A City For Children, by Marta Gutman

Marta Gutman is co-winner of the 2015 Kenneth Jackson award for best book in North American history, shared with N.D.B. Connolly’s A World More Concrete.

The committee is happy to announce its selection of Marta Gutman’s A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950 (University of Chicago Press) as co-winner of the 2014 Kenneth T. Jackson Prize for Best Book in American history.

In a masterful, revelatory study, Gutman shows how the struggle to create a better environment for children transformed urban space and remapped landscapes of race, class, and gender. Gutman’s remarkable combination of historical and architectural research and analysis delivers fresh new insights into the shifting grounds of work, home, and leisure space. She provides an intimate window onto the lived experience of working-class women and children, in a turn-of-the-twentieth-century American city.

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A World More Concrete, by N.D.B. Connolly

N.D.B. Connolly is co-winner of the 2015 Kenneth Jackson award for best book in North American history, shared with Marta Gutman’s A City for Children.

Based upon a broad range of rich archival collections, newspaper accounts, and a plethora of comparative secondary studies, this book advances a series of compelling arguments about the role of realtors and rental property owners in the development of the Greater Miami system of “racial apartheid.” Specifically, this book places the story of black Miami within the larger context of capitalist development, particularly the colonization of non-European people, both locally and globally, and challenges us to rethink several closely interrelated propositions in contemporary scholarship on 20th century U.S. and African American urban history. First and most significant, whereas most studies of urban history identify white landlords, realtors, banks, and private property owners, particularly “slumlords,” as the principal actors in the creation and perpetuation of the racially divided and unequal housing market, Connolly underscores the role of black and white realtors in this process. In careful detail, he shows how an interracial alliance of landlords perceived themselves as a “class” and reinforced each other’s interest through reciprocal loans and joint property investments that both breached and reinforced the color line in the larger political economy of the city.

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UHA Award Winners

The Urban History Association announced its 2015 award winners this fall.

N.D.B. Connolly and Marta Gutman share the Kenneth Jackson Award for best book in North American history.

A.K. Sandoval-Strauss won the Arnold Hirsch Award for best urban history article published in a scholarly journal.

Chloe Taft won the Michael Katz Award for best dissertation in urban history.

Alexander Martin and Ato Quayson share the award for the best book on a subject outside of North America.


In Baltimore, What Comes Next? Lessons from the Washington Heights Riots of 1992

WashingtonHeightsRiotsKiko (2)

By Pedro Regalado

Cross-posted at The Urban Opus

On the evening of July 3rd, 1992, a man of color died at the hands of white police. That night, plainclothes officer Michael O’Keefe and two other officers patrolled the lower section of New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, located just above Harlem beginning at 155th street. O’Keefe claimed to notice 23-year-old Jose “Kiko” Garcia carrying a weapon.[1] After an attempt to surround Garcia failed, O’Keefe pursued him.[2] Soon, the officers received radio cries from their distressed fellow officer. When they arrived at 505 West 162nd street, they found O’Keefe standing over a lifeless body. WashingtonHeightsRiotsDRFlag (2) This story has become a familiar one. Less than a day after Garcia’s death, Washington Heights erupted. Similar to the events that unfolded in Baltimore in recent weeks, outraged residents looted, desecrated storefronts, and set cars and buildings ablaze. They also marched and protested the police abuse that had too frequently affected residents both young and old. Like West Baltimore, Washington Heights symbolized the grim circumstances that urban communities of color faced then and now. Widespread poverty, high unemployment rates, deteriorating housing, underfunded schools, lack of social services, and high crime rates prevailed. For Washington Heights’ Dominican residents, police brutality, which often involved intimidation and personal invasion practices like frisking, only worsened matters. “You would come outside your apartment and they would frisk you[…]You would be dehumanized on a regular basis,“ remembered one resident.[3] In recent weeks, Baltimore’s African American residents have expressed similar sentiments.

As we witness Baltimore’s uprising develop, as rioters and protesters alike struggle to communicate their own disgust, part of our focus should attend not only to the underlying origins of the unrest — gracefully articulated by social critics the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates — but to the larger structural effects of the upheaval locally and nationally. We should focus on the long-term political outcomes of the unrest equally as much as we attend to the immediate outcomes of the riots for Charm City’s African American residents. For among Washington Heights’ many lessons, the dual legacies of urban riots help us to see the possible future of urban policing in Baltimore.

Certainly, these two events and communities have their differences that make their respective uprisings unique. New York in 1992 is far different than Baltimore in 2015. However, a look back at the Washington Heights riots can help to reveal how uprisings function as social and political crossroads. It also elucidates the dangers of allowing right-wing political backlash to overtake the increased visibility of racialized urban poverty and violence.

