/show/mr-lincolns-city/life-across-the-river.

Featured image (at top): Panorama aerial of Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

[1] Friedman, Covert Capital, 35-38, 150-152.

[2] Andrew Friedman, Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2013), 32.

[3] Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, (New York: Random House, 1991), 353.

[4] Friedman, Covert Capital, 90

[5] Paul E. Ceruzzi, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 23.

[6] Margaret O’Mara, Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 29, 34.

[7] Ceruzzi, Internet Alley, 63.

[8] O’Mara, Cities of Knowledge, 109.

[9] Ceruzzi, Internet Alley, 123-125, 15-16.

[10] Ceruzzi, Internet Alley, 92, 15

[11] Joel Garreau, Edge City, 382.

[12] Garreau, Edge City, 351, 383

[13] Joel Garreau, Edge City, 351, 390-391, 396, 404.

[14] Ceruzzi, Internet Alley, 119-120.

Mobs, Monuments, and Charm: A Baltimore Bibliography

Despite being one of the nation’s oldest cities, some might argue Baltimore crested in the popular mind during the early twenty-first century. Musically, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and Beach House emerged to rave reviews. Tori Amos and Sisqo also hail from Charm City, as Complex magazine noted: “‘Caught A Lite Sneeze’ and ‘The Thong Song’ were indirectly or maybe directly influenced by this fair city on the Chesapeake.”  Today, Future Island serves as the standard bearer for the local indie rock sound. In film, John Waters and Barry Levinson carry the torch.

Baltimore has been a key character in new media as well. The first season of the podcast Serial (2014) traversed metropolitan Baltimore. Journalist and podcast founder Sarah Koenig waded into true crime territory exploring the facts of a 2010 case in which Adnan Syed had been convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.  It both led to a boom in true crime podcasts and proved to be the rising tide that lifted all boats, raising the visibility of podcasts more generally in what is sometimes referred to as the “serial effect”.

Of course, one is compelled to make the obligatory reference to The Wire. Set in Baltimore and featuring several Charm City natives in its cast, the show spoke to the metropolis’s specificity while also encapsulating the struggles of many American cities. In retrospect, the oft-maligned and nefariously underrated second season presciently documented the collapse of the white working class; it appears to have been a canary in the pop culture coal mine signaling the coming populism. The HBO production has become the standard by which to gauge narrative depth and serves as a constant reminder to burgeoning writers to remain humble, a point Johns Hopkins historian and UHA Board Member N.D.B. Connolly made at #UHA2018.

Yet, to emphasize only the last fifty years ignores the contributions of other creative Baltimoreans. The cantankerous reporter, columnist, and literary tastemaker H.L. Menken issued proclamations about democracy and American culture from his perch in Charm City. In 1920, aggrieved by the dueling presidential campaigns of Warren G. Harding (R) and James M. Cox (D) Mencken quipped: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Frederick Douglass toiled away in Baltimore appreciating the city for what few shards of opportunity it offered enslaved peoples. “A city slave is almost a free citizen, in Baltimore, compared with a slave on Col. Lloyd’s plantation,” he wrote years later as he ascended in prominence as a leading abolitionist, civil rights leader, and newspaper editor.

Taking one long stride even further, Edgar Allen Poe wrote his stories of suspense, intrigue and horror as a resident of the city. The modern day football team derives its name from arguably his most famous work, “The Raven.”

Mural in Baltimore, Maryland
Mural in Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, September 29, 2008, Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress

The city’s founders probably never envisioned Poe’s creativity, Douglass’ determination, or The Wire’s almost Dickensian narrative power emerging from the small settlement they inadvertently birthed. Judging by the new political history of the city by Matt Crenson, no one had planned for Baltimore, period. The city “just happened.” After its 1729 charter that declared it “Baltimore Town,” it descended into “chronic political turmoil.” [1]

Roiling politics aside, it gradually grew, though Crenson writes it “was no boom town.”  The grain industry eventually took off. Annexation added more land than people, but colonists eventually migrated to the city. Between 1730 and 1770 the number of merchants in the city grew by 150 percent; in 1750, 5,000 people resided in the city, making it one of the fastest growing cities in all of the colonies. [2] It would be the first “major city” incorporated after the American Revolution and to also establish a municipal government outside of British colonial authority. [3]

 

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Washington Monument, Baltimore, William Henry Jackson, c. 1902, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The War of 1812 brought America the “Star Spangled Banner” by way of Baltimore. “The citizen soldiers of Baltimore repulsed the British and their triumph was recorded in a ballad that would become the national anthem,” historian Mary P. Ryan writes. However, the war also created the opportunity for two of the city’s more famous public memorials: The Battle and the Washington Monuments. Each emerged as an expression of political ideology and tumult from the period, the city emerging as one of the “first and most fervent locations of aggressively popular and partisan politics” Ryan points out.  The memorials operated as a testament to the city’s place in American history as it transformed in the burgeoning national consciousness from “mob town” to “the monumental city.” “Baltimore’s place in patriotic lore is memorialized not just in the strains of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ but in stone as well.” [4]

A vigorous public sphere, “a hive of free labor and merchant capitalism” and with a port location just beyond the Mason Dixon line, Baltimore became a destination for escaped and free blacks. Even before emancipation, the city’s population of free blacks outnumbered enslaved persons. Its mercantile and entrepreneurial economy put it at odds with the largely rural state. [5] “It is worthy of remark,” noted British journalist James Silk Buckingham in 1838, “that in all our intercourse with the people of Baltimore, and we were continually out in society, we heard less about slaves and slavery than in any town we had yet visited.” In contrast, in other border towns such as St. Louis and Alton, violence often visited the homes and offices of abolitionists. [6]

Slavery in Baltimore was fluid. Enslaved people enjoyed greater freedom in the city than their plantation counterparts.  Masters hired out enslaved people to manufacturers and shipyards, and despite juxtaposing this work against plantation life, Douglass recognized that even in Baltimore being a slave was an ambivalent existence. “I endured all the evils of being a slave,” remembered Douglass, who labored in Fell’s Point, “and yet suffered all the care and anxiety of a responsible freedman.” [7]

After the war, African Americans flocked to the city. Between 1860 and 1880, 25,000 black migrants settled within city boundaries, doubling the city’s number of black residents who now made up 16 percent of Baltimore’s overall population. [8]

They arrived to a late nineteenth-century city in flux, transformed in the wake of emancipation and under the thumb of industrialization. The city’s tax base failed to adequately expand to fund urban improvements. Owners and renters refused increases in tax assessments leading to only a five percent gain in real per capital municipal expenditures from 1870-1895.  Being a city of neighborhoods, 300 by one account, merchants and local residents sought to “forge strong political organizations outside the normal institutions of politics,” as Joseph Arnold wrote in 1979. As a result, residents witnessed the rise of neighborhood associations as counterweights to city hall. Emerging in the 1880s, by 1900 30 such associations canvassed nearly the entire city and several suburbs. [9]

At the turn of the century, Baltimore’s population exceeded 500,0000.  At the ward or neighborhood level, the city contained multitudes, but at the block level segregation defined lived experience. “The rich lived on the widest best paved streets, the middling families on the side streets, and the lower classes in the alleys and courts,” Arnold wrote.  Urban facilities and services, despite block level segregation, were by standards of the day, “fairly evenly distributed.” Neighborhood associations sought to exert power over distribution of resources, city finances, and other such matters. “Almost all the associations were established by men who believed their areas had been shortchanged by the municipal [or] by the county government.” [10]

Though not initially involved in segregation, by the early twentieth century associations advocated the exclusion of African Americans from white communities. Association leaders trafficked in the typical racist rhetoric of the day making references to “negro invasion,” expressing fear for “white womanhood”, and lamenting lower property values. Typical of the tenor of this discourse, one Harlem Improvement Association meeting attendee stated, “Negroes are but 400 years from savagery.” The association’s members hailing from a tenuous middle class; its officers identifying as clerks, businessmen, and artisans; its board of governors constructed similarly, consisting of a needlework artist, a paper bag manufacturer, a doctor, and a clothing wholesaler. “[P]recisely the white people most invested in segregation,” writes Gretchen Boger. [11]

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Baltimore from the Emerson Tower, between 1910-1920, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While many associations stressed the protection of their investments and social standing, others asserted a loss of political power. Maryland whites had spent a decade trying, unsuccessfully, to disenfranchise black voters before abandoning the cause. This failure probably fed larger anxieties as greater numbers of African Americans moved to the city.  The leaders of one such association agreed that it went beyond housing. “The three men felt that African Americans were slowly wresting control of white politics from white males,” writes Dennis Halpin. In reality, African Americans largely lived bunched into the seventeenth ward (Northwest Baltimore).

Considering the tone of the debate, white fears about increasing political impotence (despite evidence to the contrary), and base racism, conflict unsurprisingly followed as black families, already enduring substandard and overcrowded apartments and homes, looked for better housing. [12]

Progressives hoping to eliminate the threat of street level violence and protect middle class interests related to segregation passed the West Ordinance, a law shaped in part by the influence of neighborhood associations who over the years had built political power and experience. Middle class white Baltimoreans also played a critical role in the law’s development, in part by serving as the aggressive front lines against integration in the steed of their wealthier counterparts. “The preeminence of a middling stratum of white residents in Baltimore’s residential segregation battle was telling,” notes Boger. “Many of the proponents of the West Ordinance represented a tier of whites with a tenuous hold on middle-class reputation—a petty bourgeoisie—who often had moved to the neighborhoods in question just ahead of African Americans.” They sought to protect their social and economic reputations.

City planners and elites evidenced little participation in the ordinance.  Elites and reformers were more than happy to allow their middle class counterparts to serve as “the frontline attack” against integration. [13]

The ordinance, which became the nation’s first residential ordinance in the country when it was signed into law December 19, 1910, critically cited the city’s right to deploy “police power” for “preserving order and securing property and persons from violence, danger and destruction.” This use of “police power” in the West Ordinance “cemented the contention that African Americans—not the angry whites who attacked black families—caused disorder and violence by their very presence,” argues Halpin. The ordinance transformed the police into “foot soldiers in the fight against integration” with black Baltimoreans as the “threat to the social order.” [14]

Whereas the pre-industrial city and its boundaries changed slowly, in turn-of-the-century Baltimore change was swift. The ordinance attempted to address this by banning white residents from moving into majority black neighborhoods and blacks from doing the same in majority white communities—a non-partisan solution deployed in a very prejudicial way. African Americans rejected the idea that segregation protected both races. The Afro American Ledger called the ordinance “anti-American.”

At the time, Baltimore had the highest rates of home ownership among nearly 75 southern cities. Such status escaped most black residents however as the city ranked 72 in African American homeownership. From 1900 to 1920, the city’s black population expanded by over 30,000 yet only 100 black families added their names to the list of Baltimore homeowners during the same period so the housing crunch in black communities proved particularly acute. [15]

The law’s implementation caused far more headaches than anticipated. The ordinance stifled black dreams of homeownership in new communities, but it also hurt white residents. The law boxed in white families living in already mixed neighborhoods; it limited their ability to sell their homes while also undermining attempts at renting out properties. “Proponents of the ordinance sought to solidify their social status at the expense of not only black Baltimoreans but of other whites as well,” asserts Boger. [16]

Believing residential segregation to be a critical piece of the larger battle for equality, the ordinances drew the ire of the city’s African American community. “Physical slavery has been abolished, but its subtler forms are still here.  Disenfranchisement, ‘jim crowism’ and segregation are but subtler forms of race slavery,” said Warner T. McGuinn civil rights activist and attorney at a meeting in 1913. Black Baltimoreans boycotted merchants who refused to break with the law. Churches organized protest rallies and collected money for a legal challenge. The Baltimore branch of NAACP solicited funds toward the same end as legal challenges were mounted. [17]

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Group portrait of NAACP Baltimore Branch members, between 1940 and 1950, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Ironically, the municipal courts declared the original statue invalid weeks after it became law. New ordinances were quickly drafted to replace it. Written by a narrow, racist set of interests, it demonstrated the weakness of the segregationist argument. The West Ordinance did not force any family to move, it ceded land in the city to areas already occupied by African Americans, and generally just sought to control who lived next door. Its supporters hoped “to freeze the racial make up of Baltimore’s residential blocks just as they were in September 1910.” By 1913, the ordinance had been suspended which enabled black Baltimoreans to open up additional neighborhoods for settlement. [18]

In 1917, the Supreme Court ruled in Buchanan v. Warley against state laws imposing segregation. The Kentucky law under dispute in the Supreme Court case had been written based on the Baltimore ordinance. Even in Baltimore the West Ordinance cast a powerful spell over the city’s spatial development. By legalizing segregation, the municipal government legitimized segregationists and their like-minded neighborhood associations and enabled the discourse of declining property values, without evidence, that would be repeated so many times it became institutionalized in the architecture of the real estate industry and the government’s redlining policies. [19]

The second episode of The Wire’s third season, “All Due Respect,” opens with local project resident and Barksdale soldier, Preston “Bodie” Broadus (J.D. Williams), relating a recent conversation he had with two apparent tourists who got lost looking for the Edgar Allen Poe house. Bodie relates, “He’s like, ‘Young man, you know where the Poe House is?’ I’m like, ‘Unc, you kidding? Look around, take your pick.’” When the older couple circled back and asked again, Bodie repeated his incredulity: “Shit, you back already? First of the month, yo. I’m like, ‘I don’t know no Edward Allan Poe.’ The man look at me all sad and shit, like I let him down.”

To be fair, one could unpack a lot in that quote, hence the resigned but admittedly awed reference to the show earlier. The reality is that while Poe’s Baltimore residence still stands, it does so amidst a very different community, one created by a world opened up by the West Ordinance.

As always, this overview is just a starting point—as is the bibliography below. We welcome suggestions in the comments. Moreover, based on correspondence with our contributors and others working on Baltimore, it sounds as if urban historians might be in store for a “golden age” of historical interpretations of Charm City as several new publication are forthcoming. We’d like to thank Seth Rockman, Paige Glotzler, Dennis Halprin, and Sara Patenaude for their help with the bibliography.

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Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Baltimore Bibliography

Arnold, Joseph L. “The Neighborhood and City Hall: The Origin of Neighborhood Associations in Baltimore, 1880-1911.” Journal of Urban History 6.1 (1979): 3-30.

Baum, Howell S. Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Belfoure, Charles and Hayward, Mary Ellen. The Baltimore Rowhouse. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

Boger, Gretchen E. “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City: Baltimore’s Residential Segregation Ordinances, 1910-1913.” The Journal of Urban History. 35.2 (January 2009): 236-258.

Brugger, Robert J. Maryland: A Middle Temperament: 1634-1980. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Collier-Thomas, Bettye. “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884: Reflections Upon its Inception and Ownership.” The Journal of Negro History. Volume LIX, No. 1 (Jan 1974): 1-12.

Crenson, Matthew. Baltimore: A Political History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

Crooks, James B. Politics and Progress: The Rise of Urban Progressivism in Baltimore. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1968.

Davis, Josh. From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.

Doster, Dennis. “‘This Independent Fight We are Making is Local’: The Election of 1920 and Electoral Politics in Black Baltimore.” Journal of Urban History 44.2 (2018): 134-152.

Durr, Kenneth D. Behind the Backlash: White Working-Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Elfenbein, Jessica I.  The Making of a Modern City: Philanthropy, Civic Culture, and the Baltimore YMCA. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Elfenbein, Jessica, Thomas Hollowak, and Elizabeth Nix, eds. Baltimore ’68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Elfenbein, Jessica, John H. Breihan, and Thomas L. Hollowak eds. From Mobtown to Charm City: Papers From The Baltimore History Conference. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2005.

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Hampden neighborhood Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Farrar, Haywood. The Baltimore Afro-American, 1892-1950.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Fee, Elizabeth, Linda Shopes, and Linda Zeidman, eds. The Baltimore Book: New Views on Local History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

Fields, Barbara Jeanne. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

Foreman, P. Gabrielle. Activist Sentiments: Reading Black Women in the Nineteenth Century. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009

Fuke, Richard Paul. Imperfect Equality: African Americans and the Confines of White Racial Attitudes in Post-Emancipation Maryland. New York: Fordham University Press, 1999.

