Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
The Roots of Urban Renaissance

The Roots of Urban Renaissance

Gentrification and the Struggle over Harlem

Brian D. Goldstein

ISBN 9780674971509

Publication date: 02/01/2017

Request exam copy

Displaying gleaming new shopping centers and refurbished row houses, Harlem today bears little resemblance to the neighborhood of the midcentury urban crisis. Brian Goldstein traces Harlem’s widely noted “Second Renaissance” to a surprising source: the radical 1960s social movements that resisted city officials and fought to give Harlemites control of their own destiny.

In the post–World War II era, large-scale government-backed redevelopment drove the economic and physical transformation of urban neighborhoods. But in the 1960s, young Harlem activists inspired by the civil rights movement recognized urban renewal as one more example of a power structure that gave black Americans little voice in the decisions that most affected them. They demanded the right to plan their own redevelopment and founded new community-based organizations to achieve that goal. In the following decades, those organizations became the crucibles in which Harlemites debated what their streets should look like and who should inhabit them. Radical activists envisioned a Harlem built by and for its low-income, predominantly African-American population.

In the succeeding decades, however, community-based organizations came to pursue a very different goal: a neighborhood with national retailers and increasingly affluent residents. In charting the history that transformed Harlem by the twenty-first century, The Roots of Urban Renaissance demonstrates that gentrification was not imposed on an unwitting community by unscrupulous developers or opportunistic outsiders. Rather, it grew from the neighborhood’s grassroots, producing a legacy that benefited some longtime residents and threatened others.

Praise

  • [A] meticulously researched account of Harlemites’ efforts to exercise control over their area since the urban crisis of the 1960s… Full of telling details. [This] is not a popular history but a work of rigorous scholarship.

    —Benjamin George Friedman, Times Literary Supplement

Awards

  • 2019, Winner of the Lewis Mumford Prize

Author

  • Brian D. Goldstein, an urban and architectural historian, is Assistant Professor of Art History at Swarthmore College.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

Recommendations