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The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
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The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  856 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Once America's "arsenal of democracy, " Detroit has become the symbol of the American urban crisis. In this reappraisal of America's dilemma of racial and economic inequality, Thomas Sugrue asks why Detroit and other industrial cities have become the sites of persistent racialized poverty.
Paperback, 375 pages
Published August 21st 2005 by Princeton University Press (first published December 1st 1996)
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Andrea
Stunning really, searing and beautifully thorough research on race, political economy and the urban fabric of Detroit.

He engages with some central questions: what the hell happened to rust belt cities, how did they turn from industrial centers to economic backwaters, how did the ghetto form, how did segregation and racism persist? He then answers these questions, in the process knocking the almost the entire body of literature on the 'underclass' out of the ballpark. He does build on those that
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David Bates
In his 1996 work The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit Thomas Sugrue focused on the implications of the racism in the residential and labor markets of Detroit for the city. Key to Sugrue’s approach is his view that race is an economically and politically constructed concept that creates an illusion of difference, from which social prejudice arises. In large part Origins is framed as a rebuttal to “influential conservative scholars, backed by well-funded think ta ...more
Dan
Feb 14, 2011 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Sugrue presents a contrarian view of 20th century Detroit. While the post-World War II era is often remembered as a time of unmitigated prosperity, Sugrue’s analysis contends that Detroit was always fragile, even if just under the surface. He points to social tensions from overwhelming racial discrimination in housing and employment, wanton disregard for the city (and state) by the automobile industry, the poaching of jobs by other states, and the Federal government’s encouragement of decentrali ...more
Erica
When did Detroit go wrong? The 1967 riots are often seen as the beginning of the city's tragic decline, but Sugure argues that the seeds of downfall were sown much earlier - in the 1940s. A toxic mix of elements: the dispersal of the auto industry away from the city, along with institutional and cultural racism that limited the options of black Southerners who had come to Detroit seeking a new life after the war, resulted in the implosion still visible today.

As someone who grew up in suburban D
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Kb
Incredibly thorough and depressing study of Detroit's postwar urban crisis. Most tragic are the countless self-destructive decisions and self-fulfilling prophesies made by white Detroiters, including government officials and employers. Detroit is a city that was violently brought down by racial discrimination in many forms, including housing and employment discrimination, divided labor unions, and grassroots racisim, especially among working-class Catholics. Detroit is one city that lends itself ...more
Selmoore Codfish
This is a powerful book. It was so powerful that it made me want to put it down so that I wasn't impacted by the ways that it pulled at me. Sometimes it was hard to take.
It is an essential book on race relations. It shows the historical context that built up to the riots and why Detroit has become what it is today.
The book has information pre-World War II, but focuses on the time between the war and the 1967 riot. The conclusion shows how the urban versus suburban hostilities developed, and why
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Chris
Sometimes the most telling thing is what they didn't teach you in school.

Sugrue clearly did his homework researching this book, and makes a compelling argument for how many of the issues plaguing Detroit (and other American cities) have their roots in deindustrialization, and -- perhaps moreso -- in workplace and housing discrimination that effectively wiped out opportunities for minorities.
Laura
Thomas Sugrue examines the causes of the “urban crisis” of major American cities which involved white flight and suburbanization and caused high levels of poverty and unemployment for the urban black population. Sugrue contends that this phenomenon was not inevitable, but was caused by economic and racial policies which began amidst the post World War II national economic boom. Race riots as seen in Detroit in 1967 were the climax of these tensions. Through statistical analysis, demographic maps ...more
Mscout
With this work, Thomas J. Sugrue presented a new interpretation of the decline and fall of the American industrial city using Detroit as a case study. While previous historians have pointed to the riots of 1967 as the fulcrum upon which Detroit’s (and by extension other northern industrial cities’) fortunes turned, Sugrue pushed that point back by two decades. Instead he contends that the seeds for the city’s substantial decline were actually sown in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Ther ...more
Megan
As many other raters have mentioned, this book is an eye-opening, must-read account for anyone interested in Detroit, Urban Studies, or the politics of race. I'm surprised to find some have called it dry, because I actually found it to be pretty readable... And I often give up on super academic, jargon-laden works.

I loved this book, but I thought that the analysis of automation and decentralization by manufacturers in Detroit (particularly the big 3) was extremely biased against corporations. I'
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Jasmine
Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and
Inequality in Postwar Detroit uncovers the multiple intertwined causes of urban decline and crisis in Detroit. Complicating the sociological reasons for the presence of the underclass and urban decline, Sugrue stresses the
need to look at the history of the political economy of Detroit in order to find the sources of urban crisis. Sugrue’s meticulously documented book ,rich with archival sources, statistics, photographs, and personal accoun
...more
Alessandra
Prior to Thomas J. Sugrue’s landmark publication, popular appraisals of America’s urban crisis wedded urban decline to globalization, corporate outsourcing, and the oil crises of the 1970s. The Origins of the Urban Crisis, however, paints a different picture. Sugrue’s case study of Detroit determines that the interplay of postwar deindustrialization, workplace discrimination, and residential segregation sealed Detroit’s fate as an impoverished city deeply divided by race.