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Street level yarn bomb in Hampden, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Gardner, Bettye. “Ante-Bellum Black Education in Baltimore.” Maryland Historical Magazine 71.3 (Fall, 1976): 360-366.

Glotzer, Paige. “Exclusion in Arcadia: How Suburban Developers Circulated Ideas about Discrimination, 1890-1950.” Journal of Urban History 41.3 (2015): 479-494.

Gomez, Marisela. Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America. Lexington Books, 2015.

Graham, Leroy. Baltimore: The Nineteenth Century Black Capital. New York: The University Press of America, 1982.

Halpin, Dennis P. “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty’: Segregation, Violence, and African American Resistance in Baltimore, 1898-1918.” Journal of Urban History 44.4 (2018): 691-712.

Harris, Jennifer. “Black Canadian Contexts: The Case of Amelia E. Johnson.” African American Review 49.3 (Fall 2016): 24-259.

Hemphill, Katie M. “‘Drive to the Commission of this Crime’: Women and Infanticide in Baltimore, 1835-1860.” Journal of the Early Republic 32.3 (Fall 2012): 437-461.

Kargon, Jeremy. “A Symbolic Landscape for Suburbia: Baltimore Chizuk Amuno’s ‘Hebrew Culture Garden.’” Journal of Urban History 40.4 (2014): 762-791.

King, P. Nicole. “Preserving Places, Making Spaces in Baltimore: Seeing the Connections of Research, Teaching and Service as Justice.” Journal of Urban History 40.3 (2014): 425-449.

Malka, Adam. The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Morrow, Diane Batts. Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Orser, Edward. Blockbusting in Baltimore: The Edmonson Village Story. University of Kentucky Press, 1997.

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See-Saw ahead?, Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Orser, Edward. “Secondhand Suburbs: Black Pioneers in Baltimore’s Edmondson Village, 1955-1980.” Journal of Urban History 16.3 (1990): 227-262.

Phillips, Christopher. Freedom’s Port: The African-American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Pietilla, Antero. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Ivan R. Dee, 2010.

Power, Garrett. “Apartheid Baltimore Style: The Residential Segregation Ordinances of 1910-1913.” Maryland Law Review 42 (1983): 248-349.

Roberts, Samuel K. Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease and Health Effects of Segregation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Ryan, Mary P. “Democracy Rising: The Monuments of Baltimore, 1809-1842.” Journal of Urban History 36.2 (2010): 127-150.

Schley, David. “Tracks in the Streets: Railroads, Infrastructure, and Urban Space in Baltimore, 1828-1840.” Journal of Urban History 39.6 (2013): 1062-1084.

Shufelt, Gordon H. “Jim Crow Among Strangers: The Growth of Baltimore’s Little Italy and Maryland’s Disfranchisement Campaigns.” The Journal of American Ethnic History 19(4): 49-78.

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Street scene, Hampden neighborhood, Baltimore, Ryan Reft, c. 2015

Smith, C. Fraser. Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Thomas, Bettye C. “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884: Reflections Upon its Inception and Ownership.” The Journal of Negro History Volume LIX, Number 1 (January 1974): 1-12.

Williams, Rhonda Y. The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles Against Urban Inequality. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Digital resources: 

Explore Baltimore Heritage. Baltimore Heritage, Inc. https://explore.baltimoreheritage.org

Baltimore Uprising 2015 Archive Project. Maryland Historical Society.

https://baltimoreuprising2015.org/

[1] Matt Crenson, Baltimore: A Political History, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2017), 9-16.

[2] Crenson, Baltimore, 15-17.

[3] Mary P. Ryan, “Democracy Rising: The Monuments of Baltimore,” Journal of Urban History 36.2 (2010): 129.

[4] Ryan, “Democracy Rising,” 128, 143.

[5] Ryan, “Democracy Rising”, 129.

[6] Crenson, Baltimore: A Political History, 161.

[7] Crenson, Baltimore, 164.

[8] Dennis Halpin, “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty’: Segregation, Violence, and African American Resistance in Baltimore, 1898 -1918,” Journal of Urban History 44.4 (2018): 692-693.

[9] Joseph L. Arnold, “The Neighborhood and City Hall: The Origin of Neighborhood Associations in Baltimore, 1880-1911,” Journal of Urban History 6.1 (1979): 6.

[10] Arnold, “The Neighborhood and City Hall”, 7, 14.

[11] Gretchen Boger, “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City: Baltimore’s Residential Segregation Ordinances, 1910-1913”, Journal of Urban History 35.2 (January 2009): 244.

[12] Halpin, “‘The Struggle for Land and Liberty,’” 695.

[13] Boger, “The Meaning of Neighborhood in the Modern City,” 237-238.

[14] Halpin, 697.

[15] Boger, 248.

[16] Ibid., 246.

[17] Halpin, 702, 706-707.

[18] Boger, “239.

[19] Ibid., 707.

Featured image (at top): Row houses, Baltimore, Maryland, Carol M. Highsmith, November 1, 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Race, Immigration, and Culture in Buenos Aires: A Bibliography of the Argentine Capital

When South Americans first laid eyes on British immigrants playing the game that they called football (and residents of the United States came to call soccer), they were, historian David Goldblatt writes, “genuinely bemused.” A Brazilian observer described a scrum of English men hoofing “something that looks like a bull’s bladder” about as “a bunch of maniacs” who seemed to simultaneously be filled with “great satisfaction” and “sorrow when this kind of yellowish bladder enters a rectangle formed by wooden posts.”[1]

Porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are known, initially shared similar impressions. Argentine journalist Juan José de Soiza Reilly recalled his father’s reaction to similar scenes of towheaded British boys knocking a ball around in Buenos Aires: “Crazy people … Crazy English.”

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Argentina mundial 78 : o campeonato num pais prisao = The world’s Argentina 78 : the championship of an imprisoned country, Juventude Socialista (Brazil), 1978, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Yet, by the late twentieth century, Diego Maradona— undeniably an international soccer legend—nearly single-handedly defeated the British in one of the most famous games ever at the 1986 World Cup as the Argentine national team steamed toward their second World Cup championship. Argentina’s first World Cup triumph occurred in 1978 when the team hosted and bested a supremely talented Dutch side at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires; the despotic military junta running Argentina at the time deployed the tournament and the national team’s victory as a symbol of its steady hand at the helm even as it imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands of political dissidents. Eventually, Argentina returned to a more democratic path, even if troubled by political scandal and economic depressions. Today Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s greatest football player, continues this tradition as Argentina prepares for this summer’s Copa Mundial in Russia. Obviously the sport has come to occupy a central place in the Argentine identity, and Buenos Aires played a critical role in such developments.

First introduced by British workers in the 1860s, the emergence of football in Argentina in the 1880s provides a useful window and inflection point regarding the longer history of the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires. Soccer’s place in Argentina was secured by larger economic and political forces, namely immigration, a growing international economy, and industrialization; its burgeoning popularity in the late nineteenth century is emblematic of shifts in Buenos Aires’ own economic, political, and social history.

Early Buenos Aires

Founded under orders of the Spanish crown by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536, Buenos Aires would remain a sleepy port town for two centuries. However, due to its location at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, geography ensured that the city would play a large economic role in the region. By the late sixteenth century, the city had developed an economy based on the trade of contraband, largely with the city of Potosí. As historian Eul-Soo Pang noted in a 1983 review essay for the Journal of Urban History, such “illicit commercial intercourse gave rise to other economic activities in the River Plate region and was still functioning in 1860.” Agricultural products also flowed down from Las Pampas to the city. From “food stuffs to manufactured goods,” by the late 1700s the dependency on contraband as a trading asset expanded; Buenos Aires slowly displaced Lima, Peru as a popular entrepôt in this regard. Chosen as the seat of the viceroy of the Rio de la Plata, which included modern day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uraguay, in 1776, Buenos Aires’s economic and political power only grew. By the 1790s, the port city handled sixty ships annually and had emerged as an important South American trading post.[2]

With the decimation of indigenous groups by disease and colonial conquest, Buenos Aires needed workers. As a result, Colonial Spain introduced slavery to the city beginning in 1587. While many would be sent elsewhere, such as Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, numerous other enslaved people remained in city. When Buenos Aires emerged as the “commercial and political center of the Platine region,” it experienced a “rapid population growth,” notes historian Lyman Johnson. Greater number of bureaucrats, along with an expanded military and naval presence, increased demand for “goods and services” and thereby attracted laborers to the city and lead to an even larger dependence on enslaved people for unskilled labor. Over time Buenos Aires’ enslaved population also competed with European immigrant craftsmen.

During the viceregal period, black and mulatto enslaved people made up roughly one third of the urban population and were deeply integrated into the Buenos Aires economy. “Only at the highest levels of the urban occupational hierarchy were [blacks] and mulattos effectively excluded from full participation in the colonial period,” Johnson argues.[3] Between 1776 and 1810, 1,482 manumissions were recorded by notaries in the city; approximately sixty percent of these had been purchased by the individual freed person or his or her family, thereby creating a substantial free black and mulatto population.

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Map of northwestern South America including Lima and Buenos Aires, Francisco Requena, 1796, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

Near the end of the eighteenth century, African descendants of enslaved people occupied a critical place in “the guild system and other levels of corporate identity.” This established in Buenos Aires a racially and ethnically mixed public sphere. “Port cities such as Buenos Aires,” writes historian Erika Edwards, “had a unique milieu in which slaves, free people of color, whites, sailors, artisans, and merchants interacted on a daily basis.”[4]

In a burst of Argentine nationalism, Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain in 1810. Six years later the provinces followed, and Buenos Aires was named capital of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata. The British, who had trade interests in the region, soon rushed in to secure their investments; some 55 British mercantile houses operated in Buenos Aires by 1820. The British conducted two unsuccessful invasions of Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807, but some observers in Britain, in this case the BBC, maintain these failed military adventures sparked an increased sense of nationalism among Argentines, and specifically, porteños.

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Print shows a coastline at Buenos Aires with a distant view of the city; also shows a sailboat unloading cargo onto a horse-drawn cart just off shore, print by Jules Daufresne, c. 1841, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Regardless the validity of such arguments, Britons maintained an enduring economic force. Still, in the early years of independence foreign commercial interests, though influential, did not yet dominate the Argentine economy. Great numbers of Northern Spanish merchants who had settled in Argentina established strong commercial ties within Latin America and Europe. Indeed, Buenos Aires would eventually be home to “the third largest urban concentration of Spaniards other than Madrid and Barcelona,” notes Anton Rosenthal. Many settled in downtown Buenos Aires.[5]

The British invasion did lead to a loosening of slavery. Many enslaved people had fought valiantly against the British, and so in 1813 the Free Womb Act was passed to grant freedom to children born to enslaved mothers. Later the 1853 Constitution of Argentina abolished slavery, but it was not until 1861 when Buenos Aires formally joined the Confederation that the institution was fully eliminated. Despite rapid economic and demographic growth, the city’s black population shrunk from 15,000 Afro-Argentines out of a population of 63,000 in 1838 to 8,000 out of a total population of 433,000 in 1887.[6]

During the 1820s, the economy diversified and the demand for raw materials due to the spread of industrialization made for a healthy business in exports. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires’ merchant class, many with connections to Northern Spain, wielded political and economic clout. Wholesalers in particular dominated and stood as equals with “high colonial bureaucrats, military officers, and judges.”[7]

However, in the second of half of the century, the rise of the wheat and cattle industries shifted economic dominance to land owners. Under Spanish rule, the economy of Buenos Aires funneled mineral extraction to the Crown; with independence, the city provided grain and meat from the Argentine interior to Europe.[8] One need not shed many tears for the once dominant merchant class, because as historian Susan Soclow points out, “The sons of eighteenth century comerciantes became the estanciero-merchants of the nineteenth century.”[9] In 1862, the Bank of London and River Plate opened in the city; within a year, British merchant houses accounted for over 1/3 of the nearly 74 individual and partnered firms of eight nations working in Buenos Aires.[10] British merchants dominated by deploying the skills they developed as colonial businessmen and officials while also exploiting the nation’s naval power, thereby furthering Anglo roots in Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires. Plaza Constitution, c. 1890-1910, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

British capital helped to shape the city’s standing nationally. The Baring Brothers invested heavily in the Argentine central railway; they funded both the Great Southern and the Central rail lines. As the hub of the two east-west lines, and because no north-south lines were constructed during the 1800s, Buenos Aires secured its status as the commercial and bureaucratic capital of Argentina. In 1880, when Buenos Aires was formally named the capital of Argentina, British influence in the national economy seemed legion. “It almost seems that the English have the preference in everything pertaining to the business and business interests of the country,” the U.S. consul wrote to Washington, “they are in everything, except politics, as intimately as though it were a British colony.”[11]

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Immigrants being transported on horse-drawn wagon, Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 1890 and 1923, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

By 1880, 40,000 Britons lived in Buenos Aires and in addition to capital and trade they brought something else.[12] “[S]occer became an export as typically British as Manchester cloth, railroads, loans from Barings, or the doctrine of free trade,” writes Eduardo Gallendo. “It arrived on the feet of sailors who played by the dikes of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, while Her Majesty’s ships unloaded blankets, boots, and flour, and took on wool, hides, and wheat to make more blankets, boots, and flour on the other side of the world.”

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Argentine goalkeeper Miguel Rugilo and Harold Hassall, of England, in a dramatic moment during the England-Argentina International Soccer game at Wembley Stadium, London, 1951, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Under the influence of “football evangelist” and Scottish schoolteacher Alexander Watson Hutton, football became ensconced in elite English and Argentine schools all over the city. In the first decade of the twentieth century two of the nation’s leading football clubs opened, River Plate (1901) and Boca Juniors (1905), both established by “immigrants in and around the docks of Buenos Aires,” writes Goldblatt.[13] Sport, like carnival, enabled immigrants to claim a sense of place in the new nation, particularly as the city boomed with a more decentralized version of industrialization consisting of family-run workshops and factories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.[14]

Having eliminated indigenous peoples and discriminated against its shrinking black population, Argentine leaders and writers advocated for European immigration. “Argentina, like the United States, is a settler-colonial country,” points out historian James Shrader in an email to The Metropole. Argentine leaders wanted to think of themselves as bringing civilization to a benighted land occupied by inferior races “so its pro-immigration policy was meant as a means to populate an imagined empty land and civilize the front, expropriating it from barbarous unproductive peoples.” Historians like Laura Podalsky, Shrader notes, have made compelling arguments that the image of Buenos Aires as the Paris of South America was very much an “ideological project” meant to convey modernity and civilization.

Ultimately, the new arrivals competed with the diminishing Afro-Argentine population for both work and housing. From 1880 to 1914, Argentina absorbed four million European immigrants with roughly 60 percent settling in Buenos Aires. Nearly two million of the four million new arrivals from Europe hailed from Italy. In addition, from 1936 to 1947, one million Argentines migrated to cities as industrialization continued a pace. By 1947, 3 million people lived in the nation’s capital.[15] Unlike many U.S. cities, ethnic enclaves and ghettos never took shape in a systematic way, though mutual aid societies, immigrant associations and similar institutions played a key role in the lives of newly arrived porteños.

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Buenos Aires. Plaza Victoria I, between 1890 -1910, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Of course, culture in the Argentine capital unfolded in numerous ways besides football, and like sport, other avenues of cultural expression intersected with issues of class and immigration. For example, in 1896 Buenos Aires established a thriving electric street car system. Across Latin America, the streetcar embodied modernity, lent cities a European flavor, and served as an arbiter of respectability. Even dockworkers dressed up when taking the streetcar to work, only to change into “grubby overalls” once arriving at their place of employment. The streetcar, to paraphrase the American poet Walt Whitman, contained multitudes. “The trolley provided a mobile balcony from which passengers could observe changes in urban fashion and street behavior, the array of consumer goods displayed in shop windows, and the increasingly frequent strikes generated by the imposition of industrial work regimens,” writes Rosenthal. For many, the streetcar operated as a “mobile salon,” enabling residents to traverse the city while reading the newspaper and observing daily life. One Buenos Aires magazine suggested that the inability of pedestrians to deal with trolleys paralleled the struggle to adapt to modern times: “[m]etaphorically speaking, being run over and crushed by a streetcar means to be incapable of keeping up with modernity.”

