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American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland
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American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  264 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
As the birthplace of the Black Panthers and a nationwide tax revolt, California embodied a crucial motif of the postwar United States: the rise of suburbs and the decline of cities, a process in which black and white histories inextricably joined. American Babylon tells this story through Oakland and its nearby suburbs, tracing both the history of civil rights and black po ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published August 28th 2005 by Princeton University Press (first published October 13th 2003)
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Jasonrhodes71
Sep 22, 2011 Jasonrhodes71 rated it it was amazing
lily-white suburbs & cash-strapped inner cities as the result of a multi-trillion dollar federal program of real estate subsidies, in which white homeowners play the role of welfare queens while loans are permitted to flow everywhere blacks aren't. for several decades, property values rise as a result of massive subsidies. for the majority of whites, this results in an identity of "homeowner," which trumps any conception of citizenship or social class. the white racism which is maintained, s ...more
Sara Salem
Aug 11, 2016 Sara Salem rated it really liked it
Very interesting book on the history of race and property and urban space in the Bay Area. Shows how segregation was/is a conscious policy pursued by white business and the white population until today. His focus on private property and how Californians understand citizenship and personhood through owning property is fascinating and makes a lot of sense.
Michael Brickey
Jan 18, 2009 Michael Brickey rated it it was amazing
This book may be one of the most influential books in my understanding of the economic and political motivations for the process of suburbanization. Amidst the homogenized suburbanization of the Bay Area, Self accounts for the existence of la colonias in the outskirts, and describes the rise of the Black Panther Party in the city itself. Self's analysis of the development of suburbs through tax-based incentives reveals much about American politics in addition to describing the spatialization of ...more
Noah
Nov 30, 2016 Noah rated it it was ok
People have been recommending this to me for ages, but I just couldn't get into it. I suppose there's just no reason to read a dissertation book if you don't have to, and especially if you're on the subway, but I thought that understanding a peripheral industrial port city would be interesting while commuting into Newark (a comparison that Self makes too). But at the end of the day, I just think there's not enough new in there and too much Marxobabble. For example, he says that he's bringing tog ...more
David Bates
Apr 17, 2013 David Bates rated it it was amazing
Robert O. Self’s 2003 study of Oakland, American Babylon, makes many of the same connections. Following the history of Oakland from the 1940s through 1978, Self argues that the Black Power Movement and the Conservative Movement evolved in tandem as political manifestations of the underlying contest between predominantly black inner city residents and white suburbanites. Plans during the 1940s to turn Oakland into an industrial garden with good living conditions and shared prosperity foundered on ...more
Elise
Jun 04, 2014 Elise rated it really liked it
I imagine I'll return to this book often, particularly the sections on fair housing, an emerging interest of mine. The author traces the economic decline of cities and the concurrent development of suburbs in the East Bay during the 1940s-1970s, arguing that what has become commonly understood as 'White flight' was not only racially, but also economically motivated. Indeed, residential racial segregation between Oakland and its suburbs was largely facilitated by the real estate industry, which h ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 13, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cities, geography
The industrial garden vision, created by postwar metropolitan boosters and maintained for decades after, relies upon two particularly modern orderings: spatial classification and social regulation. The details of the dream changed over time, and between different people and groups. But in its broad, postwar conception, the dream has two dimensions: “class harmony in pastoral cities,” (9) and an “endless horizon of upward social mobility” (8). The mechanisms which planted and fertilized this indu ...more
Kb
Feb 02, 2011 Kb rated it really liked it
Like Sugrue's comparable study of Detroit, Self traces Oakland's urban crisis back decades before the the violence of the late sixties to the idealized days of postwar prosperity. Self's approach traces the flow of capital within spaces as a measure of power and privilege. Of key importance was the municipal political structure that firmly kept power in the hands of conservative business interests at the expense of an increasingly frustrated African American community. One of the strengths of th ...more
Stuart Woolf
Apr 26, 2014 Stuart Woolf rated it liked it
Finding a good book on Oakland's history, especially its recent history, has proven to be something of a needle-in-haystack endeavor. A friend recommended this book to me, warning it was a little academic, and possibly intended for grad students.

While I did learn a few things about Oakland and appreciated the book's analysis of historical processes (as opposed to, say, the decisions of Big Men), I felt it was light on concrete information (or was, at the very least, written in a style that down
...more
Sara Sunshine
Mar 04, 2015 Sara Sunshine rated it really liked it
Painfully slow going at some points due to the dry, heavily academic language. I found myself wishing a livelier writer had tackled this project.

But there is so much good information packed in here, on race, labor, politics, economics, redevelopment, segregation, tax policies, civil rights battles, etc. A lot of the conclusions Self draws apply well beyond Oakland's borders. I can tell this book is going to influence the way I see the Bay Area, California and beyond for a long time to come.
Jo Anne
Jun 16, 2015 Jo Anne rated it really liked it
I have to agree with other reviewers about the dry academic language. I cringed every time I read the words laborite and normative. However, the book has so much information that I persevered and I am glad I did. If you live in the Bay Area, this book will make you understand why out physical space is laid out the way it is and why the cities of the region are the way they are.
Jakki
Aug 15, 2015 Jakki rated it liked it
Shelves: social-justice
I confess that I read only part of this book before it was due at the library, but I loved learning about the historical race and class divides in Oakland and the East Bay. It sheds light on the way these issues still play out here, and is also rather depressing when you realize how little we've advanced since the 1940s-60s. An important read for understanding social justice issues in Oakland!
Rob Mcbride
Oct 20, 2013 Rob Mcbride rated it it was amazing
As a recent transplant from SF to Oakland, I found this to be an invaluable introduction to my new home. And Self makes it clear that this means not just Oakland, but the whole East Bay. Detailed and a little dry, but not terribly so. Excellent maps and photos.
Rebecca
Oct 25, 2009 Rebecca marked it as abandoned-ship
Linda was right. Way academic. Not exactly dry, but so focused on analyzing "metaphors for urban space" or whatever his lens is that you have to squint to find actual information! Is it too much to ask for a little history in my history books?
Michael Meloy
Aug 10, 2009 Michael Meloy rated it really liked it
great introduction to the east bay landscape, urban life and impact of the "industrial garden." Anyone interested in Prop. 14 and Prop. 13 should read. In other words, if living in California, read.
Jess
Mar 26, 2009 Jess rated it liked it
It can be a little tedious to get through but brings up excellent points and discussion topics on how race is placed upon people to subjugate them.
AskHistorians
Self looks at the history of the civil rights and black power movements, and of the rise of the new right/anti-tax movement using a single city as a case study. A fascinating read.
Laura
Aug 25, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Dense, but super informative and well-researched. Great insight into how segregation was perpetuated by local, state and federal government policy.
Catherine M
Jun 04, 2012 Catherine M rated it really liked it
Victor and my other East Bay friends, you should check this book out! It's a history of urban development and racial segregation in Oakland and the Oakland suburbs that I think you will really like.
Llew
Aug 14, 2012 Llew added it
A great intro, but the bulk of the text is dry labor history details that don't tie in with the intro. Good as a historical reference text, but maybe not great for the lay reader.
Sean Broesler
Apr 23, 2009 Sean Broesler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a continuing inspiration to me. Its focus on the spatial aspects of historical change is crucial to forming a thoroughgoing analysis.
Derek Fenner
Derek Fenner rated it really liked it
Aug 12, 2013
Jun
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Sep 13, 2013
Arif Tekin
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Sep 19, 2016
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Jan 15, 2012
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Oct 04, 2007
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