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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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,525 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Once America's "arsenal of democracy," Detroit over the last fifty years has become the symbol of the American urban crisis. In this reappraisal of racial and economic inequality in modern America, Thomas Sugrue explains how Detroit and many other once prosperous industrial cities have become the sites of persistent racialized poverty. He challenges the conventional wisdom ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published December 1st 1996)
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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
David Bates
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detroit
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'
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: michigan, planning
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
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jessica Prescott
I loved this book. It really changed the way I think about race and class and equality, to be honest.
Joseph Stieb
If you've ever wondered: "Dang, how did our inner cities get to be the way they are today, especially Detroit?" this is a great work for you. Sugrue traces the growth of urban inequality and segregation from WWII to the 1967 riots in Detroit and outlines the deeply rooted causes of the urban crisis.

WWII witnessed a vast expansion of economic opportunity for whites and African-Americans in Detroit with the growth of war industries. African Americans flooded the city from the South, creating a ser
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, written in the mid-1990s, is still as relevant and applicable for reading today as it was two decades ago. Looking at Detroit as a specific case study, it picks apart the many tangled threads of race relations; class differences; the influence of religion; the decisions of business and industry; and the actions (and inactions) of the local, state, and federal government to reveal the reasons why one particular city -- once the shining example of America's productivity -- collapsed und ...more
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