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Buenos Aires, between 1909 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Then again, for all the trappings of modernity, plenty of observers believed the streetcar represented something far from civilized; in Buenos Aires critics labeled the trolleys “cockroaches.” Overcrowded conditions created chaos, leading another magazine to ask, “Why do we travel on the Trolley?” Foreign ownership of the system did not endear the trolley to many residents, either. Based in London, the Anglo-Argentine Tramway Company dominated not only Buenos Aires, but much of Latin America. “The manufacture and control of the new technology by foreign companies established a distance and a dependency which Latin American cities wrestled with for decades,” Rosenthal points out. Indeed, streetcar workers could exploit this ambivalence in labor disputes. They expressed solidarity with other laborers by depicting trolleys as conveyors of “ruthless exploitation and dehumanization.”[16]

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Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires, between 1908 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While the streetcar gained prominence as a mode of transportation, symbol of modernity, and a site of public gathering, another Buenos Aires tradition faded from public view. Once a “popular unrestrained street celebration during the colonial era” writes historian Kristen McCleary, in the early twentieth century carnival became increasingly commercialized and regulated. If electric streetcars symbolized civilization, to its critics carnival suggested barbarism. After all, Buenos Aires was meant to be the “Paris of South America”; city planners even tried to replicate the wide-open avenues of Haussmann’s French capital. Public officials argued that carnival threatened to “unleash urban disorder” and undermined public hygiene and safety while also interfering with the city’s economy. Between 1880 and 1910, police surveillance and municipal regulation of the event increased markedly.

The celebration of carnival and other religiously affiliated festivals had originally been promoted because Spanish and Portuguese slave owners saw it as a means to acculturate persons of African descent into the society’s dominant mores. While slavery might not have played as large a role in Argentina as compared with Brazil, it clearly exerted a significant influence on Buenos Aires. Even with declining numbers, during the second half of the nineteenth century, Afro-Argentines enjoyed a very vocal public sphere including some 15 weekly newspapers.[17] Religious celebrations more generally “provided a social space in which local African traditions could also be incorporated, resulting in a syncretic mixture of African and Christian rituals,” writes McCleary. Though she notes that periodic repression of Afro-Argentine practices did also occur during the first half of the eighteenth century, the festival routinely featured African cultural expressions. However, as immigration expanded, the black population diminished, and the nation’s desire to depict itself as European deepened, “continental” figures and themes wove themselves into the event, whereas previously it had functioned more as synergetic expression of African and European culture. Over time, the state more generally and systematically repressed African cultural expressions; their diminishing presence in carnival serves as just one example. Such developments worked to erase blackness in the Buenos Aires public sphere.

Much as with football, the influx of European immigrants helped to further this shift. For European newcomers, carnival offered a similar opportunity to immigrants and the rising middle and upper classes—a space in which to make “manifest and [consolidate] their social status.” However, municipal regulations hamstrung public festivities and carnival increasing took place in interior spaces such as theaters and social clubs. The ever-growing commercial nature of the celebrations represented the larger turn toward the consumerist aspects of leisure.[18]

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Calle Maritimo, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 1930 and 1950, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Post-World War II Buenos Aires: From Streetcars and Carnival to the Home

Much as with concerns about carnival, municipal leaders, socialists, and the Catholic Church began to focus on housing articulating concerns about hygiene, morality, and political radicalism. European immigration had contributed to a crisis in housing. In response, the passage of the Irigoyan Law of 1905 enabled the city government to build public housing. These early efforts delivered very modest numbers of single-family homes. The creation of the National Commission of Low Cost Houses (CNCB) in 1915 expanded efforts; the CNCB constructed, both single family homes and multifamily units, the former for sale, the latter for rent. The two most prominent housing forms prior to such reforms, were multi room homes known as casa chorizos and large tenement like structures referred to as conventillos. Through the 1920s and 1930s, these efforts amounted to modest numbers of completed homes and units, just under 1,100 over the course of 30 years, however, during the 1940s housing construction came to be seen not only as a means to create new homes but also as a tool for job creation. The “california style” of single family homes emerged as the favored mode of housing construction.[19]

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Photograph shows men standing at a counter and drinking coffee in a Buenos Aires, Argentina, coffee shop, as a young man pours coffee into a demi-tasse cup, 1955, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Following World War II, a greater acceptance of government intervention arose such that when Juan Peron assumed power from 1946 -1955, his populist message managed to channel contradictory political impulses and ideologies. On the one hand, the Peronist government built single families homes that promoted homeownership and conservative Catholic values, which were seen as upholding traditional, gender roles, the nuclear family and the sanctity of marriage. On the other, the Peronist administration also erected worker’s neighborhoods that adhered to the Central European workers’ model “constructed on open pavilions” notes historian Rosa Aboy, with each block inhabited by different families sharing access, hallways, and the outside areas with the idea of emphasizing social equality and interaction between classes. For the former see communities like 1° de Marzo and Juan Peron; for the latter, Las Perales serves as one example.

Modernist architects, many having worked for the Municipal Office of Architecture or having collaborated with Le Corbusier on his urban plan for the city, designed the new communities and housing as part of the administration. In many of the neighborhoods designed according to the European model, residents mostly rented though in 1948 legislation passed that enabled for the purchase of individual units by renters over a 30 year period. Whichever design prevailed, these newer homes featured better infrastructure with running water, sanitation systems, gas connections and hot water in both bathrooms and kitchens; a clear improvement over earlier public housing efforts. “When we moved here it was a palace to us,” noted one resident of Las Perales years later. In total, from 1946-1955, eight new communities arose consisting of over 5,000 new houses.[20]

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Argentina ’78 : sede mundial de la tortura y la violacion de los derechos humanos : su repudio puede salvar una vida = world’s site of torture and violation of human rights : to condemn it may save a life, poster, 1978, Prints and Photographs Division

Post-Peron Argentina

A 1955 military coup would oust Peron, an ironic turn of events considering Peron’s own rise to power had been aided by similar events. He would return to power in the early 1970s before dying in office in 1974, succeeded by a brutal military dictatorship. Some historians have argued that Peron himself had contributed to the authoritarian regime that followed him but so too did internal divisions within Argentina. An expert on Cold War era Argentina, Shrader agrees. Such arguments miss “a fundamental point–rather than being an historical aberration,” he argues. “Peron was very much a continuation of an authoritarian trend that cut across political ideologies and parties, and stretched back to the founding of the country itself in the nineteenth century.  Authoritariranism was not the sole domain of ‘caudillos,’ but also liberal thinkers and statesmen, like Domingo Sarmiento, Juan Alberdi, and Bartolome Mitre.”

If anything, notes Shrader both Peron and the junta sought to divide Argentines into rival camps. The military dictatorship rose to power on the fault line of a society struggling with violence of both right wing paramilitaries and left wing communist guerillas. “If anything, one could look at the ways in which Peronism and the Junta divided the population into Argentines and non-Argentines (the latter seen as traitors because of their political affiliation), but the roots of that go back too,” he asserts.

Argentina would host the 1978 World Cup, a moment in time now seen to be “the apogee of both its power and cruelty,” writes journalist Wright Thompson. The dictatorship tortured and murdered thousands of Argentines. During the June 25, 1978 final, political prisoners could hear fans celebrating the nation’s victory in their cells. Some 30,000 people disappeared – referred to as los desaparecidos—“the disappeared” – during what has become known as “The Dirty War.”

For many Argentines, the ’78 competition provided “a measure of psychic relief to a population that had created the dictatorship with its fear.” However, in the decades that have passed, many Argentines choose to remember the 1986 championship, rather than its 1978 victory. Rumors persist that the junta, with the aid of regime supporter Henry Kissinger, arranged to fix the match with Peru. Peru allowed six goals against Argentina, as the fourth goal hit the back of the net, a bomb exploded at the home of a government official who had been critical of expenditures toward the competition. At a thirtieth anniversary celebration, that also doubled as a memorial to all those who perished under the military junta, held at Estadio Monumental in 2008, “wide swaths of empty seats swallowing groups of people” predominated; only 19 players of the 22 from the 1978 roster attended. For survivors, the 1978 World Cup and every one after, dredges up nothing but pain. “Survivors live in a city of scars,” noted Thompson.

Yet, some historians question Wright’s argument. “While the dictatorship is now in disrepute, human rights isn’t the real reason,”  Shrader suggested.  “1986 is celebrated more because of Maradona.  Pure and simple.” Maradona gave Argentina its “own Pele” and he ascended to popularity “when the country’s democracy was fragile, divisions lingered, and wounds were still very much fresh.”

The 1982 Falkland Islands controversy with Britain helped to bring an end to the junta’s rule. The combination of a failing economy, an ill advised attempt to wrest the Falkand and Marina Islands from Britain, and U.S. pressure for the regime to stand down (after supporting it for years) conspired to pry them from power. A more democratic government followed. While things have not been easy for the South American power or porteños, conditions improved.

Even with political drama and economic instability, Buenos Aires, has always and will always be a dynamic, compelling city. “No matter how soap-opera-like its politics, or exaggerated its inflation, Argentina’s capital never loses its charm,” New York Times travel writer Nell McShane Wulfhart reflected in 2015. Between its ever evolving restaurants and art spaces, “its century-old cafes and gorgeous tree-lined streets”, and “gimmicky yet ineffably cool speakeasies”, the city exudes a chic, cosmopolitan sensibility. When La Albiceleste, or in English, the white and sky blue as the national team is sometimes referred, take to the fields in Russia, porteños will occupy these same restaurants and speakeasies as they dream of the 2018 World Cup ending in joy so that they might spill into the night street and celebrate in one of South America’s greatest cities.

As always, the bibliography provided below is only our cursory attempt to sketch out a reading list for interested readers. Regrettably, it does not include Spanish language histories. We hope that you’ll make your own suggestions in the comments or tweet at us @UrbanHistoryA. The editors would like to extend special thanks to Anton Rosenthal, Daniel Alex Richter, and especially, Kristen McCleary for their help with organizing our May Metropolis of the Month and its bibliography.

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Opera House, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1956, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bibliography

—–. Business Imperialism 1840-1930: An Inquiry on British Experience in Latin America. Ed. D.C.M. Platt. (Claredon Press, 1977).

—–. Memories of Buenos Aires: Signs of State Terrorism in Argentina. Ed. Max Page.  (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013).

Rosa Aboy. “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires.” Journal of Urban History 33.3 (March 2007): 495-518.

Jeremy Adelman. Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the Atlantic World. (Stanford University Press, 1999).

George Reid Andrew. “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900.” Journal of Latin American Studies 11.1 (May 1979): 19-39.

Javier Auyero. Poor People’s Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita. (Duke University Press, 2001).

Adriana Bergero. Intersecting Tango: Cultural Geographies of Buenos Aires, 1900-1930. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008).

Jonathan C. Brown. A Socioeconomic History of Argentina, 1776-1860. (Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Lila Caimari. While the City Sleeps: A History of Pistoleros, Policemen and the Crime Beat in Buenos Aires before Perón. (University of California Press, 2016).

Marcela Cerrutti and Alejandro Grimson. “Neoliberal Reforms and Protest in Buenos Aires” in Neoliberalism, Interrupted. Eds. Mark Goodale and Nancy Postero. (Stanford University Press, 2013).

Christine Ehrick. Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950. (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

David William Foster. Buenos Aires: Perspectives on the City and Cultural Production. (University Press of Florida, 1998).

Adrián Gorelik. “A Metropolis in the Pampas: Buenos Aires 1890-1940.” In Cruelty and Utopia: Cities and Landscapes in Latin America. Ed. Jean-Francois Lejeune.  (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006)

Donna Guy. Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires. (University of Nebraska Press, 1990).

Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. (Stanford University Press, 2003)

Gabriela Ippolito-O’Donnell. The Right to the City: Popular Contention in Contemporary Buenos Aires. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011).

Daniel James. Doña Maria’s Story: Life, History, Memory, and Political Identity. (Duke University Press, 2000).

Lyman L. Johnson. “Manumission in Buenos Aires, 1776-1810.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 59.2 (May 1979): 258-279.

Lyman L. Johnson. Workshop of Revolution: Plebian Buenos Aires and the Atlantic World, 1776-1810. (Duke University Press, 2011).

Lyman L. Johnson and Zephyr Frank. “Cities and Wealth in the South Atlantic: Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro before 1860.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48.3 (July 2006): 634-668.

Temma Kaplan. Taking Back the Streets: Women, Youth, and Direct Democracy. (University of California Press, 2004).

Kristen McCleary. “Mass, Popular, and Elite Culture? The Spanish Zarzuela in Buenos Aires, 1890-1900.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture Vol. 21 (2002): 1-27.

Kristen McCleary. “Papás, malevos, and patotas: ‘Character’izing Masculinity on the Stages and in the Audiences of Buenos Aires, 1880-1920.” In Muy Machos: Modern Argentine Masculinities. Ed. Carolina Rocha (London: Intellect Books), 2013

Kristen McCleary, “Ethnic identity and elite idyll: a comparison of carnival in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, 1900-1920.” Social Identities 16.4 (July 2010): 497 – 517.

Jessica Stites More and Daniel Alex Richter. “Immigrant Cosmopolitanism: The Political Culture of Argentine Early Sound Cinema of the 1930s.” In Latin America and Caribbean Studies 9.1 (2014): 65-88.

Jose. C. Moya. Cousins and Strangers: Spanish Immigrants in Buenos Aires, 1850-1930. (University of California Press, 2001).

Laura Podalsky. Specular City: Transforming Culture, Consumption and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955-1973. (Temple University Press, 2004).

Vera Blinn Reber. British Mercantile Houses in Buenos Aires 1810-1880. (Harvard University Press, 1979.

Anton Rosenthal. “The Streetcar in the Urban Imaginary of Latin America.” Journal of Urban History 42.1: 162-179.

Charles Sargent. The Spatial Evolution of Buenos Aires: 1870-1930. (Arizona State University Center for Latin Studies, 1974).

Beatriz Sarlo. “Cultural Landscapes: Buenos Aires from Integration to Fracture.” In Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age. Ed. Andreas Huyssen. (Duke University Press, 2008).

Jason Scobie. Buenos Aires: From Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910. (Oxford University Press, 1971).

Susan M. Socolow. The Merchants of Buenos Aires 1778-1810: Family and Commerce. (Cambridge University Press, 1978).

James Scorer. City in Common: Culture and Community in Buenos Aires. (SUNY Press, 2016).

Brigitte Sion. Memorials in Berlin and Buenos Aires: Balancing Memory, Architecture, and Tourism. (Lexington Books, 2015).

Juan Suriano. Paradoxes of Utopia: Anarchist Culture and Politics in Buenos Aires 1890-1910. (AK Press, 2010).

51ULIasGgzL._SY445_.jpgFiction/Film

Tomás Eloy Martínez. The Tango Singer (Bloomsbury, 2004).

Nine Queens. Director Fabián Bielinsky, 2000.

Featured Image (at top): Buenos Aires, between 1908 and 1919, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

[1] David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football, Riverhead Books, 2006, 126-127.

[2] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” Journal of Urban History 9.3 (May 1983): 366-67.

[3] Lyman L. Johnson, “Manumission in Buenos Aires, 1776-1810,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 59.2 (May 1979): 259-260.

[4] Erika Edwards, “Urban History, the Slave Trade, and the Atlantic World 1500-1900,” Journal of Urban History 42.2 (2016): 447.

[5] Anton Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” Journal of Urban History 29.6 (September 2003): 760.

[6] George Reid Andrew, “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900,” Journal of Latin American Studies 11.1 (May 1979): 21.

[7] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” 368.

[8] Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” 764.

[9] Susan Socolow, The Merchants of Buenos Aires 1778-1810: Family and Commerce, Cambridge University Press, 1978, 177.

[10] Eul-Soo Pang, “Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930,” 370.

