A lively account of social protest and urban renewal in a struggling American city
Model City Blues
Urban Space and Organized Resistance in New Haven
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Mandi Isaacs Jackson
Urban Communication Foundation Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Publication Award, 2008
Model City Blues tells the story of how regular people, facing a changing city landscape, fought for their own model of the “ideal city” by creating grassroots plans for urban renewal. Filled with vivid descriptions of significant moments in a protracted struggle, it offers a street-level account of organized resistance to institutional plans to transform New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1960s. Anchored in the physical spaces and political struggles of the city, it brings back to center stage the individuals and groups who demanded that their voices be heard.
By reexamining the converging class- and race-based movements of 1960s New Haven, Mandi Jackson helps to explain the city’s present-day economic and political struggles. More broadly, by closely analyzing particular sites of resistance in New Haven, Model City Blues employs multiple academic disciplines to redefine and reimagine the roles of everyday city spaces in building social movements and creating urban landscapes
"[Jackson's] case studies successfully emphasize the coalitions forged between residents and civil rights, anti-war, and union activists, among others, because the issues of affordable urban housing and accessible public spaces affected shared constituencies.... Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"This is a thoughtful, carefully researched study of opposition to the urban renewal projects that scarred New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1950s and 1960s....[A]n impressive piece of scholarship that will be of particular interest to scholar-activists studying urban social movements. Even readers who do not share Jackson's opinions will gain new insights into the 1960s social and political turmoil that she describes."
"[T]he real strength of this book derives from the case study method. It is among the most subtle historical treatments available of the struggle for local control over decisions that affect urban communities. By focusing on one city and eschewing the standard historical narrative of the “failure” of the War on Poverty, Jackson provides a superlative account of how social policy unfolds in and transforms actual places—offices, coffee shops, homes, parks, taverns, school auditoriums, and city streets."
“Model City Blues offers a detailed history of local grassroots resistance and mobilization, from the point of view of the movement acts themselves, who responded to the urban conflicts of the period. Drawing on personal interviews and extensive archival documents, and amply illustrated with photographs, drawings, and maps, the book should interest scholars of urban politics, social movements, and inner-city racial inequality in the United States…. Model City Blues is a valuable study that effectively shows how to deploy empirically the concept of urban space to organize an historical argument.”
"Jackson’s book deftly weaves national narratives of transitioning urban landscapes, policies, and politics into local stories of individuals, organizations, and spaces.... Jackson’s work provides important historical contextualization for current debates on gentrification, urban revitalization, and other processes, provocatively challenging the inevitability of the form cities take. Clearly written, well researched, and theoretically compelling, Model City Blues is a true pleasure to read."
"The cases are painstakingly researched…What stands out in this book is the reminder of the arrogance and destructiveness of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s."
"This is an excellent account of the displacement of people, initially a mix of White ethnics and African Americas, and later primarily African Americans and Puerto Ricans…. This study is an important contribution to urban history in the 1950s and 1960s and to the human costs of urban renewal."
Chapter 1 : "The Ghosts of Oak Street's Paved Ravines": The Oak Street Project, the Construction of Public Consensus, and the Birth of a Slumless City
Chapter 2 : On Dixwell Avenue: Civil Rights and the Street
Chapter 3 : The Hill Neighborhood Union and Freedom Summer North: Citizen Participation and Movement Spaces in a "Project Area"
Chapter 4 : Maximum Feasible Management: The "Autoatic" City and the Hill Parents' Association
Chapter 5 : Renewal, Riot, and Resistance: Reclaiming "Model Cities"
Chapter 6 : The City and the Six-Lane Highway: Bread and Roses and Parking Garages
Chapter 7 : Downtown Lives and Palaces: From "A Space of Freedom" to "A Space of Exclusion"
Conclusion: The "After"