October 16, 2007

The Racial inequality of cities is topic of next Baker-Nord Center talk

Thomas J. Sugrue

Thomas J. Sugrue will give lecture on Thursday, October 18, at the Wolstein Research Building at Case Western Reserve University

Thomas J. Sugrue from the University of Pennsylvania will examine what he describes as the "unfinished struggles" for racial equality in postwar American suburbs when he gives the lecture, "Jim Crow's Last Stand." The free, public talk begins at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, October 18 in Case Western Reserve University's Wolstein Research Building auditorium, 2103 Cornell Road. This year Sugrue is on campus as a Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities fellow.

Sugrue, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of History and Sociology at Penn, is the second speaker to address urban topics in the "Cityscape" theme for the Baker-Nord Center's activities this year. He will draw from his book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, which explores the economic, social and political roots of racial inequality in American cities.

"I have found that the poverty, discrimination and inequality that are common features of urban America today have deep roots," he says.

"Forty years ago hundreds of American cities, large and small, exploded in riots," says Sugrue, who, as a five-year-old during that time, was "mesmerized by the sight of jeeps and personnel carriers" passing through his Detroit neighborhood on the way to quelling the unrest throughout the city.

"My interest in cities -- and suburbs -- grew out of my early experiences with race in the city," he says.

In the aftermath of the riotous summer of 1967 in America, the Kerner Commission, created by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the cause of urban riots, sounded the alarm in its report that America was headed toward a two society country: one for whites and one for blacks that is separate and unequal.

"One of my major interests is the way that metropolitan landscapes create and reinforce racial inequality," said Sugrue. "Nearly all of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the United States are in the Northeast and Midwest." He includes Cleveland among those cities.

During his fellowship at Baker-Nord, Sugrue says he plans to explore Cleveland's neighborhoods, meet with local civil rights activists and conduct research at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Touring cities is not new for Sugrue. "Every time I teach an urban history course, I take my students on walking and bus tours of Philadelphia. In Detroit, I regularly take documentary film crews and visitors on driving tours of the city," he says, adding much can be learned by "reading" the built environment.

"Immigration history comes alive when students view a grand church, built by working-class immigrants, towering over a neighborhood of small houses. The looming red brick hulks of factory buildings provide a tangible link to our industrial past. Old farmhouses, now surrounded by bustling urban neighborhoods, provide clues to a city's past," Sugrue says.

"My interest in preservation is not to turn our cities into museums, but to provide a little anecdote to Americans' historical amnesia," he says.

Learn more about the Baker- Nord Center by visiting its Web site or by calling 216-368-8961.

For more information, contact Susan Griffith at 216-368-1004

Posted by: Marsha Bragg, October 16, 2007 10:15 AM | News Topics: College of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Events, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Lectures/Speakers, Provost Initiatives

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