[11] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 126; Eul-Soo Pang, Buenos Aires and the Argentine Economy in World Perspective, 1776 – 1930, 370.

[12] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 126.

[13] Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, 127, 130.

[14] Rosenthal, “Urban Networks, Global Processes, and the Construction of Public Life in Nineteenth Century Buenos Aires,” 764.

[15] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” Journal of Urban History 33.3 (March 2007): 494-495

[16] Anton Rosenthal, “The Streetcar in the Urban Imaginary of Latin America,” Journal of Urban History 42.1: 162-163, 165, 167, 172.

[17] Reid Andrew, “Race Versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900,” 22.

[18] Kristin McCleary, “Ethnic identity and elite idyll: a comparison of carnival in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, 1900-1920,” Social Identities 16.4 (July 2010): 501-502, 504-506, 513.

[19] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” 497, 499, 500-502.

[20] Rosa Aboy, “’The Right to a Home’: Public Housing in Post-World War II Buenos Aires,” 503-506, 509.

 

Sacramento Stories: A River City Bibliography

In Sarah Polley’s 2013 film, “Stories We Tell”, the Canadian filmmaker conducts an exploration of her mother, Diane Polley, who died when the director was 11.  Navigating Diane Polley’s history proves more complex and elusive than one might think. “There are many stories to tell, partly because there was nothing neat about Diane Polley, the life she lived and the secrets she kept,” New York Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote in her review of the film, and “Not all of these stories are easy.”

Cities, or perhaps more accurately the inhabitants and boosters of cities, also have stories to tell and much like Polley’s documentary, the meaning and accuracy of such narratives vary.  Sacramento, crowned the California state capital in 1854, has its own complicated tale—one deeply entwined with the 1849 Gold Rush, redevelopment, suburbanization, and historic preservation. And yes, some of these stories are not easy.

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Sculpture “Gold Rush” at the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse, Sacramento, California, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, October 2009, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congres

Before and After the Gold Rush 

“The Sacramento region during the 1800s was an incredibly complex area,” historian Ty Smith has noted, because Mexico had not penetrated the valley to any significant extent and French and Russian trappers competed with local tribes for the commercial fur industry. Most historians date the city’s birth to the Gold Rush and often the overall narrative regarding Sacramento attempts to capitalize on its connection to 1849.  However, when John (Johann) Sutter gained control of the city via a Mexican land grant in 1839, he envisioned a metropolitan future dependent on agriculture and commerce, not mineral extraction.

Early on, the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers—a point known as the embarcadero—served as the city’s defining feature, but one that brought both prosperity and pain. “The rivers that embrace the California capital have both punished and rewarded,” notes historian Steven Avella. “They created terrible floods and carried waterborne diseases like cholera but also helped to fashion the ‘earthly Eden’, as one booster described Sacramento.” Residents, however, did not accept Sacramento on its own terms. After devastating floods in 1862, the city raised its grade above the river’s cresting level. As Avella attests, the establishment of the city itself was “an act of defiance against nature,” as residents nearly taxed themselves to “urban death to pay for the ambitious street raising.”

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The Tower Bridge is a vertical lift bridge across the Sacramento River, linking West Sacramento in Yolo County to the west, with the capital of California, Sacramento, in Sacramento County to the east, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress

Like a moth to flame, capital and labor flowed into the riverfront town. “From the city’s founding in 1849, boats carrying global migrants, miners and merchants plied the Sacramento River, arriving at Sutter’s Embarcadero at the foot of J. Street” write historians Lee Simpson and Lisa Prince.  It would be here in what became known as the West End that “the booming riverfront quickly became the commercial and social hub of the infant city….” When the capital house moved east, away from the docks several years later, so too did much of the activity along the waterfront. The West End entered a long period of decline accelerated by the Great Depression, to such an extent that, by the 1950s, some observers categorized it as “one of the worst slums west of the Mississippi.” Still, a thriving Japantown, and a smaller Chinatown near it, emerged within the riverfront district.

As the nineteenth century came to a close, Sacramento’s suburbanization began its ascent. City boosters and suburban developers packaged the city as a “rural (and suburban) antidote to a growing urban disease,” a veritable “machine in the garden,” marrying industrial efficiency with the purity of rural/suburban life, notes historian Paul Sandul.  Suburbanization spread to the city’s northern and northeastern edges while “the interior expanded outward as well, as subdivisions began near … downtown.”  Sandul describes these new communities as “agriburbs,” “advertised as the perfect mix of rural and urban,” “consciously, planned, developed, and promoted based on the drive for profit in emerging agricultural markets….”

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Downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city, seen from across the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The rise of the “gentleman farmer” archetype in the early twentieth century aided boosters. Gentlemen farmers emerged as a new ideal in the Progressive era. White male middle class suburban farmers brought civilization and order to the frontier while also soothing any rough edges absorbed from city living; a Jeffersonian nod to “the foundation of a middle class white settler” society, writes Laura Barraclough, who explored the role of gentlemen farming in the creation of the San Fernando Valley.  Few gentlemen farmers ever turned a real profit in the Valley, and Sandul suggests the same for Sacramento, but the idea proved a powerful marketing device helping to sell new subdivisions like Rancho Del Paso, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, and North Sacramento, among others.

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The Gentleman Farmer“, by Henry Mayer, June 6, 1914, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Suburbanization unfolded as Sacramento residents sought to create an identity around the “pioneer” narrative. Tropes about “gentleman farmers” fit neatly into the city’s presence in the public sphere. Agriburbs and gentlemen farming married rural virtue with middle class civility and comfort. Boosters sold the city as “a modern and cultured metropolis” while simultaneously highlighting it as a “farmer’s paradise” and “ideal suburb.” Even today, while it lacks the charm of San Francisco or the fast lane lifestyle of Los Angeles, Sacramento “held sway in California’s growing interior as a good place to live and prosper,” notes Avella. “The midwest of California,” as the titular heroine of the film Ladybird describes it.

Not all suburban growth originated strictly from an agricultural ideal alone. The development of the “streetcar suburb” of Oak Park marked the beginning of suburban expansion from the city’s core. As with Los Angeles, the trolley car fueled this movement. Edwin K. Alsip, a prominent real estate speculator, promoted the suburb with the usual references to gentlemen farming, good soil, beneficial climate, easy transit to downtown, and “no city taxes” though this final provision also meant no water or sewer facilities. The Joyland amusement park opened in the neighborhood in 1894 to further entice prospective buyers, however the financial panic of 1893 doused enthusiasm. It would take until 1900 before Oak Park filled with residents, which included working class whites, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. The latter groups were attracted to Oak Park because of its lack of restrictive covenants, which plagued minority homebuyers throughout Sacramento and its burgeoning suburbia.

Other working class suburbs arose around the city, not from speculative real estate practices but rather as the result of ethnic groups huddling in particular neighborhoods. Ethnic enclaves with Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, and Filipino communities formed “not as part of the packaging of place but as a consequence of it,” Sandul writes.  Denied entry into many subdivisions where developers and residents assumed that agrarian living was only suitable for white families, and where developers deployed covenants to maintain lines of segregation, minority groups formed several enclaves in the West End section—Chinatown and Japantown, most famously. Some Mexican barrios took root in the West End, but others also formed near the rail yards and sometimes outside some of the northern agriburbs where employment in agriculture was available. Unsurprisingly, gentlemen farming created a need for farm workers. In the San Fernando Valley,  a mix of Asian and Mexican, immigrant and native labor built the Valley’s infrastructure and worked “to make suburban farms productive” while racist land and homeownership restrictions prevented non-white laborers from competing on equal terms. Sacramento’s experience, though perhaps less stark, mirrored this development.

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Tower Theatre, a Sacramento landmark, built in 1938, that is famous for its neon displays, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As with many of the nation’s cities, Sacramento struggled through the Great Depression with aid from FDR’s New Deal. World War II shook it from its economic doldrums and after the war California’s prosperity boomed, a function of the demographic migration to and federal investment in the state. The financial windfall that visited the Golden State after 1945 also added further diversity to the city through an expanded military presence, the long standing bracero program, and the growth of the state and municipal governments.

In its urban renewal efforts Sacramento proved pioneering in two ways. First, the redevelopment of the West End in the 1950s and 1960s used a new financing mechanism at the time, known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF).  TIF, a practice in which future revenues from property tax increases from a particular district are earmarked for economic development in a local community, would become a dominant force in urban renewal efforts nationally, for both good and ill.

Second, by the 1950s, the West End had slid into an uneasy state. Though home to relatively prosperous Japantown and Chinatown, it also struggled with high rates of crime, homelessness, illness, and juvenile delinquency; a quarter of the city’s fires, three-quarters of its TB cases, and 42 percent of its adult crime occurred in the district. Over two decades, it witnessed a fifty percent decline in its tax revenue.

The city declared the area blighted and enacted an ambitious urban renewal project that razed the West End and replaced it with “Old Sacramento,” a historic district dedicated to telling Sacramento’s pioneer tale.  The plan, which a 1961 National Park Service report summarized as an attempt to save and refurbish 31 “old structures importantly associated with broad aspects of Western history and with notable men and events,” presented the opportunity to highlight the city’s “pioneer western scene for the inspiration, education and enjoyment of future generations.” Other reports at the state and municipal level told similar stories and established the justification for Old Sacramento at all levels of government. However ham fisted the end result or the process by which the result was reached turned out to be, the Old Sacramento redevelopment placed Sacramento at the forefront of the historic preservation movement that, though problematic in its own ways, slowed the pace of renewal in ensuing decades.

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Sacramento Southern train in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River in California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As with most renewal projects, minority communities bore the brunt of its sacrifices. Nearly 50 percent of the businesses in the West End were minority-owned and operated. Japantown and Chinatown were wiped away and some 2,000 residents were displaced. Many critics rightly asserted that Old Sacramento’s story failed to capture the district’s true history and ignored the contributions of its inhabitants to Sacramento’s past and present. However, as Smith, Simpson, Prince, and others have pointed out in recent years, residents are not bound to one mythological story. “This generation has the opportunity to re-inscribe onto the site that which was vital to the site’s history, but not important to past planners: the California Indian story and the environmental story,” argues Smith.

Indeed, Sacramento’s stories have only grown more nuanced and complex.  In 2005, 250,000 foreign born persons resided in its suburbs; about 100,000 lived in the city itself. The region had become a “refugee magnet,” Robin Datel and Dennis Dingemans noted in 2008.  Today the local economy continues to attract both “brain … and brawn,” laborers working in agriculture and construction on one hand and tech on the other. The closing of military bases in the late twentieth century led to cheap suburban housing ringing the city.

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Beauty salon, Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, California, photo by John Margolies, 1980, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

American military interventions in Asia contributed to such complexities. Between 1975 and 1980, 3,000 Vietnamese fleeing communism settled in Sacramento.  Over time, this population grew and established a Little Saigon community along Stockton Boulevard featuring 350 Asian businesses.  While Little Saigon remains the largest and most significant concentration of ethnic businesses, another six miles of Franklin Boulevard and four miles of Main Street house nearly 200 Latino enterprises. Clusters of Korean and Eastern European business dot the city as well; the latter are a manifestation of the migration of Russians and other Slavic refugees due to their religious persecution by Soviet authorities and succeeding regimes.  From 1995 to 2005, Sacramento absorbed 19,000 immigrants from the former USSR, many of whom became evangelical Christians after arriving in the U.S.

Driving along Sacramento’s throughfares and surface streets, it becomes clear that “immigrant businesses along the Sacramento metropolitan area’s older suburban and small town commercial districts have become the norm,” as Datel and Dingemans assert. Ethnic festivals such as the Bengali Festival of Joy, Festival de la Familia, the Pacific Rim Festival, and Hmong New Year attest to the diversity of the city but also the incorporation of new Sacramentans into the urban fold.

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Gift shop at the 2012 California State Fair held in Sacramento, California, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This, perhaps, is where we leave you. Many of these festivals are held across the city in places associated with “traditional Sacramento,” be it the former state fair grounds now known as Cal Expo, the Sacramento Convention Center, and yes, Old Sacramento. Whatever the faults in Old Sacramento’s establishment, and most agree they are legion, these newer arrivals will inscribe new meaning onto the district. “This area of ‘establishment’ history is now incorporating and being incorporated into the histories and cultures of new Sacramentans, some of whose co-ethnics were part of those earlier storied events,” Datel and Dingemans point out.

Undoubtedly, stories about ourselves and our homes sustain us, but they are not cast in amber or frozen in time. For example, during its first 100 years, Sacramento enacted state laws and policies that protected whites and punished Asians, Latinos, and blacks, yet today, it is seen as a vocal outpost of “The Resistance,” the capital of one of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in America. This too is a story, a difficult one admittedly worth telling.

As always, our bibliography is an attempt to get at the historiography of the city, but in no way do we claim it is comprehensive. If you have additions to recommend, please do, you can get at us via “the twitter” @UrbanHistoryA. Special thanks to Steven Avella, Robin Datel, William Burg, Marcia Eyman, and Dylan McDonald for their help in compiling this bibliography.

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The 10-story Ziggurat, a pyramidal state office building along the Sacramento River, across from downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Sacramento Bibliography 

—–,  The Lower American River, Prehistory to Parkway. Ed. Peter J. Hayes, The American River Natural History Association, 2005.

—–, River City and Valley Life: An Environmental History of the Sacramento Region. Eds. Christopher I. Castaneda and Lee M. A. Simpson, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.

Avella, Steven M. Sacramento, Indomitable City. Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Avella, Steven M. The Good Life: Sacramento’s Consumer Culture Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

Avella, Steven M. Sacramento and the Catholic Church: Shaping a Capital City. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008. 

Burg, William. Sacramento’s K Street, Where Our City Was Born. The History Press, 2012.

Datel, Robin E. “Central Oak Park Walking Tour.” Sacramento, CA: Center for Sacramento History, 2010.

Datel, Robin and Dennis Dingemans. “Immigrant Space and Place in Suburban Sacramento.” In Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America. Eds. Audrey Singer, Susan W. Hardwick, and Caroline B. Brettell. Washington, D. C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2008, 171-199.

Datel, Robin E. and Dennis J. Dingemans. “Historic Preservation and Social Stability in Sacramento’s Old City.” Urban Geography 15, no. 6 (1994): 565-591.

Didion, Joan. Where I Was From. Vintage International, 2003.

Dingemans, Dennis. “Sacramento’s Redneck Suburb.” Pacifica (newsletter of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers). Spring (1996): 1, 14-19.

Dingemans, Dennis J. and Robin E. Datel. “Urban Multiethnicity.” Geographical Review 85, no. 4 (October 1995): 458-477.

Hallinan, Tim. “River City: Right Here in California?” Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 51 (1989): 49-64.

Hernandez, Jose. “Redlining Revisited: Mortgage Lending Patterns in Sacramento, 1930 – 2004.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33.2 (June 2009): 291-313.

Hurtado, Albert L. John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier. University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

McGowan, Joseph. History of the Sacramento Valley. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1961.

Sandul, Paul J. P. California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State. West Virginia University Press, 2014.

Wildie, Kevin. Sacramento’s Historic Japantown: Legacy of a Lost Neighborhood. Arcadia Publishing, 2013.

Wilde, Amanda G. and James C. Scott. World War One and the Sacramento Valley. Arcadia Publishing, 2016.

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Eagle Theatre in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River in California’s capital city, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Fiction/Film 

Didion, Joan. Run River. Ivan Obolensky, Inc., 1963.

Ladybird. Director Greta Gerwig, 2017.

Replacing the Past: Sacramento’s Redevelopment History.” Director Chris Lango, 2016.

Featured image: Sacramento city, Ca. from the foot of J. Street, showing I., J., & K. Sts. with the Sierra Nevada in the distance, by C. Parsons ; drawn Dec. 20th 1849 by G.V. Coope, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. 

