Focusing on The Urban Renewal Policies in The United States (2022)

Paul Redman

In my English class, I plan to focus on the urban renewal policies in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century, when many Black neighborhoods were destroyed to make way for new freeways to cut through and divide cities. It seems like it would give students a way to look at a historical example of systemic racism while also offering them the opportunity to compare that time period to what our cities look like today, where the unfortunate legacy of urban renewal lingers to this day, in the form of lower home-ownership rates among African-Americans, in addition to lower property values.

One resource students could read focuses on how Detroit was changed to make way for new freeways, eliminating entire Black neighborhoods in the process. It is of a reading level that makes it accessible to many of our students in pre-college writing, including language learners. By reading, discussing, and writing about this article, students could fulfill the “Identify how power, privilege, and inequity are or have been reinforced and challenged at individual, institutional, and systemic levels” outcome by describing how federal and state policies led to those in power creating inequity for marginalized Americans, most notably Blacks living in neighborhoods that were rezoned and removed in the name of urban renewal.

This assignment or group of assignments could also begin to address the “Identify specific ways in which individuals and social and artistic movements attempted to disrupt systems of power, privilege, and inequity” outcome because the article describes how Detroit residents are affected by and opposed to urban renewal became activists trying to prevent the further destruction of their neighborhoods. Students could write about this specific topic or they could choose an example from another time period (including the present) to draw a comparison to.


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Diversity and Social Justice – Faculty Guide (2022 Edition) Copyright © 2021 by Paul Redman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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