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Demolition Means Progress: Race, Class, and the Deconstruction of the American Dream in Flint, Michigan

dc.contributor.authorHighsmith, Andrew Roberten_US
dc.description.abstractIn 1997, executives from General Motors (GM) announced plans to shutter a massive complex of automobile factories in the industrial city of Flint, Michigan. Shortly after the plants closed, company officials placed signs in front of the facility that read, “Demolition Means Progress.” The signs suggested that the struggling city of Flint—GM’s birthplace and onetime manufacturing hub—could not move forward to civic greatness until the plants met the wrecking ball. The phrase Demolition Means Progress expressed the operating ethos of the city’s leadership from the Great Depression of the 1930s through the dawn of the new millennium. Flint’s leaders constantly tried to revitalize the city by demolishing outdated structures and institutions. During the Depression, local officials hoped to renew the city by re-making its public schools into racially segregated community centers. In the 1940s and 1950s, federal housing administrators and developers sought to reinvigorate the housing market by building new subdivisions in Flint’s racially segregated suburbs. Over the same period, GM executives and municipal officials worked to revolutionize automobile production by demolishing old urban factories and rebuilding them outside of the city. When those efforts failed to create a renaissance, city leaders launched a plan to replace black neighborhoods with a freeway and new factories. In the end, each of these renewal campaigns yielded a more impoverished city and a more racially divided metropolis. Between the 1930s and the 1970s, a complex set of factors converged to transform Flint from a racially segregated industrial powerhouse into a “hypersegregated” Rust Belt metropolis. The histories of racial segregation, mass suburbanization, and industrial decline were intimately connected—bound together by private acts and public policies that sustained rigid color lines in local schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces. By the end of the twentieth century, a combination of grassroots racism, federal growth initiatives, and local public policies had helped to make metropolitan Flint one of the most racially segregated, economically polarized, and politically fragmented regions in the nation. The state-sanctioned segregation at the heart of Flint’s story severely undermines the concept of “de facto segregation” that undergirds the mythology of northern racial exceptionalism.en_US
dc.format.extent5436164 bytes
dc.format.extent1373 bytes
dc.subjectFlint, Michiganen_US
dc.subjectRacial Segregationen_US
dc.subjectGeneral Motorsen_US
dc.subjectCivil Rightsen_US
dc.titleDemolition Means Progress: Race, Class, and the Deconstruction of the American Dream in Flint, Michiganen_US
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantorUniversity of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studiesen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberLassiter, Matthew D.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberThornton III, J. Millsen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberBlouin, Jr., Francis X.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberCountryman, Matthew J.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberGrengs, Joseph D.en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevelHistory (General)en_US
dc.owningcollnameDissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)

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