Demolition means progress: Urban renewal, local politics, and state-sanctioned ghetto formation in Flint, Michigan

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Abstract

In 1960, city officials in Flint, Michigan, announced plans to demolish the St. John Street neighborhood. In support of the clearance project—which promised to replace a segregated black neighborhood with an industrial park and a freeway—executives from General Motors, municipal officials, and downtown boosters argued that redevelopment would provide more jobs and a growth-oriented future. Yet urban renewal in Flint was much more than a top-down campaign for growth. Many civil rights and neighborhood activists also supported St. John redevelopment, viewing urban renewal as an opportunity to secure new housing, desegregation, and clean air. Nevertheless, by the mid-1970s, corporate and city officials had triumphed over local civil rights activists, ultimately presiding over a renewal program that valued short-term industrial growth and ghetto containment over housing equity. Emphasizing state-sanctioned segregation, this article challenges the usefulness of de facto segregation as a descriptor of the North...

Author-supplied keywords

  • Blight
  • Civil rights
  • De facto segregation
  • Flint
  • Freeways
  • General Motors
  • Michigan
  • Pollution
  • Public housing
  • Racial segregation
  • Urban renewal

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Authors

  • Andrew R. Highsmith

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