Lecture 5. The Anti-Black Roots of Urban Planning and the Social Planning Response, 1880-1930

This lecture examines issues of power and place through the prism of race in urban and rural cultural landscapes, primarily between 1880-1930. From the Reconstruction Era through the beginning of the Depression, the United States saw unprecedented demographic shifts which caused new questions about race, place, and identity to emerge in planning. Students of this period in architecture and planning might ask if a gendered, racial, or class-based approach to planning originated during this time. What are the major civil unrests, wars, social inequalities that shape the conditions of cities, necessitating these “resistant” and identity oriented approaches to planning and shaping cultural landscapes? What is planning’s role in addressing or exacerbating these conditions in the built environment? This lecture explicitly highlights the ways that zoning, world’s fairs, and racial violence reinforced the centrality of race and social control in planning from the field’s inception. Of particular concern in this lecture, is how anti-blackness shaped African American settlement patterns and approaches to placemaking in rural and urban contexts. The approaches and sites discussed include the development of intentional free Black communities in Texas in rural and urban areas as well as the rise of zoning and social control measures to restrict black community building and placemaking. By highlighting the historical roots of anti-blackness in planning, students will understand the development of the dynamic tension between planning and democracy, the various responses that have been proposed, and planning failures and successes faced today.

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