Not long after the dust settled in Washington Heights, the neighborhood began to experience some of the changes that its residents sought when they rebelled on those warm summer days. In the years following the riots, Washington Heights became home to several new schools, increased representation in city government, new social services, and, perhaps most important, city-wide awareness of a working-class community that had previously been painted and treated as criminal by media and politicians alike. Community leader and councilman Gregorio Linares remembered, “We have gained tremendously from the experience of the disturbances…You can never say that something like this can never happen again…But this community is no longer what it was prior to the disturbances.”[4] He continued, “The reason this neighborhood did not go down in flames is because the community was able to respond quickly.”[5] Indeed, Dominican unity became a shining legacy of the Washington Heights riots for its community members whose common goal focused on the area’s peace as well as respect for its immigrant residents. However, their achievements, while significant, were limited as the visibility that the uprising created was soon manipulated for political ends entangled in New York City’s mayoral politics.

In September of 1992, two months after fires and rage adorned the hills of upper Manhattan, thousands of off-duty police officers had an uprising of their own. Beginning as a rally at City Hall Park organized by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, off-duty police officers chanted “Dinkin’s must go!” and “No justice, No Police!” The officers lambasted then-Mayor David Dinkins for his treatment of police during the riots, including his visit to Garcia’s family days after the shooting, and also for his attempt to create an All Civilian Review Board that would investigate instances of police abuse and misconduct. Not unlike in recent months, city police felt threatened and their backlash was difficult to avoid.

In attendance was Republican mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani, who had lost the mayorship in a close race with Dinkins in 1989 and would run again in 1993. Giuliani stood high above the crowd during the rally and shouted, “The reason the morale of the New York Police Department is so low is one reason and one reason alone, David Dinkins!”[6] In a New York Times op-ed published just a month earlier, Giuliani had criticized Dinkins for his handling of not only the Washington Heights riots but also the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn a year prior. He asserted that Dinkins ceded “to the forces of lawlessness,” he called the rioters “urban terrorists.”[7]

Indeed, much of Giuliani’s campaign relied on chastising Dinkins and appealing to the white ethnic working classes of the city. Certainly, the NYPD served as a perfect group for the former prosecutor to appeal to. And among others standing on stage with him in the midst of an increasingly fervent rally was police hero and Garcia’s slayer, Michael O’Keefe.[8] As the rally’s intensity grew, thousands of off-duty officers swarmed past barricades at City Hall, trampling cars and blocking traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge. 300 on-duty police officers did little to stop them.[9] “The 2 ½-hour PBA demonstration was punctuated with chants of ‘Rudy! Rudy!’” noted one news report.

On November 3rd, 1993 — partly riding on the fear that he fostered among the city’s white residents concerning both the Washington Heights and Crown Heights riots — Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City and would serve as such into the 21st century. Despite losing Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, Giuliani swept white ethnic strongholds in Staten Island and Queens, winning the mayorship by approximately three percent. Addressing his supporters at the New York Hilton Hotel just moments after his 1993 victory, Giuliani stated, “You know, nobody, no ethnic, religious or racial group will escape my care, my concern and my attention.” Through policing, the new mayor would make this certain.

Soon after taking office, the mayor appointed William Bratton as the city’s 38th Police Commissioner. With Giuliani’s backing, Bratton introduced Broken Windows policing in New York City. He also pioneered the use of CompStat, a police management tool rooted in statistics that sought to reduce the city’s severe crime rate. In tandem with Broken Windows, CompStat made police officers more accountable to statistical objectives that served political agendas than to the poor communities that they were intended to serve. They also placed considerable pressure on police officers to make arrests, which helped to increase cases of police abuse, summons, and stop and frisks throughout the city. While crime in New York dropped steadily and rents continued to increase in the years following Washington Heights’ uprising, New York’s poor residents benefitted little from reduced crime. Instead, they faced displacement to more impoverished and dangerous areas of the city.

As the 1990’s continued, both Broken Windows and CompStat’s negative implementations circulated throughout other major cities in the U.S. with similar socio-political landscapes and similar politicians facing high crime rates. Baltimore was no exception. In 1999, the city adopted CitiStat, modeled closely after Compstat. And in 2007, current Maryland governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, who instituted CitiStat as mayor, rebranded it as Maryland StateStat, widening the program’s scale.

As we reflect on Baltimore’s current tense situation, we must be reminded that while the uprising presents new possibilities for organizing and solidarity that may lead to local success, it also provides the opportunity for police and political backlash that threaten to take advantage of increased awareness of African American plight in Baltimore. Recent headlines include “Baltimore Proves the Need for ‘Broken Windows’ policing” in the New York Post and “The Underpolicing of Black America” in the The Wall Street Journal. The dual legacy of the Washington Heights riots of 1992, should remind us of the larger stakes of urban governance for Baltimore and, indeed, the nation. We are at a new crossroads; the future is unclear. And as the dust settles in the streets of West Baltimore, we must turn away from the type of policing that leaves underprivileged residents further estranged and our cities in ruins.

Pedro A. Regalado is a PhD student in American Studies at Yale University. He interests include twentieth-century urban history, race, politics, and immigration. 

[1] Dennis Hevesi, “Upper Manhattan Block Erupts After a Man is Killed in Struggle with a Policeman,” The New York Times, July 5th, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Interview with Black.

[4] Garcilazo, “A Positive Legacy: Dominican Unity.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Rudolph W. Giuliani, Rumor and Justice in Washington Heights,” The New York Times, August 7, 1992.

