The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

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Overview

Once America's "arsenal of democracy," Detroit over the last fifty years has become the symbol of the American urban crisis. In this reappraisal of racial and economic inequality in modern America, Thomas Sugrue explains how Detroit and many other once prosperous industrial cities have become the sites of persistent racialized poverty. He challenges the conventional wisdom that urban decline is the product of the social programs and racial fissures of the 1960s. Probing beneath the veneer of 1950s prosperity and social consensus, Sugrue traces the rise of a new ghetto, solidified by changes in the urban economy and labor market and by racial and class segregation.

In this provocative revision of postwar American history, Sugrue finds cities already fiercely divided by race and devastated by the exodus of industries. He focuses on urban neighborhoods, where white working-class homeowners mobilized to prevent integration as blacks tried to move out of the crumbling and overcrowded inner city. Weaving together the history of workplaces, unions, civil rights groups, political organizations, and real estate agencies, Sugrue finds the roots of today's urban poverty in a hidden history of racial violence, discrimination, and deindustrialization that reshaped the American urban landscape after World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 1998 Bancroft Prize in American History

Winner of the 1997 Philip Taft Prize in Labor History

Winner of the 1996 President's Book Award, Social Science History Association

Winner of the 1997 Best Book in North American Urban History Award, Urban History Association

One of Choice's Outstanding AcademicTitles for 1997

"In this important new history of post-World War II Detroit, Sugrue solidly refutes conservative theories about welfare dependency and deepens liberal thinking about the underlying causes of urban poverty."—Jim McNeil, In These Times

"[A] first-rate account. . . . With insight and elegance, Sugrue describes the street-by-street warfare to maintain housing values against the perceived encroachment of blacks trying desperately to escape the underbuilt and overcrowded slums."—Choice

"Perhaps by offering a clearer picture of how the urban crisis began, Sugrue brings us a little closer to finding a way to end it."—Jim McNeill, In These Times

Bruce Nelson
[Sugrue's] disciplined historical engagement with a complex, often in glorious, past offers a compelling model for understanding how race and the Rust Belt converged to create the current impasse. -- America Magazine
Choice
Praise for Princeton's previous edition: "With insight and elegance, Sugrue describes the street-by-street warfare to maintain housing values against the perceived encroachment of blacks trying desperately to escape the underbuilt and overcrowded slums.
America
Praise for Princeton's previous edition: [Sugrue's] disciplined historical engagement with a complex, often inglorious, past offers a compelling model for understanding how race and the Rust Belt converged to create the current impasse.
Labor History
Praise for Princeton's previous edition: A splendid book that does no less than transform our understanding of United States history after 1940.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691058887
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/13/1998
  • Series: Princeton Studies in American Politics
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 7.64 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas J. Sugrue is the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of "Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race" (Princeton) and "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North."

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction 3
Pt. 1 Arsenal 15
1 "Arsenal of Democracy" 17
2 "Detroit's Time Bomb": Race and Housing in the 1940s 33
3 "The Coffin of Peace": The Containment of Public Housing 57
Pt. 2 Rust 89
4 "The Meanest and the Dirtiest Jobs": The Structures of Employment Discrimination 91
5 "The Damning Mark of False Prosperities": The Deindustrialization of Detroit 125
6 "Forget about Your Inalienable Right to Work": Responses to Industrial Decline and Discrimination 153
Pt. 3 Fire 179
7 Class, Status, and Residence: The Changing Geography of Black Detroit 181
8 "Homeowners' Rights": White Resistance and the Rise of Antiliberalism 209
9 "United Communities Are Impregnable": Violence and the Color Line 231
Conclusion. Crisis: Detroit and the Fate of Postindustrial America 259
App. A Index of Dissimilarity, Blacks and Whites in Major American Cities, 1940-1990 273
App. B African American Occupational Structure in Detroit, 1940-1970 275
List of Abbreviations in the Notes 279
Notes 281
Index 365
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