CFP: Public Housing in Black America

Ida B. Wells Housing Project in Chicago, Illinois in 1941 (Russell Lee/NYPL)

In 1910, Baltimore became the first city in America to legalize residential segregation when Mayor J. Barry Mahool signed a racial zoning ordinance into law. As the Great Migration of approximately 6.6 million African Americans to the North began, some journalists and everyday citizens referred to black migration as a “black invasion” and countless cities across the country enacted municipal zoning ordinances to ban “black occupancy” in all-white communities. During the 1920s and 1930s, some homeowners developed restrictive covenants in new home deeds to bar non-white people from living in white neighborhoods, while the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAR) instructed realtors on how to redline communities. However, in the midst of the Great Depression—when President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration established a series of New Deal programs to end joblessness, homelessness, and poverty—the Wagner-Steagall Act of 1937 was passed to create housing projects for “families whose incomes are so low that they cannot afford adequate housing provided by private enterprise.” Unfortunately, occupancy in these developments mirrored the racial segregation of the surrounding community. Since African Americans were largely shut out of affordable private housing, particularly during the postwar era when 98% of Black Americans were denied Federal Housing Association (FHA) insured mortgage loans, their representation in public housing increased over time. As cities faced deindustrialization, job flight, white flight, and a declining tax base in the late 1960s, housing projects were not only associated with the black working-class and poor but also crime, drugs, and gangs when entrance requirements became lax due to defunding. Today, the consequences of racism and housing inequality of previous generations greatly affect us today. Nevertheless, the editors of Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual Society (AAIHS), invite submissions from scholars interested in the history of housing in America, given the historical scholarship of academics like Arnold R. Hirsch, John F. Bauman, Thomas Sugrue, Lisa Levenstein, D. Bradford Hunt, Richard Rothstein, Ben Austen, and Lawrence T. Brown have cultivated in the field. These essays should consider, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Black homeownership in nineteenth and twentieth century America
  • Activists and protest movements against residential segregation
  • Social inequality and racial justice in housing
  • Racial segregation and its consequences in public housing
  • Modern-day solutions to high-rise public housing and housing insecurity

Submissions should be between 750 and 1,500 words. They must be submitted to the senior editors no later than May 31st at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time. With your submission, please provide your bio (250-300 words) and a headshot (for use if your essay is accepted).

All submissions will undergo a peer review process before they are accepted. Please click here for more details on the blog’s submission guidelines as well as information regarding format and citations.

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Comments on “CFP: Public Housing in Black America

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    As we highlight the historical scholarship in this CFP: “Public Housing in Black America,” let us also make note of Black women’s scholarly contributions. For instance, the award-winning study by Baltimorean and Black woman scholar Rhonda Y. Williams, whose book is titled, The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles Against Urban Inequality (2004). This comment is a “both/and” moment of speaking Black women’s research, as well as low-income Black women public housing tenants’ struggles, into the space so their intellectual work, stories, experiences, and activism live on and continue to inspire. Deep gratitude. (excuse any typos)

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    I have an idea for a submission!

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