[8] Ibid.

[9] James C. McKinley Jr, “Officer’s Rally and Dinkins is Their Target,” The New York Times, September 17, 1992.

Urban History Association 2016 CFP

The Eighth Biennial Conference of the Urban History Association

“The Working Urban”

Chicago, Illinois

October 13-16, 2016

The Urban History Association Program Committee seeks submissions for sessions on all aspects of urban, suburban, and metropolitan history. We welcome proposals for panels, roundtable discussions, and individual papers. We are also receptive to alternative session formats that foster audience participation in the proceedings.

The Program Committee is pleased to announce that Loyola University Chicago will serve as the local host for the October 2016 conference.

The conference theme – The Working Urban – highlights the importance of labor and of historians’ working definitions of “urban history.” We therefore encourage submissions that explore the scales at which historians work (i.e. local, national, regional) as well as those that interrogate the racial and gendered aspects of work in relation to the built environment. “Working” also refers to workshops. For the first time ever, the UHA conference will include professional workshops built specifically around interpreting primary sources and exploring problems of evidence in the field. Innovative workshop ideas are especially encouraged.

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In Memoriam: Raymond Mohl

In memoriam: Raymond A. Mohl, past president of the Urban History Association and distinguished professor of history emeritus at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Ray Mohl was educated at Hamilton College, Yale, and NYU, where he earned his Ph.D. in History in 1967. He began as an early American historian and published his first book, a study of poverty and social welfare in early national New York City, in 1971. With it, Ray established his reputation as pioneering urban social historian. His interests in urban history broadened geographically and chronologically when he took his first tenure-track job, at Indiana University Northwest. There he delved into the history of the Rustbelt and retooled himself as a twentieth-century U.S. historian. He published two books on race and ethnicity in Gary.

After moving southward, first to Florida Atlantic University for twenty-six years, then to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, for nineteen years, Ray established himself as one of the leading historians of the Sunbelt.
He published a book and several articles about civil rights, immigration, and race relations in Miami. He wrote about Florida’s red scare, about black-Jewish relations in the region, and Miami’s peace and civil rights movement. His most recent work concerned Latino migration to Alabama and the American South.

Ray also bridged history and public policy. When the US Commission on Civil Rights came to Miami in 1995, it sought his testimony on the state of race relations in the city. He served as an expert witness in important housing and election litigation in Dade County, Florida. He reached out to an audience well beyond the academy by writing more than two dozen articles on Miami’s black history for the city’s African American newspaper, The Miami Times. And drawing from his extensive research on the history of American highways, he joined the Re-think 20/59 organization in Birmingham to challenge the Alabama Department of Transportation’s plan for rebuilding a bigger, taller, and wider elevated expressway through downtown Birmingham.

Few historians were more prolific than Ray. He wrote or edited 165 articles, and 113 book reviews, and presented his work worldwide. He received Fulbright professorships in Israel, Australia and Germany, the Frederick W. Connor Prize in the History of Ideas, the Caroline P. and Charles W. Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, the Graduate School Mentor Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Historical Society.

The Urban History Association honors Ray’s lifetime of engaged, urban scholarship, his teaching, mentorship, and friendship.

Urban History Podcast #4, Elaine Lewinnek

Andrew Needham and Lily Geismer talk Chicago and suburbanization with Elaine Lewinnek, a professor of American Studies at Cal State Fullerton Her new book, The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl, came out in the spring from Oxford University Press. (OUP, Amazon).  Looking at gendered notions of urban development and industrial labor, she traces key episodes in Chicago history including the Great Fire and its policy aftermath, uses literature like The Jungle as a lens for examining real estate, and traces a history of race and space before the 1919 race riot.

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UHA 2014: Historians in the Age of Global Crisis

The Sunday sessions on the final day of an academic conference usually struggle to draw a crowd. Many of the attendees are just trying to make it to the airport to catch their flight home, while others set aside the final day to explore the host city. Two years ago, attending Sunday panels was far from the minds of most attendees at the UHA conference in New York City. Our main concern was making it out of the city, period. I remember nervously sitting in LaGuardia that Sunday afternoon with fellow Milwaukeean and regular UHA attendee, Amanda Seligman, mere hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. As were we filing onto one of the last flights to leave that night, airport employees were battening down the hatches, literally, covering food stands, waiting areas, and kiosks with tarps in preparation for floodwaters.

While there was no cataclysmic storm driving attendees of this year’s UHA conference out of Philadelphia, there was a plenary session on Sunday afternoon that compelled many of us to stick around to the very end. I, thankfully, was among those persons who made it to the session titled “Urban History in the Age of Global Crisis.” Outgoing UHA President Tom Sugrue served as the moderator, and Heather Ann Thompson (University of Michigan), Nathan Connolly (Johns Hopkins), Anton Rosenthal (University of Kansas), and Elizabeth Shermer (Loyola University Chicago) offered remarks, which were followed by a lively and engaging discussion with members of the audience. Continue reading UHA 2014: Historians in the Age of Global Crisis