Monday, April 29, 2013

Will we see more "long hot summers" soon?

My Roosevelt to Reagan and History of the American City students will recognize the phrase in quotation marks above--the "long hot summers": those dreadful and wrenching urban riots that tore apart hundreds of American cities between 1964 and 1968.

An interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times (click here to read) suggests that American cities are not repeating those riots today even though the economy is dreadful because of policies of the first Obama administration. But those programs are now rapidly ending. According to Patrick Sharkey, a sociology professor at NYU, programs from the stimulus (remember that?) helped to destroy or rehabilitate abandoned buildings so they would not become crime spots, put teachers back into schools, and returned police to neighborhood streets. The problem, though, is that stimulus money has been spent.

And so Sharkey asks, "what comes next, now that the stimulus is over? A historical perspective on urban policy reveals a cycle in which periods of major investment are followed by periods of neglect, disinvestment and decline. This pattern is in the process of repeating."

Will American cities erupt in more "long hot summers"? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Messing With the Wrong City"

File:Boston Massacre high-res.jpg

Dennis Lehane is the author of several fine urban historical novels. He is a native of Boston and still lives in Dorchester, the home of the eight-year-old killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. I strongly recommend his op-ed piece in the New York Times which you can find here.

I often tell students when I teach the American Revolution that the Boston Massacre was no massacre at all--five people killed. The name "massacre" was bestowed upon it by patriot propagandists in very short order, along with Paul Revere's incendiary and wildly inaccurate engraving of the massacre--something widely known to everyone who's gotten past second grade in this country.

Today, of course, we don't need the imaginations of illustrators and engravers. The cellphone cameras and videos captured the horrific details: more video footage to add to our grisly collective library of terrorist damage.

Do read Dennis Lehane's posting: it says much about Boston and its character.

Today my American urban history class begins its foray into urban renewal --its goals, its costs, and its results. What better way to showcase the old making way for the new than this shot of Albany's Empire State Plaza? The buildings in the foreground exemplify the late nineteenth century row house neighborhoods that were flattened to make way for the state government building complex. The architecture of the plaza exemplifies the modernist dreams of architects and planners of the mid twentieth century.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shameless plug for a new book

Here is a shameless plug for a new book in which I have contributed a chapter. The book, Silencing Cinema, has just been shipped from Palgrave and is now available at an online bookstore near you....(as the old saying goes).

The book includes chapters on film censorship around the world, an area of censorship study that has been woefully neglected...until now! In it you'll find chapters by scholars the likes of which makes me blush to have been included--big names in the history of American film censorship like Gregory Black and Jon Lewis. The book looks at American censorship (of course) but also censorship in  China, Nigeria, Latin America, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, and Northern Europe. No other work has dealt with film censorship on such a broad geographical scale. My thanks to editors Daniel Biltereyst and Roel Vande Winkel for including my work on American governmental censorship in such a prestigious volume.

Click on the book above to go to Palgrave's site, or click here to go to to learn more.