An Ancient City and Modern Exemplar of East Asian Urbanity: A Bibliography of the South Korean Cultural, Political, and Economic Capital, Seoul

Considering the explosion of interest in Korean cuisine, the ubiquity of K-Pop, and media attention devoted to the recently concluded Winter Olympics, it seems outlandish to think of South Korea, and by extension the megacity of Seoul, as a nation isolated from the developed West. Yet as recently as the mid-1990s, Seoul remained a mystery for international observers. A 1994 article in the Financial Times featured the headline “Seoul tries to throw open the door,” noting that the nation sought to “overcome its legacy of isolationism and to push for economic liberalization.”[1] Other observers commented on Seoul’s persistent if undeserved relative obscurity. “Stereotypes about the Far East, dominated by images of China and Japan, leave Korea in a vague limbo, of acronyms or bestiaries: NICs or Little Tigers,” Perry Anderson wrote in the London Review of Books.[2] A great deal can happen over the course of two decades, and indeed today Seoul feels almost like the standard bearer for East Asian urbanity.

 

Seoul

International Trade and Japanese Occupation

Seoul’s trajectory from isolated metropole to international megalopolis spans three centuries, including Japanese occupation, post-Korean War destruction and authoritarian rule, and democratic emergence in the 1990s. From Korea’s earliest days, Seoul served as “a symbolic place of national feeling and political power, and it was the distinctive premier city” on the peninsula historian Wonsik Jeong noted in 2001.[3]

Even before the Japanese occupation in 1910, external forces shaped the Korean city. Trade arrangements functioned to pry open the once isolated capital of the “Hermit Kingdom.” The Korea-China Land and Sea Commercial Activity Treaty of 1882 resulted in imperial competition in the city, particularly between the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Japan and China. Therefore, when the Financial Times claimed that 1994 represented the first time that Korea had attempted to open itself to “full international competition,” one might note a caveat or two.

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First arrival pack horses, Seoul, bound north, Robert Lee Dunn photographer, 1905, Prints and Photographs Division

International mercantile trade birthed modern Seoul; it not only brought increased contact with other Asian and Western nations but physically remade the city. “With the opening of Seoul, the city wall was torn down, and the boundaries expanded to include the old market towns and lower class areas outside the city,” Jeong points out. The construction of the Seoul Pusan Railroad in the early 1900s further consolidated the city’s position and inaugurated “modern urban growth in Korea.”[4] Improved transportation networks furthered the nation’s place in the growing capitalist international economy.

Though never colonized or occupied by a Western power, Korea did endure decades of Japanese rule over the peninsula beginning in 1910. For better or for worse—and it was a great deal of worse and a far smaller measure of better—Japan enacted numerous economic, political, and infrastructural reforms that reshaped the city. Japanese reforms resulted in demographic expansion of the city, largely the result of three trends: natural increase, rural decline (and migration to Seoul), and Japanese immigration to the peninsula. Notably, public health measures – “prevention of infectious diseases, sanitation improvements, vaccinations, regulation of public space, and enforcement of sanitary regulations” – did ultimately result in a growing population. During the 1920s, death rates also declined by significant margins. However, as historian Todd Henry argues, the new public health regime put into place discriminatory policies toward most Koreans such that Japanese residents in Seoul were better equipped to fight off infectious disease than their Korean counterparts. Moreover, Koreans resisted police enforcement of public health policies, which stunted the system’s effectiveness and delayed the emergence of a viable and effective infrastructure until the 1920s.[5]

Japanese immigration accounted for over 350,000 new arrivals to the peninsula between 1910 and 1921, but in the years after, improved sanitation and public health also helped boost the city’s population from 250,000 in 1910 to 677,241 in 1936.[6]

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Street scene showing government buildings, Seoul, Korea, between 1890 and 1923, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Unsurprisingly, Japan viewed Seoul as little more than a market for its manufactured goods and as a source of raw materials. As industrialization took hold, Japanese zaibatsus (Japanese industrial and financial conglomerates) dominated business at the expense of local entrepreneurs. As war often does, Japan’s 1937 military efforts in Asia and later in WWII boosted economic opportunity even for local Koreans, as the number of factories and Korean owners increased. “In 1939, 42 percent of the gross value of factory production was attributed to Korean-owned establishments, compared to 14 percent in 1924,” writes Jeong.[7]

The legacy of Japanese occupation manifested itself in the built environment. “[M]any spatial features of urban development during Korea’s industrialization, such as radiating and gridded street patterns, reflect those implemented during the Meiji Restoration and Taisho periods,” writes Sanghoon Jung, and “land readjustment adopted by the Japanese remained as the main means of urban development in Korea.”[8] Though Japanese land policy implemented a “modern private landowning system,” it subordinated all residents to the colonial state bureaucracy and established a trend of state control over development that would expand well past occupation as a political culture of centralization and authoritarianism became ensconced in national politics.[9]

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Temple of Heaven, Seoul, Korea, 1925, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

During its occupation of the peninsula, Japan attempted to regulate public space, utilizing it as a means to “assimilate” Korean subjects into the Japanese empire. City infrastructure, public health initiatives, the construction of Shinto shrines, and other efforts served as Japan’s means of transforming Korean nationals into “reliable subjects of self government.” However, this did not always go as planned. Public spaces might carry the strong whiff of Japanese imperialism, but Koreans used them for their own ends and purposes “many of which did not converge with the state,” writes Henry.[10]

 

Japan’s defeat in World War II removed it from the peninsula, but did not spare Korea from military conflict. The Korean War erupted in the early 1950s and devastated Seoul. Still, as Anderson reflected decades later, the legacy of imperial rule complicated Korean existence; it undoubtedly subjugated Koreans under a totalitarian, racist regional power but one that at least built transportation networks and raised literacy above the regional average while reparations required of Japan for the occupation enabled the expansion of national and municipal finances. “The toll of empire was huge,” Anderson noted, “but privileges perversely went with it.” To be fair, Anderson included U.S. influence in this metric—noting that after the Korean War, America imposed needed land reforms and “bank rolled reconstruction.” The Vietnam War did not hurt the Korean economy either, as U.S. allies helped Korean firms establish industrial contracts in Southeast Asia; firms later harnessed this experience to strike similar deals in the oil-rich Middle East during the 1970s.[11]

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Street in Seoul totally destroyed by North Korean communist forces, 1950s, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Post-Korean War Politics

After the Korean War “[m]ost of Seoul lay in ruins,” Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Malcolm W. Browne wrote in his memoir. “The poverty was ubiquitous and obtrusive, and there was a constant danger of losing a wallet or camera to thieves.”[12] Under the rule of Syngman Rhee, who Browne described as an “autocratic old Methodist who brooked no dissent from any quarter,” Koreans enjoyed few freedoms. “During my year in Korea I could see the seeds of rebellion sprouting, as my student friends grew ever more angry at the repressions they suffered at the hands of the police, university administrators, and military authorities,” Browne remembered years later. Add to this “the demeaning aspects of American military occupation” and the student uprisings that came in 1960, sometimes referred to as the April Revolution, hardly seem unexpected. Student protests ousted Rhee in 1960, but the government quickly lapsed once again into authoritarianism under Park Chung Hi in 1961.[13]

Under Park, the state undertook massive economic development, an approach that persisted until the early 1990s. This sort of state centered development required draconian levels of repression; security forces known as the KCIA numbered over 350,000. Yet, as has proven consistent throughout Korea’s history, students refused to fully relent. They overthrew Rhee in 1960 and revolted again in 1979-1980, leading to Park’s assassination by his intelligence chief. Chun Doo Hwan took over for Park but encountered student resistance less than a decade later, in 1987, after a student activist at the University of Seoul was tortured and killed under police custody. After three weeks of unrest and some 350,000 canisters of tear gas, Chun had to concede free elections.[14]

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Seoul at night, June 2016

Planning for Postwar Seoul

From the end of World War II through the 1980s, urban planning in Seoul drew from two primary influences: Japanese policies established under occupation, in terms of “planning culture, system and legislation,” remained influential. Moreover, numerous bureaucrats from occupation held over through independence. A second influence arose from Western planners like American Oswald Nagler.

After the war, the dearth of planning experts and the persistence of the Japanese model throttled attempts at redevelopment. However, foreign technical aid brought planners like Nagler to the fore. Working for the Asia foundation, later renamed as the Housing, Urban and Regional Planning Institute (HURPI), Nagler “introduced, applied and localized Western planning principles to Korea in an earnest manner,” argues Jung. Nagler also recruited numerous individuals such as Kyu Sung Woo, Hongbin Kang, Jinkyun Kim, Wan Yu and others; all would spread HURPI’s influence further in Seoul planning circles. Several HURPI members were chosen from the architecture department at Seoul National University.[15]

From Japanese occupation forward, housing in Seoul remained a problematic issue. Seeing the city and peninsula as a market for its goods and a source of raw materials, little attention was paid to building housing for residents. However, mobilization for war forced Japan to build homes for its soldiers and workers. Yet, even with this burst of construction, by 1944 housing shortage rates rested at 44 percent.

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A South Korean youngster carries a sack of rice on her head after receiving it from the newly established government in Seoul during the week of May 2, 1961, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

By the mid-1950s, Seoul’s population had expanded to over 1.5 million and would continue to increase—surpassing 10 million by 2000—thereby furthering housing’s importance. Recognizing housing’s centrality to the city’s fortunes, Nagler believed in approaching urban planning from the household level and even inserted “Housing” into HURPI’s official title, which had previously excluded the term.[16] Nagler utilized an interdisciplinary approach to design and planning that emphasized architecture and civil engineering. This more comprehensive method broke from trends at that the time that focused exclusively on infrastructure development and eschewed architectural considerations.[17]

 

Due to the centralized business friendly approach to development, a growing population needing housing, and rapid urbanization, developers increasingly turned to higher density apartment complexes. High rise apartments, anything more than five stories, accounted for over 20 percent of construction permits issued by the central government in 1975. Fifteen years later, the percentage had more than tripled to 66 percent. A significant portion of the new housing created from the early 1970s and after arose from large-scale redevelopment projects, particularly urban renewal efforts directed at the ad-hoc communities and housing that cropped up in the 1960s. From 1973 to 1995, notes Hyun Bang Shin, about 17 percent “of all dwellings … were the result of the redevelopment of urban slums and dilapidated neighborhoods.” Unsurprisingly, these new units were subject to rampant speculation, which further victimized poor and working class residents and persisted for nearly three decades. [18]

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Street Market at night, Seoul, June 2016

With democratic government emerging in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so too did organized opposition to unfettered real estate construction. This led to vocal civil society. For example, in 1990 the National Coalition for Housing Rights (NCHR), an umbrella organization consisting of various social organizations, progressive religious groups, housing activists, and evictees, formed to organize growing dissent. “Rapidly disappearing affordable housing stocks and the sharp increase in housing rents due to megadisplacement of poor tenants led to a growing awareness of housing as a basic right,” writes Shin.[19]

The efforts of civil society, and its increasing use of the “right to the city” concept, coincided with the expansion of democratization in Seoul and across South Korea; reforms included the establishment of local assemblies (1991), the election of Korea’s first civilian president (1993) and the direct election of mayors and provincial governors (1995). This opened up more space for public protest and organization, but democratization also fueled speculation and gentrification as localized government fell victim to “growth politics.” The few concessions accorded by the municipal government to displaced citizens functioned to legitimize the city’s redevelopment plans.[20] Korea’s growing civil society remains committed to enacting reforms, but change comes slowly.

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Seoul at night, June 2016

Still, regardless of the odds, if there is one thing that the people of Seoul have demonstrated, it is the ability to enact major change and resist in ways large and small. We hope our bibliography captures that aspect of the city. As always, it is not comprehensive—far from it. Think of it more as a jumping off point. On Monday, Stanford PhD candidate Russell Burge is going to provide an addendum with ten annotated selections of his own.

Judging from correspondence with historians working in the field, there has yet to be a definitive history of Seoul written in or translated into English (@UrbanHistoryA if I am wrong, we’d love to add it to the list). That being said, be sure to check out work on Seoul by Elle Choi, Russell Burge, Jini Kim Watson, Hyun Bang Shin, Nan Kim and Jieheerah Yun all who have helped us with the Metropolis of the Month.

Featured image at top: Seoul – street scene toward East Gate, lantern slide, William Henry Jackson photographer, 1895, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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Bird’s-eye view of Seoul, Korea, 1901, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bibliography

——–, Seoul, Twentieth Century: Growth and Change of the Last 100 Years, Ed. Kwang-Joong Kim (Seoul Developmental Institute, 2003).

Isabella Bird Bishop, Korea and Her Neighbors (Revell, 1898).

Russell Burge, “The Prison and the Postcolony: Contested Memory and the Museumification of Sŏdaemun Hyŏngmuso,” Journal of Korean Studies (Spring 2017): 33 – 67.

Im Sik Cho and Blaz Kriznik, Community-based Urban Development: Evolving Urban Paradigms in Singapore and Seoul (Springer, 2017).

Elle Choi, “Yi Kwangsu and the Post-World War I Reconstruction Debate in Korea,” The Journal of Korean Studies (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015).

Bruce Cummings, The Korean War: A History (Modern Library Chronicles, 2011).

David Fedman, “The Ondol Problem and the Politics of Forest Conservation in Colonial Korea,” Journal of Korean Studies, forthcoming (Spring 2018).

Tristen R. Grunow, “Western Urban Planning and Imperial Space from the Streets of Meiji Tokyo to Colonial Seoul,” Journal of Urban History 42.3 (May 2016): 506-556.

Todd Henry, Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Space in Colonial Korea (University of California Press, 2016).

Shelia Miyoshi Jager, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (W.W. Norton, 2017)

Sanghoon Jung, “Oswald Nagler, HURPI, and the Formation of Urban Planning and Design in South Korea,” Journal of Urban History 40.3 (May 2014): 585-605.

Richard Child Hill and June Woo Kim, “Global Cities and Developmental States: New York, Tokyo, and Seoul” in The Global Cities Reader, Eds. Neil Brenner and Roger Keil (Routledge, 2006): 170 – 178.

Nan Kim, Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions of Separated Families in South Korea: Crossing the Divide (Lexington, 2017).

Keith Pratt, Old Seoul: Images of Asia (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Hyun Bang Shin, “Urban Movements and the Genealogy of Urban Rights Discourses: the Case of Urban Protesters against Redevelopment and Displacement in Seoul, South Korea,” Annals of American Geographers 0.0 (2018): 1-14.

Hyun Bang Shin, “Living on the Edge: Financing Post-displacement Housing in Urban Redevelopment Projects in Seoul,” Environment and Urbanization 20.2 (2008): 411 – 426.

Hyun Bang Shin and Soo-Hyun Kim, “The Developmental State, Speculative Urbanisation and the politics of displacement in gentrifying Seoul,” Urban Studies 53.3 (2016): 540-559.

Jini Kim Watson, The New Asian City: Three Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

Jeong Wonsik, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City,” Journal of Urban History 27.2 (January 2001): 158-177.

Jieheerah Yun, Globalizing Seoul: The City’s Cultural and Urban Change (Routledge, 2017).

 

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Seoul at night from rooftop, June 2016

Fiction

——, Postwar Korean Short Stories, trans. Kim Chong-un, 2nd ed. (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 1983).

Se-hui Cho, The Dwarf, trans. Ju-Chan Fulton and Bruce Fulton,(University of Hawaii Press, 2006).

Ch’oe Inho, “Another Man’s Room,” in Ten Korean Short Stories, trans. by Kevin O’Rourke (Yonsei University Press, 1981).

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, (Random House, 2004).

Yoojin Grace Wuertz, Everything Belongs to US, (Random House, 2017).

[1] John Burton, “Seoul tries to throw open the doors”, Financial Times, June 23, 1994, Anthony Lewis Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

[2] Perry Anderson, “Diary”, London Review of Books, October 17, 1996, Anthony Lewis Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

[3] Wonsik Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, Journal of Urban History 27.2 (January 2001): 158.

[4] Wonsik Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, Journal of Urban History 27.2 (January 2001): 159-160.

[5] Todd Henry, Assimilating Seoul: Japanese and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, (University of California Press, 2016), 19-20.

[6] Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, 160-161.

[7] Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, 164.

