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Between Justice and Beauty

Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C.

By Howard Gillette, Jr.

Publication Year: 2006

As the only American city under direct congressional control, Washington has served historically as a testing ground for federal policy initiatives and social experiments—with decidedly mixed results. Well-intentioned efforts to introduce measures of social justice for the district's largely black population have failed. Yet federal plans and federal money have successfully created a large federal presence—a triumph, argues Howard Gillette, of beauty over justice. In a new afterword, Gillette addresses the recent revitalization and the aftereffects of an urban sports arena.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

Perface and Acknowledgements

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pp. ix

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Part I. Locus Of The New Republic

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pp. 1-4

In determining to fashion a new capital out of the wilderness, the founders of Washington, D.C., had the opportunity to mold a place entirely to their liking. At an early stage, they thought boldly. They embraced a grand plan for a new city at the heart of the federal district, anticipating that its advantageous...

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Chapter 1. City of Failed Intentions

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pp. 5-26

The establishment of a permanent capital for the new nation in 1790 was an event of immense importance. Forged at a critical point in the early nation-building process, the compromise that located the federal district on the Potomac River after years of contention between the states promised...

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Chapter 2. The Specter of Race

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pp. 27-43

Congress's intimate ties with Washington meant that it controlled the fate not just of the city's physical development but of its social relationships as well. No such relationship was more central in the first half of the nineteenth century than race. And while Washington's status as slave territory...

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Part II.Seat of American Empire

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pp. 45-48

The Civil War vastly expanded the reach of federal power even as it stimulated the growth of the capital city. In line with the goal not just to preserve the Union but to make it more perfect, Radical Republicans attempted to put their social philosophy into effect in Washington, which though not conquered territory was considered a slaveholding area sympathetic to the,,,

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Chapter 3. Reconstruction: Social and Physical

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pp. 49-68

With peace Washington set the stage nationally for the freedmen's enjoyment of new rights. The city faced competing demands, however, most notably from the need to address the war's devastating wear and tear on its physical fabric. An additional goal voiced for the period, then, was physical improvement. To a considerable degree the politics of the postwar era...

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Chapter 4. Making a Greater Washington

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pp. 69-87

The demise of Washington's territorial government ended any last expectations that the city might become a laboratory for forging new social programs and establishing new social relations. In place of Charles Sumner's vision for the future, Washington's leadership embraced earlier goals of growth and prosperity, standards that would be measured by the extension...

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Chapter 5. The New Washington: City Beautiful

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pp. 88-108

Thc Senate Park Commission plan for Washington, issued January 15, 1902, marked a critical turning point in the city's history. Although more than a quarter century passed before the park commission ideal was realized, it left an indelible imprint on the capital city. Built on the accomplishments...

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Chapter 6. Reform: Social and Aesthetic

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pp. 109-129

In 1901 Charles Mieller, executive secretary of the Associated Charities of Washington, urged the Senate Park Commission "in formulating plans for the systematic beautification of our city to give especial consideration to its poorer neighborhoods." Weller received a polite response to his letter, and the commission included in its report his recommendations for more neighborhood playgrounds and...

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Part III.The City and the Modern State

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pp. 131-134

The New Deal ushered in a period of activism in national government that is now considered central to the American way of life. Given the devastating effects of a depression, especially in the nation's cities, it was no surprise that Franklin Roosevelt's administration would intervene in Washington...

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Chapter 7. A New Deal for Washington

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pp. 135-150

Historians have frequently criticized Franklin Roosevelt's administration for its shortcomings in advancing urban planning. For all its attention to national planning, the New Deal remained largely indifferent to physical planning in local areas, a factor no less true of Washington than the rest of...

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Chapter 8. Redevelopment and Dissent

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pp. 151-169

As world war gave way to cold war, Washington and the nation entered a period of prosperity that loosened constraints on consumer spending and resulted in an outpouring of homebuying and homebuilding. Increases in...

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Chapter 9. Renewal,Reconstruction, and Retrenchment

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pp. 170-189

During the mid-1960s national urban policy underwent a dramatic turning point, as under a proclaimed War on Poverty the federal government directed funds to neighborhood-based organizations with the intent of enabling local residents to improve their own lives. Spurred by the growing...

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Chapter 10. The Limits of Social Protest Politics

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pp. 190-207

The restoration of an elected city government in 1974 and the subsequent election of civil rights and home rule activist Marion Barry as mayor brought promise that at last issues of social justice would gain the attention they demanded in Washington. Barry established an ambitious social welfare program for the city and recruited talent from around the country to...

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pp. 208-214

If any city in the United States has borne the burden of serving as a symbol of American aspirations and has simultaneously been the place, as Mumford says, where the issues of civilization have been focused, it has been the nation's capital. Given Congress's power of exclusive jurisdiction...

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pp. 215-218

Any observer of Washington in the first part of the twenty-first century would have been struck by the city's dramatic physical changes. Downtown, in areas once marked by abandoned buildings and desolate streetscapes, new construction for housing as well as office and commer...

Note on Sources

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pp. 219-226


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pp. 227-292


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pp. 293-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205299
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812219586

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2006