The temporal origins of
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Brent
This academic work meticulously traces how Detroit progressed from one of the key cities in the US to its current situation. Sugure goes further back in his analysis than most, looking at how the response of people and institutions in Detroit to the Great Migration continued to have a profound impact on the city during the decades that followed.
Brian
This book changed how I look at the modern landscape of American cities. Sugrue focuses on the post-WWII trends in Detroit, but the same population and industrial patterns are found to a lesser degree in just about every other Rust Belt metropolis. I grew up in Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities in the US, and now I have a better idea of how it got that way.

He takes on a number of tough topics that culminate in urban decay: systemic discrimination and segregation in the workplace and h
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WM Rine
A stunning book, and one I'd recommend for anyone who likes to dabble in politics and theories about economics and industrial policy. For anyone with even a general knowledge of Detroit's troubled history or its present financial challenges, what Sugrue covers here won't be a surprise so much. Instead you're likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and persistence of the institutionalized racism in federal and city policy, coupled with the fears and prejudices of working class whites (the ...more
Chris
This book is tremendously good. Perhaps the single best book I read during my four years of studying history in college. The only criticism that I have about it is that since the book's main unit of analysis is Detroit, most of its conclusions are not really applicable to other cities in the U.S. Detroit is such a unique case because of its total dominance by the single most important American industry of the 20th century. That's kind of nitpicking though. If you have any sort of interest in urb ...more
James
Jan 23, 2008 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone in SE Michigan; urban politics/ministry folks
As a transplanted west-coaster recently arrived in Michigan - Sugrue's work first caught my eye several months ago. Now that I've finished, I wish I'd read it months earlier. He provides a close examination of the historical and sociological background to the 1967 Detroit riots beginning with the rapid industrialization and residential growth in the early 1900s. And by beginning his account so early, offers a richly nuanced and multi-faceted account.
A must-read for anyone doing ministry in Detro
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Andy
This is a book that attempts to chronicle the demise of the City of Detroit and the racial tensions that were at play at the time of the initial decline. Sugrue attempts to show how events unfolded and what resulted from those events. It covers the time period leading up to but not including the late 1960's riots. It is a must-read for anyone in the Metro Detroit area. Perhaps it provides a bit of perspective and knowledge into how we got to where we are now.
Dalia
So the truth is, I never read the whole thing...Exceedingly academic, the type of reading that requires even your windows to be closed in the summer lest the childhood ditties wafting from the ice-cream truck outside hit your ears and cause you to have to re-start to read and understand the paragraph AGAIN.

But so powerful, of the 150 pages or so I got through, I feel like Detroit is a pivotal part of understanding contemporary urban spaces anywhere.
Ian
Read for school. Sugrue does a nice job with his case study of Detroit, though he mainly focuses on the realms of employment and housing. I wonder what effect discrimination and differences in health care and education had on the "urban crisis." He also denies any agency to black agitators for labor and housing gains by focusing so much on the factors acting against such gains.
Mat Anderson
Content is great. I feel like some of the book drags on a bit.
Jessi
One of the best books about poverty, inner cities, and violence. He made a convincing case that the Detroit Riots of the late 1960's were a consequence of decades of organized white violence against blacks who tried to assert their political power.

There is also a really interesting chapter about the effects of deindustrialization on inner cities.
Richard's Bibby
A very academic and very powerful argument on the economic, racial and legal reasons for the existence of urban crisis. Centered around Detroit from 1930's though the 70's, the author lucidly shows how the past actions of government, business and citizens groups created a segregated inner city the influence of which extends to present day.
Steven Nosakowski
It's definitely a dry book, goes over statistic after statistic but is one of the few books(often times considered the bible) that really delves into the issues that were at the foundation of the Race Riots in Detroit and the ultimate implosion of the city itself. It's a must read for people interested in learning about this wonderful city.
Kathryn
Aug 03, 2011 Kathryn is currently reading it
I picked up this book to read for a paper I need to write for a history course. I chose the topic of the race riots in Detroit because I grew up in Detroit, and lived there during the riots. It's very interesting to examine these issues from the perspective of someone who experienced them, and the perspective of history.
Mona
I read this in an American Culture class I took in college, and completely forgot about it until today, when someone was asking me for book recommendations related to urban planning and community development. I recall that it was fascinating as well as a bit depressing. I think I'm due for a re-read.
Roger
Sugrue makes a very well-detailed argument that a deep-rooted American culture of racism and segregation is the reason for Detroit's downfall rather than the specific events and trends of the 20th century. It's a classic re-evaluation and critique of a darker side of our society.
Bobby
I guess this is required reading for Detroiters. But for an academic book, it's incredibly readable. I've wanted to write a sequel for some time now, mostly because I have a working title. Sold for a Dollar!: White Flight and Post-Rebellion Decline in Detroit
Paul Sandy
Absolutely phenomenal. This book thoroughly describes the buildup to the crumbling of Detroit and the 1967 Detroit race riots. Racism toward Black residents in the city, deindustrialization, and homeowner rights vs. civil rights are some topics covered in detail.
Brittany
Terrific non-fiction. Originally a text book for a class I took in college but I've reread it a million times and the margins are full of notes. A great book if you are looking to understand what happened to Detroit and many other post-industrial cities.
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