[8] Sanghoon Jung, “Oswald Nagler, HURPI and the Formation of Urban Planning an Design in South Korea: The South Seoul Plan by HURPI and the Mok-dong Plan”, Journal of Urban History 40.3 (May 2014): 587.

[9] Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, 171.

[10] Henry, Assimilating Seoul, 4.

[11] Perry Anderson, “Diary”, London Review of Books, October 17, 1996, Anthony Lewis Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

[12] Malcolm W. Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks: A Reporter’s Life, (Times Books, 1993), 53-54.

[13] Browne, Muddy Boots and Red Socks, 55.

[14] Perry Anderson, “Diary”, London Review of Books, October 17, 1996, Anthony Lewis Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

[15] Jung, “Oswald Nagler, HURPI and the Formation of Urban Planning an Design in South Korea”, 586-587, 589.

[16] Jeong, “The Urban Development Politics of Seoul as a Colonial City”, 166; Jung, “Oswald Nagler, HURPI and the Formation of Urban Planning an Design in South Korea”, 589.

[17] Jung, “Oswald Nagler, HURPI and the Formation of Urban Planning an Design in South Korea”, 590.

[18] Hyun Bang Shin, “Living on the edge: financing post-development housing in urban redevelopment projects in Seoul”, Environment and Urbanization 20.2 (2008): 411, 422; Hyun Bang Shin and Soo-Hyun Kim, “The developmental state, speculative urbanization, and the politics of displacement in gentrifying Seoul”, 546-547.

[19] Shin, “Urban Movements and the Genealogy of Urban Rights Discourses: The Case of Urban Protesters and against Redevelopment and Displacement in Seoul, South Korea, 8.

[20] Hyun Bang Shin, “Living on the edge: financing post-development housing in urban redevelopment projects in Seoul”, 553; Hyun Bang Shin and Soo-Hyun Kim, “The developmental state, speculative urbanization, and the politics of displacement in gentrifying Seoul”, 544

Capital on the Congaree: A Bibliography for Columbia, S.C.

By John Sherrer

Columbia, South Carolina was intentionally designed to be a very livable city from its inception. Founded in 1786 as the Palmetto State’s second capital, its location holds both geographic and symbolic meanings. The city’s original two-mile-by-two-mile footprint was set atop a plain overlooking the Congaree River at the state’s fall line, where the waterway ceased to be navigable from the coast. Conveniently, this natural crossroads rested in the middle of the state, a benefit to lawmakers interested in achieving political parity between Lowcounty elites and growing numbers of backcountry citizens.

As with most fledgling towns or cities, Columbia developed at its own pace and in its own style. Early impressions of this upstart capital, as can be imagined, differed. During his May 1791 visit, George Washington recorded it as “. . . an uncleared wood, with very few houses in it, and those all wooden ones . . ..” A few years later, in 1805, Connecticut native Edward Hooker opined, “There is very little verdure in the town; the soil being too dry and sandy to produce grass. Consequently, the streets are very deficient in that life and freshness of appearance which usually prevails in the towns of New England.”

 

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Detail of Mills Atlas of South Carolina, 1825
Columbia’s grid-patterned footprint and relationship to waterways featured prominently in Robert Mills’ survey of Richland District. Historic Columbia collection

 

Further commentators offered their perspectives on the city’s climate . . .

We thought the heat of Philadelphia, New York, and Albany, about this time last year, excessive; but at Columbia its effects in prostrating the strength, and destroying all energy and all capacity for action, was even still greater . . . . I never have suffered so much inconvenience from the heat in Bengal, or any part of India. The soil is extremely sandy, but this contributes much to the healthiness of this place . . .” James Silk Buckingham, 1841

 

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South Carolina College, 1850
Among the handful of drawings and paintings that artist Eugene Dovilliers depicted of Columbia during the 1840s through 1860s is this likeness of what is today known as the “Horseshoe” at the University of South Carolina. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

 

By the time the well-traveled English author rendered his assessment of the capital city, Columbia had evolved for two generations. Its physical growth included the founding of South Carolina College (1801), the construction of notable public and private buildings and the accumulation of great wealth made possible by the slave-based, agricultural economy that permeated all aspects of life in the city, state and region. By the 1830s, Columbia had matured into what its planners had envisioned: a seat of state government and a center of commerce, transportation and education. By the middle of the 19th century, in 1851, Daniel Webster found Columbia to be “one of the handsomest and nicest looking of our little inland cities.”

 

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Columbia circa 1859. German immigrant artist Augustus Grinevald rendered his impression of the capital city shortly before the Civil War. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

 

Shortly thereafter, amid this antebellum grandeur, representatives throughout the state gathered at what is today First Baptist Church, not with worship in their hearts but with secession on their minds. While the Union was dissolved slightly later and farther southeast, in Charleston in December 1860, Columbia’s reputation as the birthplace of secession left an indelible impression upon locals and people from away. A little more than four years later, 1/3 of the city lay in fiery ruins, as the Civil War Columbians helped start had returned to its place of origin. (The blame behind the conflagrations remains a hotly debated topic in some circles.)

 

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Columbia, 1865. The April 1, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly featured a series of panoramic images of Columbia detailing the city’s partial destruction two month earlier. Historic Columbia collection, HCF 2009.3.1

While physical recovery from the war came in fits and starts, a sea change in the social and racial order that had defined the city for its existence arguably brought greater change more rapidly. As the state capital, Columbia was ground zero for many of the opportunities Reconstruction offered people of color, newly enfranchised and freed, and white citizens who had formerly ceded power to planter elites. Visitor Richard M’Ilwaine penned in 1870, “Columbia was a most agreeable place of residence . . . Its broad avenues, lined with two, three, or four rows of stately oaks, gave it an air of delightful repose. Its fine mansions, sometimes occupying a whole square, surrounded by roses, evergreens and other shrubs and trees, added dignity to the scene, while its less pretentious cottages with their broad verandas were pleasing and attractive . . . .”

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Birdseye Map, 1872C. Drie’s Birdseye Map of the City of Columbia, South Carolina, sold for $5 when released in 1872, during the middle of the Reconstruction era. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

This flirtation with a new order proved brief, as Columbia and the remainder of the state slipped back into the antebellum racial status quo with the end of Federal support for Reconstruction’s policies and a re-affirmation of power by former Confederates powerbrokers. “Old South” values underpinned an evolving New South city, an odd coexistence that lasted for the better part of the next century. Paying homage to old traditions, leaders erected monuments to fallen soldiers, aging or dead politicians and to past events for whom meaning was billed as universal, all the while championing the city’s temperate climate, cultural attraction and capable workforce. With these assets in hand, Columbians were poised to build their hometown into a New South city with all the hallmarks of modernity one would expect of such a distinction – large mills, skyscrapers, public transit and fashionable homes.

 

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Columbia, circa 1875
Many advancements made by African Americans during Reconstruction were curtailed during the advent of Jim Crow. Here a child laborer operates an oxcart during the mid-1870s. Historic Columbia collection, HCF 2016.5.1

 

 

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1600 Block of Main Street, circa 1880
Many commercial enterprises established after Main Street’s destruction during the Civil War would operate for decades thereafter. Today, some of the buildings in which these businesses operated are being put to new uses. Image courtesy of Lynn Boyd

 

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Main Street, circa 1895
By the late 19th century, Columbia was in the process of turning itself into a New South City by embracing the hallmarks of modernity. Soon after, the city’s early skyscrapers would pierce the skyline. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

International conflict brought opportunity as Columbians, who once looked askance at Washington leaders, embraced Federal funds that came with the founding in 1917 of Camp Jackson. One of the many World War I cantonment centers established throughout the state, today Fort Jackson ranks as the nation’s largest Army basic training facility. Within the shadows of success lurked deeper issues—educational and health disparities, racial strife and urban decay, all of which were both predicated on and prolonged by Jim Crow laws. In the aftermath of the War to End All Wars, some progressives lobbied for and, to an extent, enjoyed partial improvements to these conditions, but it would not be until the decades following World War II, a period in which Columbia saw extensive growth and redevelopment, that greater change would be realized.

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World War I Victory Parade, April 1919
The establishment of Camp Jackson in 1917 forever altered Columbia geographically, socially and financially. Historic Columbia collection

 

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Powell Residence, circa 1920
Early suburbanization included many remarkable houses, such as the Prairie Style Powell House in Melrose Heights, and more numerous bungalows, cottages and American Four-Square residences. Image courtesy of the Powell family

Like cities throughout the United States, Columbia in the 1950s through early 1970s was forever altered by Urban Renewal, which reduced generations-old inner-city neighborhoods to either memories or a shell of their former selves. In their place came the University of South Carolina, state, local and federal government and new development that paved the way for a new vision of a city enjoying the prosperity longed for during the lean times of the 1930s and war years. Mid-century architecture reshaped how people interacted—how they worked, recreated and lived—in the city and in its second-generation suburbs, which bloated as upper- and middle-income residents sought larger houses on more land. The stakes were high for those whose commute went from a reasonable walk or a short car ride to a prolonged trip downtown. Widening of main thoroughfares and the building of interstates offered some respite while further stimulating sprawl, a story played out elsewhere throughout the country time and time again. Columbia’s commercial vitality migrated from downtown to the ever-increasing number of suburban malls floating in seas of pavement, a trend that would be repeated every decade into the early 21st century.

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Widening of Streets, 1955
Post-World War II infrastructural improvements, implemented to enhance automobile ingress and egress to Columbia, would drastically change the character of many 19th and early 20th century primary roads, including the destruction of buildings, yards and community cohesion. Image courtesy of South Carolina Department of Transportation

 

 

 

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Urban Renewal, circa 1955
During the late 1950s through 1960s, Columbia leaders set their sights on removing downtown poor and working-class neighborhoods through a “Fight Blight” program whose results heavily impacted African American citizens. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

 

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Civil Rights, circa 1963
Like in other southern cities, activists demonstrated along Columbia’s Main Street and at lunch counters during the early 1960s. Today, telling those stories is a central part of the ColumbiaSC63 initiative’s work. Image courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

Concurrent with these larger trends was an appreciation for downtown amenities and a rebirth in interest for older buildings, which had, by the later 1980s, enjoyed a tenuous following. A redefinition of what defined a livable city offered surer footing by the later 1990s and early 2000s, as entrepreneurs, historic preservationists and city planners met success in adapting old buildings to new uses through various incentives. Old department stores, office buildings and textile mills found new life as condominiums or apartments for new urban dwellers—college age through empty nesters—who flock to unique living arrangements. Nearly a generation old, this reinvestment in Columbia has placed the capital city at an interesting crossroad, but one whose paths have been trod, to an extent, by earlier citizens. Revitalization pays great dividends to many while running the risk of displacing long-time owners or tenants. Finding new uses for old places and filling in blank tracts can make for an aesthetically stunning skyline. Meanwhile, such improvement and growth can encourage homogeneity resulting in a monolithic character not in tune with contemporary aspirations for a truly modern city.

 

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1600 Main Street, 1975
The success of suburban malls during the 1960s through 1980s sapped much of Main Street’s commercial vitality, often leaving behind empty buildings that had been reskinned in mid-20th century slipcover facades in the hope of retaining patrons. Image courtesy of Richland Library

With developers and entrepreneurs adapting 19th and early 20th-century buildings to new uses, Columbia’s Main Street has enjoyed a renaissance during the past decade. Today, Columbia is known as “the real southern hotspot,” which speaks to both its storied climate, as well as its burgeoning attractions.

To learn more about how South Carolina’s capital city got to where it is today, consider exploring the following resources that speak to the history of Columbia, either in a general or detailed sense:
Print Resources

Deas-Moore, Vennie. Columbia, South Carolina. Black America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.

Edgar, Walter B. and Deborah K. Woolley. Columbia:  Portrait of a City. Norfolk, VA: The Donning Company, Publishers, 1986.

Nell S. Graydon. Tales of Columbia. Columbia, SC: The R. L. Bryan Company, 1964.

Helsley, Alexia. Lost Columbia: Bygone Images from South Carolina’s Capital. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008.

Hennig, Helen Kohn ed., Columbia: Capital City of South Carolina, 1786-1936. Columbia, SC:  The R.L. Bryan Company, 1936.

Israel, Charles and Elizabeth Durant. Columbia College. The College History Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Jansen, John. Going to Blazes: A 200-Year Illustrated History of the Columbia, South Carolina Fire & Rescue Service, 1804-2004. Evansville, IN: M.T. Publishing Company, Inc., 2005.

Lumpkin, Alva M. Vignettes of Early Columbia and Surroundings. Columbia, SC: The R.L. Bryan Company, 2000.

Maxey, Russell. South Carolina’s Historic Columbia: Yesterday and Today in Photographs. Columbia, SC: The R.L Bryan Company, 1980.

Montgomery, John A. Columbia, SC:  History of a City. Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1979.

Montgomery, Warner M. Eau Claire Memories: A Pictorial History of the Eau Claire  Neighborhood in Columbia, South Carolina, 1890-2000. Columbia, SC: The Columbia Star, 2000.

Montgomery, Warner M. Shandon Memories: A Pictorial History of Shandon, a Neighborhood in Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia, SC: The Columbia Star, 2000.

Moore, John Hammond. Columbia and Richland County: A South Carolina Community, 1740-1990. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Salsi, Lynn Sims. Columbia: History of a Southern Capital. The Making of America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Scott, J. Edwin. Random Recollections of a Long Life, 1806-1876. Columbia, SC: Charles A. Calvo, 1884.

Selby, Julian A. Memorabilia and Anecdotal Reminisces of Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia, SC: The R. L. Bryan Company, 1905. (REPRINTED 1970)

Sennema, David C. and Martha D. Columbia, South Carolina: A Postcard History. Postcard History Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 1997.

Sherrer III, John M. Remembering Columbia. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.

Williams, J. F. Old and New Columbia. Columbia, SC: Epworth Orphanage Press, 1929.

West, Elizabeth Cassidy and Katharine Thompson Allen. On the Horseshoe: A Guide to the Historic Campus of the University of South Carolina. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2015.

Woody, Howard. South Carolina Postcards, Volume V: Richland County. Postcard History Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.

Web Resources

Allison Baker, Jennifer Betsworth, Rebecca Bush, Sarah Conlon, Evan Kutzler, Justin McIntyre, Elizabeth Oswald, Jamie Wilson, and JoAnn Zeise, Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Libraries, 2011).

Historic Columbia, Web-Based Tours of Columbia. (Columbia, SC: Historic Columbia Foundation, 2017).

Richland Library, Russell Maxey Photograph Collection. (Columbia, SC: Richland Library, 2013).

Richland Library, South Carolina Postcards Collection. (Columbia, SC: Richland Library, 2017).

South Carolina State Museum. Standard Federal Photo Collection Columbia, SC 1865-1980. (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Digital Library, 2009).

South Caroliniana Library, John Hensel Photograph Collection. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Libraries, 2008).

South Caroliniana Library, Joseph E. Winter Photograph Collection. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Libraries, 2007).

South Caroliniana Library, View of Columbia, S.C. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Libraries, 2007).

Columbia SC 63. Our Story Matters. (Columbia, SC: Historic Columbia Foundation, 2017).

A Columbia native, John has served Historic Columbia in a variety of curatorial and administrative capacities since 1996. In his current position as Director of Cultural Resources, he recently authored Remembering Columbia, which chronicles South Carolina’s capital city from its earliest years through the late 1970s. Previous museum experience includes stints at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, the National Trust’s Drayton Hall Plantation, Old York Historical Society in York, Maine and Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English and history and a Masters of Arts in English from Clemson University, a Masters in Public History from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in museum management from McKissick Museum. Continuing education has involved a summer program with the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts and a certificate from the Southeastern Museum Conference’s Jekyll Island Management Institute.

