Model City Blues
Urban Space and Organized Resistance in New Haven
Publication Year: 2008
Model City Blues tells the story of how regular people, facing a changing city landscape, fought for their own model of the “ideal city” by creating grassroots plans for urban renewal. Filled with vivid descriptions of significant moments in a protracted struggle, it offers a street-level account of organized resistance to institutional plans to transform New Haven, Connecticut in the 1960s. Anchored in the physical spaces and political struggles of the city, it brings back to center stage the individuals and groups who demanded that their voices be heard.
By reexamining the converging class- and race-based movements of 1960s New Haven, Mandi Jackson helps to explain the city's present-day economic and political struggles. More broadly, by closely analyzing particular sites of resistance in New Haven, Model City Blues employs multiple academic disciplines to redefine and reimagine the roles of everyday city spaces in building social movements and creating urban landscapes.
Published by: Temple University Press
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It is true what authors say in their acknowledgments about how their books were finished only because of a long list of other people. My list is long because I’m both very lucky and very prone to crises, so I’ve leaned on many extraordinary people in the past few years. This project began as my dissertation in the American Studies Program at Yale University, and I would like to thank...
List of Abbreviations
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Delores Maxwell was not a famous person. The story of her life is not evident from the words she assembled into poetry in October of 1965, but her call to a particular time and place—Thursday nights at the Community Union—articulates the essential components of both history and action. Her poetics encircle her demand with metaphor, giving “unity” both a heartbeat and arteries in an attempt to make a poem out of it all, but this voice from the grass roots, calling on readers to “all pitch in and do our...
1. “The Ghosts of Oak Street’s Paved Ravines”: The Oak Street Project, the Construction of Public Consensus, and the Birth of a Slumless City
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The model you see before you will be a model for all America,”explained Mayor Richard C. Lee’s disembodied voice through a state-of-the-art speaker mounted above a detailed three-dimensional model of the Dixwell Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Plan. This exhibit was one of the most popular at New Haven’s Progress Pavilion, a temporary structure erected by volunteer labor in the heart of downtown in 1960 to house rotating exhibits about the city’s many rede-...
2. On Dixwell Avenue: Civil Rights and the Street
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Why not a sit-out to follow the sit-ins?” asked Mayor Richard C. Lee. It was a warm summer evening in 1960, and Lee was addressing the Seventeenth International Sunday School Convention of the Church of God in Christ. The topic of this talk was “The Civil Rights Movement,” following a wave of lunch-counter sit-ins in the American South. Lee suggested that those who lived in the “slums,” like those who lived under legally sanctioned segregation, should do something to call attention to their conditions.
3. The Hill Neighborhood Union and Freedom Summer North: Citizen Participation and Movement Spaces in a “Project Area”
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Calvin West, Jr., attended a Freedom School, not in the hot Mississippi Delta, but in New Haven, Connecticut, where the summer heat was less relentless, but where he was no less “sick and tired” of being excluded from the “big thing.” The city’s master plan for the Hill neighborhood, like the master plan for Oak Street, which had long since been executed, would turn twenty-two acres...
4. Maximum Feasible Urban Management: The “Automatic” City and the Hill Parents’ Association
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Howard Hallman came to New Haven in 1959 from a position with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Agency. He was only thirty years old at the time, and held a master’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas—an archetype of the young college-trained experts who tinkered with New Haven’s many scale models during the Lee administration. Working under Redevelopment Director Edward Logue, Hallman immediately...
5. Renewal, Riot, and Resistance: Reclaiming “Model Cities”
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As police cars screamed by the front entrance to a downtown hotel toward the panicked Hill neighborhood one August afternoon in 1967, the doorman shook his head and stated indignantly, “I thought the city gave the CIA $32,000 so we wouldn’t have any riots this summer.” Obviously, the city of New Haven was not providing summer funds to the Central Intelligence Agency.1
6. The City and the Six-Lane Highway: Bread and Roses and Parking Garages
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By May of 1967, New Haven’s prominence as an urban renewal showplace had long since waned, but the legacy of Lee’s unfinished vision persisted in plans for highway ramps, parking garages, and high-speed, six-lane stretches of road through the center of the city. At that time, the New York Times reported that “planners and urban experts” across the country had turned their attention to two particular projects—the New Orleans Expressway...
7. Downtown Lives and Palaces: From “A Space of Freedom” to “A Space of Exclusion”
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The city said they all had to be out by May 1, 1969. But it was more than a year later when Rose Conte, the Strand Hotel’s final holdout tenant, decided at the last minute to lock the door to her room and refuse to leave. Behind her door in the century-old five-story building at 184 Orange Street, she had one room with a bed, a closet, a mirror, a chair, and a bathtub. She had...
Conclusion: The “After”
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To stand on just about any corner in New Haven’s “revitalized” downtown is to be reminded of the persistent and often aggressive newness of American cities, where progress is also eviction, improvement is also exclusion, and one person’s on-ramp was once someone else’s front porch. This is true of every developed and developing space because it is the nature of development. The pavement on which you park your car was probably...
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Publication Year: 2008