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urban history



  • Bronx Fire Shows the Perils and Politics of Home Heating

    by Rebecca Wright

    Landlords and tenants have long fought over the benefits and costs of heat, with municipal codes serving as the referee. This month's deadly fire shows the consequences of regulatory neglect.



  • A Blueprint for Leadership from 1980s Chicago

    by Brentin Mock

    Harold Washington faced stiff resistance from his own party when he became Chicago's first Black mayor in 1983; his response stressing public infrastructure and voting rights foreshadowed the Biden administration's efforts to overcome intransigence and obstructionism. 



  • The DC Punk Scene Relied on the Local Latinx Community

    by Mike Amezcua

    "A big piece is missing from the stories told about punk and hardcore in the 1980s: Primarily, that marginalized spaces and communities in urban America gave a stage to the predominantly white subculture."



  • Public Thinker: Destin Jenkins on Breaking Bonds

    by Hannah Appel

    "As your work so powerfully shows, the municipal bond market structures racial privilege, entrenches spatial neglect, and distributes wealth and power. American cities are dependent on financiers, rating agencies, and bond markets for nearly everything."



  • What You Think You Know About DC's Metro Skipping Georgetown is Wrong

    by Luke Mullins

    Zachary Schrag, author of the definitive book on the DC Metro system, says that the legend of affluent community opposition in the 1960s is a just-so story that ignores the realities transit planners faced, but does jibe with city residents' sense of issues of race, power, and influence. 


  • Historically, Black Distrust of Police is About More than Acts of Violence

    by Christopher Hayes

    The Harlem rebellion against the NYPD in July 1964 was sparked by a police killing of a teenager (and a grand jury's refusal to indict him), but reflected the role of the police in maintaining a profoundly unequal social order that affected everyday life in Black neighborhoods, a situation that has changed little. 



  • Where Did the Public Toilets Go?

    Peter Baldwin offers context for how American cities haltingly adopted and quickly abandoned public toilets, a story that encompasses the racial, gender and class politics of how people interact in urban space. 



  • Another Buffalo Was Possible

    by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

    India Walton seemed on track to become the first Black woman mayor in Buffalo, and the first socialist to lead a major city in decades. The sitting mayor rallied to defeat her, but we should still consider the possibility of more liberatory politics. 



  • How Academia Laid the Groundwork for Redlining

    by Todd Michney and LaDale Winling

    Richard T. Ely and his student Ernest McKinley Fisher pushed the National Association of Real Estate Boards to adopt "the unsupported hypothesis that Black people's very presence inexorably lowered property values," tying the private real estate industry to racial segregation. 



  • Detroit Bankruptcy Documentary Wins Library of Congress Prize

    Ken Burns, who collaborated with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on the selection, called "Gradually, Then Suddenly" a "complex, nuanced, layered" examination of the city's financial crisis and the political divide between Detroit and the state of Michigan.