“The Cuyahoga will be the place”: A bibliography for over two centuries of Cleveland

“I believe … the Cuyahoga will be the place,” Moses Cleaveland wrote in July of 1796. Working for the Connecticut Land Company, Cleaveland had arrived in Ohio to survey the land and plot it for settlement. Cleveland, he believed, would be well situated for future success. “It must command the greatest communication either by land or Water of an River on the purchase or in any ceded lands from the head of the Mohawk to the western extent or I am no prophet,” he wrote to his superiors.[1] Others viewed the potential hamlet more problematically. “Cleveland has a Thousand Charms but I am deterred from pitching on that place by the Sickness, the poorness of the Soil, and the inhabitants under the hill,” wrote Gideon Granger in 1804. Needless to say, Granger’s views suggested changes needed to be made.[2]

Transformation occurred. Due in part to the kind of physical alteration of the environment that made its larger counterpart Chicago famous, “the Sickness” that Granger noted was afflicting residents eventually dissipated. Engineers opened new channels that more directly connected to Lake Erie; the Cuyahoga River’s swift current eliminated sandbars that had previously prevented larger ships from accessing the lake. It also eliminated “the miasmic swamps from the mouth,” thereby bringing greater health to inhabitants.[3]

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Cleveland and Toledo Rail-Road 1856, G. F. Thomas & Co., Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

With other transportation improvements such as the completion of the Erie and Ohio Canals and the introduction of the railroad, Cleveland boomed. The city evolved from hamlet to “commercial village and city [to] industrial city, and [to] post industrial city,” as historians Carol Poh Miller and Robert A. Wheeler summarize in their short history of the metropolis. Though it lay it in what was then considered the American West, planners and leaders attempted to construct the city on the model of the New England town.[4] It would not stay that way.

Canal building and railroad construction enabled the city to establish itself as a commercial center; circumstances did not remain static. First the “west” moved; in 1825 Cleveland could lay claim to frontier status, but by 1845 that frontier had moved 1,000 miles further west. Second, demographics shifted. If its population consisted primarily of the native born in 1825, two decades later half of the city’s residents had been born abroad. Third, the disinterested gentlemen politicians of 1825, serving only for the “public good” had, twenty years on, become machine hacks as ”party politics” determined most elections.[5]

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Birds eye view of Cleveland, Ohio 1877, Ruger, A., J.J. Stoner and Shober & Carqueville, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the city had emerged as a regional economic force. Cleveland shed its provincialism and its political and civic leaders engaged in national debate particularly in regards to slavery and abolitionism. Industry soon flourished; its police and fire departments formed in the 1860s. Having emerged as a center of abolitionism, the city threw its support behind Lincoln and, after secession, the Union. European immigrants poured into the city. In its early years the city housed mostly new arrivals from Ireland and German, but with the onset of industrialization it welcomed Italians, Slavics, Greeks, Hungarians and other immigrants. Hoping to escape discrimination in Europe, Jews also arrived in large numbers. Roughly 3,500 resided in Cleveland by 1880, and within 40 years the number climbed to 75,000, making Jews nearly 10% of the overall population.[6] In 1890, 37 percent of its population had been born in Europe, but even more telling, three quarters of the city were either born abroad or the progeny of parents who were immigrants.[7]

Jewish Americans would be critical to the city’s wellbeing in the coming decades particularly as the black population swelled and pressures resulting from segregation and structural racism in the housing market bulged. In moments, Jewish homeowners resisted African American attempts to purchase homes in Cleveland neighborhoods; at other times, they worked to reduce tensions between the two groups as communities slowly integrated. An odd amalgam of self interest, altruism, and fear over alleged declining home values shaped responses. “[I]n Cleveland, ethnic and religious divisions shaped divergent responses and decisions,” historian Todd Michney points out. “Whites of different backgrounds reacted more or less disconcertedly, some departing sooner and others later, with patterns hardly resembling unanimity.”[8] Still, on average, when compared with their Catholic white ethnic counterparts in the city, Jewish Clevelanders demonstrated greater flexibility and understanding in relation to housing integration.

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Bathing beach and pavilion, Gordon Park, 1917, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Admittedly, for much of the nineteenth century, African Americans made up a small percentage of the city’s population. Serving as a guide, navigator, and interpreter, Joseph Hodge (aka Black Joe) had been an important contributor to Moses Cleveland’s initial founding of the future metropolis in 1796, but the state’s Black Laws, which essentially discouraged black settlement in Ohio, and the practice of slavery south of the state’s borders, more generally helped keep these numbers low.[9]

It was not until World War I and the Great Migration that residents would witness an increase in the city’s African American population. With immigration at a standstill, “Cleveland’s industrialists turned to the ready supply of black labor in the South,” historian Russell H. Davis pointed out in 1972. The great flow of labor north brought the quotidian, the remarkable, and everything in between. For example, James Cleveland Owens, named after the city his parents viewed as “the promised land,” arrived in the Ohio metropolis during the 1920s. During his first day of school he took on the name that he would later make famous. Unable to fully understand Owens due to his southern accent, his teacher mistook his nickname of J.C. for Jesse. His teachers “from that day forward, called him Jesse instead. So did everyone else in this new world he was in,” writes Isabel Wilkerson in her Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Warmth of Other Suns.[10]

Jesse Owens needs little introduction, of course , but rather embodies Cleveland as a site of opportunity, both shaping and shaped by new arrivals. The growth of the black population continued through and after World War II. Most settled on the city’s east side which would be “the principle place of residence” for Black Cleveland for much of the twentieth century.[11] Though limited by segregation, as Michney argues in his recently published work, Surrogate Suburbs, Cleveland’s black working and middle classes “dynamically and creatively engaged with space at the urban periphery” and transformed communities into critical centers of black economic, social, and political life.[12] This influence exceeded local neighborhoods, labor, and demographics. In 1967, Carl B. Stokes triumphed in the mayoral contest becoming the first black mayor of a major U.S. metropolis.

World War II drove Cleveland to further economic and demographic heights. In 1950 the city reached nearly 1,000,000 residents with almost 150,000 of that figure accounting for black Clevelanders. Unfortunately, like other rust belt counterparts such as Pittsburgh or Detroit, the fall came soon after. In ensuing decades, the usual story of decline and deindustrialization unfolded, yet its history, while similar to its sister rust belt metropolises, proved unique. As Mark Souther notes in his forthcoming work Believing in Cleveland, it did not “endure collapse as stultifying as that in Detroit”; it lacked the kind of global connections and vastness of the Windy City or the tourist friendly James Rouse revisionist reboot of Charm City. Pittsburgh, perhaps its closest relative, found ways to rebuild successfully upon the dual industries of “eds-and-meds” and cutting edge robotics and medical technology (though Patrick Vitale’s arguments to the contrary are noted).[13] Cleveland, arguably the most understudied of these examples, went its own way.

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Jewish Temple, Cleveland, O[hio], 1900, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
For example, in the area of race relations and housing, though it witnessed its own tensions and occasional violence, it never endured the kind of unrest and bloodshed that defined other cities. Cleveland “did not experience anything remotely approaching the sustained and highly organized violence mounted by white residents in … Chicago and Detroit”, writes Michney.[14] White ethnics in Cleveland, particularly its Jewish residents, might have been uncomfortable with neighborhood transitions, but they never resorted to the kind of brutality that defined the era, and many even tried to work with community groups in order to blunt population changes or enable them to occur more efficiently.

Urban historians have spent decades peeling back the layers of rust belt ascension–decline–ascension narratives. In addition to groundbreaking work like Tom Sugrue’s The Origin of the Urban Crisis which established a new template for discussions of urban America, a newer cohort of scholars like Tracy Neumann, the aforementioned Vitale, Michney, and Souther, Elihu Rubin, Andrew K. Sandoval Strausz, Chloe Taft and others have been reworking the rise-and-fall narratives by intellectually sauntering down previously ignored avenues of exploration. In particular, Michney and Souther seek to place Cleveland, with some exceptions, into this discussion. “Like many cities across the Great Lakes region,” writes Souther, “Cleveland was a city whose leaders faced broad challenges that forced them to manage its decline or, perhaps more accurately, to manage perception of metropolitan transformations that produced spatially differentiated outcomes – winners and losers.”[15]

Even if rise and fall narratives obscure important realities, few would argue that by the 1970s Cleveland could use some improvements. In a fifteen-year period from 1958 to 1973, the city lost 50,000 manufacturing jobs. Schools struggled, neighborhoods faced declining infrastructure, and air pollution soared. While some African Americans found purchase in the suburbs, most remained relegated to struggling communities in the inner city that ultimately served as a “repository for the metropolitan area’s worst socioeconomic hardships,” Souther argued in a recent article.

“The Best Location in the Nation” (1940s), “The Best Things in Life are Here” (1970s), “Comeback City” (1990s), and “Believe in Cleveland” (2000s) serve as only a few taglines among countless others that were meant to sell post-World War II Cleveland to the nation. “New York might be the Big Apple, but Cleveland is a plum,” the Cleveland New Dealer once asserted.[16] Unfortunately, no degree of semantics could alter opinions held by even local residents. “Anyone dumb enough to believe that ‘the best things in life are right here in Cleveland deserves to breathe Cleveland’s air and live in Cleveland’s filth,” wrote one disbelieving Shaker Heights resident. “Cleveland is a rotting corpse clothed in a hazy, blue gray shroud. Cute songs and slogans won’t fix it. You fix a trash heap by cleaning it up. You start with the air and work your way down period.”

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2010, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Today, disgruntled Clevelanders of the past aside, it would seem such attempts to renew interest in the metropolis are unnecessary; the city has shed the image of the “mistake on the lake,” when the Cuyahoga River caught fire from pollution. Pop culture overflows with references to the city. The soap opera that is the relationship between Lebron James and the Cavaliers has transfixed the nation for over a decade and arguably boosted the NBA to new heights of popularity. ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “Believeland” laid out the angst of the city’s erstwhile sports fan for all to see; only to be improbably redeemed by James and the Cavaliers the same year. Tina Fey’s Thirty Rock dedicated an entire episode to the city’s undeniable if unexciting pleasantness; the film Trainwreck gently teased it for the same. It even gets a mention on the latest album, Sleep Well Beast, by Ohio’s most famous aging hipster rock band, the National: “Young mothers love me / Even ghosts of girlfriends call from Cleveland / They will meet me anytime, anywhere.”

Whether or not our bibliography for Cleveland fully explains how the city came to its current incarnation remains to be seen. We do hope that it piques interest in a rust belt city that has persevered through two centuries of existence. Beyond trite slogans, 1990s sitcoms (Drew Carey, we are looking at you), or museums dedicated to dying art forms (we kid, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Millenials love dinosauresque four-piece garage bands … ), the city of “progress and prosperity” soldiers on in ways 1970s resident might never have predicted. Perhaps, Mr. Carey, Cleveland does rock.

As always, we know the list has flaws but hope that readers will use the comments section to help us fill in the blanks. Special thanks to J. Mark Souther (especially herculean in his efforts), Todd Michney, and Nichole Nelson for their help in creating the bibliography.

Photo at top of the page: Dusk-time view of the Cleveland Museum of Art from Wade Lagoon in ClevelandDusk-time view of the Cleveland Museum of Art from Wade Lagoon in Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2016, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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Overview, southeast, Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio, Carol M. Highsmith, 2016, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Books

Campbell, Thomas F., and Edward M. Miggins, eds. The Birth of Modern Cleveland, 1865-
1930
. Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1988.

Cigliano, Jan. Showplace of America: Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue, 1850-1910. Kent, OH: Kent
State University Press, 1991.

Davis, Russell H. Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969. Cleveland: Associated Publishers, 1972.

Hammack, David C., Diane L. Grabowski, and John J. Grabowski, eds. Identity, Conflict,                and Cooperation: Central Europeans in Cleveland, 1850-1930. Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 2002.

Harwood, Herbert H., Jr. Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

Howe, Frederic C. The Confessions of a Reformer. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press,
1988.

Keating, W. Dennis. The Suburban Racial Dilemma: Housing and Neighborhoods.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

Keating, W. Dennis, Norman Krumholz, and David C. Perry, eds. Cleveland: A Metropolitan Reader. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995.

Kerr, Daniel R. Derelict Paradise: Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

Kusmer, Kenneth L. A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1978.

Michney, Todd M. Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in
Cleveland, 1900-1980.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Miller, Carol Poh, and Robert Wheeler. Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796-1996. 2nd ed.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Moore, Leonard N. Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 2002.

Pekar, Harvey, and Joseph Remnant. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. Scarsdale, NY: Zip Comics,
2012.

Phillips, Kimberley L. AlabamaNorth: African-American Migrants, Community, and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, 1915-1945. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Souther, J. Mark. Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the
Nation.”
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017.

Stokes, Carl B. Promises of Power: A Political Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster,
1973.

Stradling, David, and Richard Stradling. Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015.

Swanstrom, Todd. The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of
Urban Populism
. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985.

Tittle, Diana. Rebuilding Cleveland: The Cleveland Foundation and Its Evolving Urban
Strategy
. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Toman, James A., and Blaine S. Hayes. Horse Trails to Regional Rails: The Story of Public
Transit in Greater Cleveland
. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996.

Vacha, John. Meet Me on Lake Erie, Dearie!: Cleveland’s Great Lakes Exposition, 1936-1937.
Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2010.

Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. Cleveland: A Tradition of Reform. Kent,
OH: Kent State University Press, 1986.

Wiese, Andrew. Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth
Century
. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

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Jimmy Carter at a street rally during a campaign stop in Cleveland, Ohio, Thomas J. O’Halloran, September 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Articles

Borchert, James, and Susan Borchert. Downtown, Uptown, Out of Town: Diverging Patterns of Upper-Class Residential Landscapes in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, 1885-1935. Social Science History 26, no. 2(2002): 311-346.

Jenkins, William D. “Before Downtown: Cleveland, Ohio, and Urban Renewal, 1949-1958.”
Journal of Urban History 27, no. 4 (May 2001): 471-496.

Michney, Todd M. “Race, Violence, and Urban Territoriality: Cleveland’s Little Italy and the 1966 Hough Uprising.” Journal of Urban History 32, no. 3 (March 2006): 404-428.

Michney, “Constrained Communities: Black Cleveland’s Experience with World War II Public Housing,” Journal of Social History 40 (Summer 2007): 933-956

Michney, Todd M. “White Civic Visions Versus Black Suburban Aspirations: Cleveland’s
Garden Valley Urban Renewal Project.” Journal of Planning History 10, no. 4 (November 2011): 282-309.

Souther, J. Mark. “A $35 Million ‘Hole in the Ground’: Metropolitan Fragmentation and
Cleveland’s Unbuilt Downtown Subway.” Journal of Planning History 14, no. 3 (August 2015): 179-203.

Souther, J. Mark. “Acropolis of the Middle-West: Decay, Renewal, and Boosterism in
Cleveland’s University Circle.” Journal of Planning History 10, no. 1 (February 2011): 30-58.

Stradling, David, and Richard Stradling. “Perceptions of the Burning River: Deindustrialization and Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River.” Environmental History 13, no. 3 (July 2008): 515-35.

Tebeau, Mark. “Sculpted Landscapes: Art & Place in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, 1916-
2006.” Journal of Social History 44, no. 2 (winter 2010): 327-50.

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Cleveland, Ohio, aerial view, Thomas J. O’Halloran, September 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Online Resources

Cleveland Historical. https://clevelandhistorical.org. A website and mobile app that puts
Cleveland history at your fingertips. Developed by the Center for Public History +
Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University.

Cleveland Memory Project. http://clevelandmemory.org. An online collection of digital photos, historical texts, oral histories, videos, and other local history resources. Developed by the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University.

Cleveland Voices. https://clevelandvoices.org. An online streaming-audio collection of
approximately 1,000 interviews conducted since 2002 as part of the Cleveland Regional
Oral History Collection, a project of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
at Cleveland State University.

 Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. http://ech.case.edu. Originally published in 1987 by Indiana University Press and now online, the ECH is edited by Case Western Reserve University historian John J. Grabowski, contains more than 3,000 entries about all aspects of Cleveland history.

 

[1] Carol Poh Miller and Robert A. Wheeler, Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796 – 1996, (Indiana University Press, 1997), 9.

[2] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 17.

[3] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 33.

[4] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 32-34, xiv.

[5] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 31.

[6] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 102-103.

[7] Miller and Wheeler, Cleveland, 82-83.

[8] Todd Michney, Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980, (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 10.

[9] Russell H. Davis, Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969, (Associated Publishers, 1972), 5.

