Ever since I was a little girl, I loved reading. In fourth grade, I read over 100 books during the school year for fun. For Black History Month, I’m sharing some books I’ve read related to planning and the Black community.
- IN THE ALLEYS Kids in the Shadow of the Capitol by Laura Goldstein (author) and Godfrey Frankel (1995). I learned about this book from a DC taxi driver while he was driving me through Southwest area of DC. He was telling me how he grew up in the area and how his family was displaced during the era of urban renewal. He mentioned the book. I borrowed it from the DC Public Library. The book is a photo documentation of what life was like in Southwest.
- Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class by Mary Pattillo-McCoy (2000). I read this book in graduate school. It did a great job of highlighting some of the challenges of the black middle class. One theme of the book is the challenge of young people who straddle between growing up middle class, but wanting to be “down” with the streets. It also discusses the challenge of having too much money to be poor, but not enough to be financially stable.
- The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro (1975). I know many planners that have this book. I don’t know any that have actually finished it. I’ve skipped around to key chapters and themes. It is a slog to get through, but it is an important read. Robert Moses is the reason the Bronx is split in half by the Cross Bronx Expressway.
- Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality by Robert Bullard (2000). This is one of the books that I cited in my final graduate paper for urban planning. The book shed light on the fact that poor and communities of color where carrying a disproportionate share of environmental impacts. I used this book as the basis of my methodology.
- The Color of School Reform: Race, Politics, and the Challenge of Urban Education by Jeffrey R. Henig et al (1999). I read this book in graduate school. I didn’t like it, which is probably strange that I’m recommending it. However, given the current challenges in some of the very same school districts highlighted in the book, it may make for an interesting read to see how far (or not) that we have come in the last twenty years.
- Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, DC by Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. I would be remiss (and probably kicked out of DC) if I didn’t mention Dream City. It documents the history of DC under Home Rule and the rise of Mayor for Life Marion Barry. I have not read the 20th anniversary edition, which discusses the rapid changes in the District over the last few years.
- How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012). Although this isn’t specifically about urban planning, it provide a funny but serious memoir of growing up in two different worlds. Baratunde talks about growing up on a dangerous street in a Black neighborhood in DC, while going to a private school where he was one of few Black faces. It’s a great read.
- The Masters and Their Slaves by Gilberto Freyre (1964). This is another book I read in graduate school. The book explores how the Portuguese masters accepted the African culture of music, dance, and art, but rejected the Black skin.
Do you have any suggested reads?
Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.