[10] Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, (Random House, 2010) 265-266.

[11] Russell H. Davis, Black Americans in Cleveland: From George Peake to Carl B. Stokes, 1796-1969, (Associated Publishers, 1972), 127-128.

[12] Todd Michney, Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980, (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 3.

[13] J. Mark Souther, Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in ‘The Best Location in the Nation’, (Temple University Press, 2017), 4.

[14] Michney, Surrogate Suburbs, 9.

[15] Souther, Believing in Cleveland, 11.

[16] Souther, Believing in Cleveland, 2.

Culture, Commerce, and History in Ho Chi Minh City: A Bibliography of Vietnam’s Cultural Capital

For fans of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, Ho Chi Minh City is a familiar place. Both men have recorded numerous episodes for various television series over the years dedicated to the urban alchemy of HCMC. They laud its cuisine, marvel at its energy, and generally wallow in the boulevards and alleyways of Vietnam’s commercial and cultural capital. Obviously, such visions of HCMC oversimplify the city’s (and the nation’s) existence. After all, Vietnam itself is “neither wholly Eastern nor Southeast Asian,” as one scholar of the city argues; it cannot be considered fully socialist or capitalist, and instead it follows the vague government directive of a “market economy with a socialist direction.”[1] It is exactly this kind of in-between space, this navigation of identities, economies and politics beyond binaries that help one to understand this burgeoning Southeast Asian metropolis.

Late nineteenth and early twentieth century European tourists sometimes breathlessly described the city as the “Venice of Asia”; French colonists dubbed it “Little Paris.”[2] Subject to imperial rule throughout their history, the Vietnamese people held tightly to their own identity while absorbing aspects of its occupiers—China, Japan, France and the U.S. HCMC encapsulates this tension; it didn’t officially become designated as Ho Chi Minh City until 1976, but existed as two cities divided by the Saigon River, Saigon in the East and Cholon in the West.

By the late nineteenth century, Saigon represented the efforts of French colonizers intent on communicating to the world the grandeur of its Haussmanesque urban planning, the strength of its empire, and the “rationality of its modern bureaucracy,” notes Annette Mae Kim.[3] Defined by its grid plan, roundabouts, and grand boulevards, Saigon would later be designated the French colonial administrative center in 1931. During colonization much of its population consisted of Western and Vietnamese elites or Vietnamese working for the colonial French government. Unless they worked in the service sector for colonists, Chinese and Vietnamese residents were prohibited from living in French neighborhoods.[4]

HCMC’s Chinese population lived largely in Cholon, while Vietnamese largely resided in areas peripheral to both Saigon and Cholon. Between the late 1700s and mid-1800s, Saigon fell into disuse and sometimes into outright disrepair. At the same time, Cholon experienced steady growth, but did so based on a widespread Southeast China model. “Each community centered around a temple that also housed its association,” Kim points out. “Buildings lined streets that were oriented to access the canals built for transportation and trading …marked by narrow, curved roads toward the river …”[5]

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[Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson standing among group of Vietnamese soldiers and Americans during a visit to Saigon, South Vietnam], Thomas O’Halloran, May 12, 1962, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Cholon’s merchants, of mostly Chinese and Vietnamese descent, operated as middlemen, “hard driving bargainers” and conduits between the “disparate” worlds of Southeast Asian trade routes, western colonialism, and the dizzying diversity that each brought to the region.[6] Southeast Asian sensibilities, notably what Tana Li describes as HCMC’s place at the frontier of Vietnam’s southern borders, inculcated in residents a certain independence that enabled them to cling less tightly to traditional bonds between state and society. The earlier Nguyen rulers of South Vietnam in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries differed from the Trinh in the North. Through trade and openness to culture, the South defined “new way[s] of being Vietnamese.”[7] By the late 1880s, this diversity and emphasis on trade visibly demarcated Cholon from its neighbor Saigon. “As truly as Saigon is transplanted France, Cho’lon three miles away is transplanted China. With something over two hundred thousand inhabitants, Cho’lon is more than twice as large as its French neighbor,” one observer noted. It exuded modernity in its blazing electric signs above its shops and trams and motorcars that sped along its paved streets.

During the 1920s, Vietnamese anticolonialism took root in HCMC. In the interwar period, pro-independence movements and class consciousness gained greater footing among the city’s poor, yet the Vietnamese could not occupy Saigon more fully until the 1954 Geneva Conference.[8]

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[Group of ten workers posed by palm trees, Saigon, South Vietnam], between 1890 and 1920, Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
For much of its history, HCMC’s place as a trading center made it a site for migrants and refugees. This proved especially true in the 1950s as tensions with the North increased the flow of refugees to the city. The areas between Cholon and Saigon bulged with new arrivals from the north. South Vietnam’s turn toward market-based capitalism, supported by the United States, brought new economic opportunities to HCMC and in turn drew more migrants and refugees as well.[9]

American forces ushered in a thriving urban economy that benefitted some Cholon residents, though some observers bemoaned the changes that had undertaken the city by the late 1960s. “The good old days of Saigon are gone forever. The famous tree lined boulevards of Saigon have been widened to provide maneuvering room for the trucks, jeeps, and Hondas that are crowding out the Cyclos these days,” writer Dick Adair reflected in 1971. The threat of war and air conditioning kept people inside. “Gone is the simple pleasure of sitting quietly and gazing at the passing scene while sipping a refreshing drink,” Adair wrote.[10]

Often missing from accounts are the voices of the Vietnamese. The Vietnam War made a generation of American writers famous: David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Tim O’Brien among others. Ho Chi Minh City often served as their headquarters abroad as they wrote dispatches to Americans back home. Graham Greene’s The Quiet American casts a large shadow, and the many American films made about Vietnam in the 1980s and 1990s arguably eclipses these examples combined. In all these examples, the viewpoint of the Vietnamese is marginal at best. Even urban histories often ignore the majority of Vietnamese residents in HCMC, since many as noted lived just outside Saigon and Cholon, divided between the peripheries of both cities. Still, emigration from HCMC has helped to shape modern American demographics and urban life in places like Orange County, California and Northern Virginia, a topic we will visit this month at the The Metropole.

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Little Saigon, Westminster, Orange County. Photo: A Culinary (Photo) Journal/Flickr/Creative Commons

 

With hostilities ended and a communist government asserting itself across a newly unified Vietnam, HCMC fell into economic isolation. Though long at the center of international trade routes, “Saigon literally vanished form the Southeast Asian mercantile orbit in the space of five years,” notes Eric Tagliacozzo. Hanoi’s ideological dedication to communism shrunk HCMC’s economy such that when Western observers returned to the city many recoiled at the levels to which the standard of living had plummeted. “[P]eople had begun to live on next to nothing,” Tagliacozzo writes.[11]

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[Group of children, with baskets, posed under palm tree, Saigon, South Vietnam], between 1890 and 1920, Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Judging from the Bourdains and Zimmerns of the world, HCMC is currently experiencing an economic and cultural renaissance. However, like many cities in the developing world, the traditional dichotomy between urban and rural does not fully capture its sprawling nature. Take Hoc Mon, an often, ignored peri-urban district on the edge of the city that serves as the focus of Erik Harms’s study on modern day HCMC. “There are no Vietnamese poems about Hoc Mon, which is littered with construction materials, marked by the ‘creative destruction’ of global industrial expansion and unbridled urbanization,” argues Harms. A product of the postcolonial world order and a totalizing global capitalism, Hoc Mon embodies the exciting but troubling growth of urban areas like HCMC. “Poverty is not beautiful, and the landscape it produces smashes ideal categories against the concrete realities of lived life,” Harms cautions.[12] At once, Hoc Mon raises questions about socialist utopias, the promise of capitalism to lift all boats, and the divide between our conceptions of the inner and outer city.

Yet, do not count Hoc Mon natives out, Harms asserts, for in their social and economic lives they exhibit a certain “social edginess” rather than marginality; they are not simply vessels on the ocean, but active participants. “Sometimes people actively edge their way into opportunities created by their position on the urban fringe,” he suggests, “at other times they are edged out by processes beyond their control.”[13]

 In the end, HCMC offers a fascinating, complex insight into modern metropoles. For over two decades urban historians have sought to dissolve the overly simplistic lines dividing the urban, suburban, and rural, and Ho Chi Minh City seems to be doing this not only theory, but in practice. In many ways, it seems to have been doing so for much of its complicated existence.

As per usual, the bibliography we have provided is far from comprehensive and really serves as a means for readers to get their feet wet. We welcome additions to the bibliography in the comments section below. Thanks to Scott Laderman for his help with getting us started on HCMC.

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Cholon Chinatown, Ho Chi Minh City, Katina Rogers photographer, April 2011

Ho Chi Minh City Bibliography

Saigon: Mistress of the Mekong, Ed. Anastasia Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2003).

Peter Arnett, Saigon Has Fallen (Rosetta Books, 2015) – Questia review

Jennifer W. Dickey, “Review: Reunification Palace,” The Public Historian 33 no. 2 (Spring 2011): 152-162.

Suhong Chae, “Contemporary Ho Chi Minh City in Numerous Contradictions: Reform Policy, Foreign Capital and the Working Class,” in Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World, Ed. Jane Schneider and Ida Susser (Berg, 2003), 227-248 – Questia review

Haydon Leslie Cherry, Down and Out in Saigon: A Social History of the Poor in a Colonial City, 1860-1940. PhD disseration, Yale University, New Haven, 2011.

Michael Dolinski, “Identity Changes of the Chinese Community in Vietnam: A Survey of 20 Families in Cholon,” Asia Pacific Forum 26, (December, 2004): 192-208.

Lisa Drummond, “Street Scenes: Practices of Public and Private Space in Urban Vietnam,” Urban Studies 37.12 (2000): 2377-2391.

Lisa Drummond and Mandy Thomas, Eds. Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam (Routledge Curzon, 2003).

Catherine Earl, “Vietnam’s ‘Informal Public’ Spaces: Belonging and Social Distance in Post-Reform Ho Chi Minh City,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5.1 (2010): 86-124.

Donald B. Freeman, “Doi Moi Policy and the Small Enterprise Boom in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,” Geographical Review 86.2 (1996): 178-197.

Martin Gainsborough, Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City (Routledge, 2003).

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War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Ryan Reft Photographer, December 2014

Jamie Gillen, “Tourism and Nation Building at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104 no. 6 (2014).

Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam (University of California Press, 1993) – very short NYT review

Elena Givental, “Ho Chi Minh City: Contested Public and Private Space in the Vietnamese Metropolis,” Focus on Geography 56 no. 1 (2013): 32-44.

Eric Harms, Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City, (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) – Part of JUH review essay

Eric Harms, “The Boss: Conspicuous Invisibility in Ho Chi Minh City,” City and Society 25.2: 195-215.

Gregg Huff and Luis Angeles, “Globalization, Industrialization and Urbanization in Pre-World War II Southeast Asia,” Explorations in Economic History 48 (2011): 20–36.

Du Huynh, “The Misuse of Urban Planning in Ho Chi Minh City,” Habitat International 48 (2015): 11-19.

Annette Mae Kim, Learning to be Capitalists: Entrepreneurs in Vietnam’s Transition Economy (Oxford University Press; 2008) – Economic Development and Change review

Annette Mae Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Chicago Press, 2015) – Asian Pacific Studies review (via Project Muse)

Priscilla Koh, “You Can Come Home Again: Narratives of Home and Belonging among Second-Generation Viet Kieu in Vietnam,” Sojourn: Journal o f Social Issues in Southeast Asia 30 no. 1 (2015): 173-214.

Scott Laderman, Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory, (Duke University Press, 2008) – Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia review (via Project Muse)

Tana Li, “An Alternative Vietnam? The Nguyen Kingdom in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 29.1 (1998): 111 – 121.

Tana Li, Nguyen Cochinchina: Southern Vietnam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Cornell University Press, 1998) – H-Net review

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Fruits and Juices, Ho Chi Minh City, Katina Rogers, April 2011, via Creative Commons

Hy Van Loung, Urbanization, Migration, and Poverty in a Vietnamese Metropolis: Ho Chi Minh City in Comparative Perspectives (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2009) – Journal of Vietnam Studies review (via JSTOR)

A.T. McGee, The Southeast Asian City: A Social Geography of the Primate Cities of Southeast Asia (G. Bell and Sons, 1967).

Kein Nguyen, The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood (Back Bay Books, 2002).

Andrew X. Pham, Catfish and Mandala: A Two Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam (Picador, 2000) – Very brief NYT times review

Gontran De Poncins, From a Chinese City: In the Heart of Peacetime Vietnam (Trackless Sands Pr. Inc, 1991) – Journal of Southeast Asian Studies review

Srilata Ravi, “Modernity, Imperialism and the Pleasures of Travel: The Continental Hotel in Saigon,” Asian Studies Review 32 no. 4 (2008): 475-490.

Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450 – 1680 (Yale University Press, 1990) – Journal of Sociology review (via Sage)

Anthony Reid, “The Structure of Cities in Southeast Asia, 15th – 17th Centuries,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 11 (1980): 235 -250.

Jonathan Rigg, Southeast Asia: The Human Landscape of Modernization and Development (Routledge, 1997) – Contemporary Southeast Asia review (via JSTOR)

Eric Tagliacozzo, “An Urban Ocean: Notes on the Historical Evolution of Coastal Cities in Greater Southeast Asia,” Journal of Urban History 33.6 (September 2007): 911- 932.

Phillip Taylor, Fragments of the Present: Searching for Modernity in Vietnam’s South (University of Hawaii Press, 2001).

Nigel Thrift and Dean Forbes, The Price of War: Urbanization in Vietnam: 1954 – 1985 (Allen and Unwin, 1986).

Allison J. Truitt, Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Washington Press, 2013) – Popanth review

William S. Turley, “Urban Transformation in South Vietnam,” Pacific Affairs 49.4 (Winter 1976): 607-24.

E.S. Ungar, “The Struggle over the Chinese Community in Vietnam, 1946-1986,” Pacific Affairs, 60.4: 596-614.

Nghia M. Vo, Saigon: A History (McFarland, 2011).

Michael Waibel, “The Production of Urban Space in Vietnam’s Metropolis in the Court of Transition: Internatnalization, Polarization, and Newly Emerging Lifestyles in Vietnamese Society,” Trialog 89.2 (2006): 43-58.

Michael Waibel, Ronald Eckert, Micheal Bose, and Volker Martin, “Housing for Low Income Groups in Ho Chi Minh City: Between Reintegration and Fragmentation,” ASIEN 103 No. April (2007): 59-78.

Johannes Widodo, The Boat and the City: Chinese Diaspora and the Architecture of Southeast Asian Coastal Cities (Marshall Cavendish, 2004).

Michael C. Williams, Vietnam at the Crossroads (Pinter, 1992) – Foreign Affairs review

Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Fiction

Graham Greene, The Quiet American (Penguin Books, 2002).

Duong Thu Hong, Paradise of the Blind: A Novel (New York: Harper Collins, 2002) – very short EW review

Ma Van Kang, Against the Flood: Voices from Vietnam (Curbstone Books, 2003).

Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996) – Independent review

Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer: A Novel (Grove Press, 2016) – NYT review

 

[1] Erik Harms, Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 4.

[2] Eric Tagliacozzo, “An Urban Ocean: Notes on the Historical Evolution of Coastal Cities in Greater Southeast Asia,” Journal of Urban History 33.6 (September 2007): 923; Annette Mae Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Chicago Press, 2015), 45.

[3] Annette Mae Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Chicago Press, 2015), 38.

[4] Kim, Sidewalk City, 41.

[5] Kim, Sidewalk City, 35.

[6] Tagliacozzo, “An Urban Ocean,” 923.

[7] Tana Li, “An Alternative Vietnam? The Nguyen Kingdom in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 29.1 (1998): 111 – 121; Tana Li, Nguyen Cochinchina: Southern Vietnam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Cornell University Press, 1998), 59, 119.

[8] Kim, Sidewalk City, 48.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 49.

[11] Tagliacozzo, “An Urban Ocean,” 922.

[12] Erik Harms, Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 3.

[13] Harms, Saigon’s Edge, 4.