Charting the American Bottom: St. Louis and Its Divided Periphery
Collaborative Research Project
Visiting Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Director, Institute of Marking and Measuring
Professor of Art History and Archaeology
Washington University in St. Louis
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, American Culture Studies Program
Director, Art of the Rural
University College Coordinator, American Culture Studies Program
Director, Preservation Research Office
Associate Professor of Political Science
Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville
Founding Director, Institute for Urban Research
DESCRIPTION: This project tells a story of a city divided from itself, a story of St. Louis through the lens of its periphery: East St. Louis and the American Bottom. Few regions in the United States exhibit a social and spatial fragmentation as extreme as that of the vast flood plains of the East St. Louis region. As a coherent geographic interval stretching from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers down to the confluence with the Kaskaskia River, this flood plain — known to geographers and anthropologists as the American Bottom — is site to the social and spatial aspirations of pre-contact Native Americans, 19th-century industrial expansion, 20th-century infrastructural consolidation and 21st-century ecological precarity. Yet this is a region defined less by its inherent ecological and geological continuities and more by the industrial patterns that have effectively fractured it into closed parcels of extraction, production and displacement. It is a territory where UNESCO heritage sites abut Superfund sites, and where the first African-American incorporated town in the U.S. abuts the site of the country’s most notorious race riot. Through this rather compact region, then, an entire history of North American settlement and aspirations can be told. This project will attempt to develop a synthetic language — both visual and written — through which we can begin to interpret this episodic landscape.
Segregation by Design: A Historical Analysis of the Impact of Planning and Policy in St. Louis
Interdisciplinary Curriculum Development
Assistant Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School
Professor of History
Director of Center for Neighborhood Development
Harris-Stowe State University
Adjunct Instructor, University College
DESCRIPTION: This transdisciplinary seminar studies the role of planning and design in promoting segregation from a historical perspective, considering social, economic and environmental (the "triple bottom line,") sustainability. This collaboration between Washington University and Harris-Stowe State University will not only bridge humanities and architecture through interdisciplinary course work, but will also activate both universities roles within the community, building on the service-learning methodology traditional of historically black colleges and universities. Segregation as a consequence of design has been debated by scholars in fields as varied as architecture and urban studies and environmental policy and planning. However, this debate has rarely been placed in a historical context where segregation is seen as a product of urban policy through time and policy is analyzed due to an imbalance between social, economic and environmental segregation. Yet, this omission perpetuates ill-informed policy decisions, which entrench racial, cultural, physical and socioeconomic segregation. This course will address this gap in research by examining policy through the triple bottom line to understand the physical manifestation of segregation during growth and decline. The intent is to shape debates on planning, policy and sustainability to address segregation in the coming years.
Tale of Two Cities: Documenting Our Divides
Community Engagement Project
Associate Professor of Art, Sam Fox School
Educational Opportunities Coordinator
Higher Education Channel Television (HEC-TV)
DESCRIPTION: Tale of Two Cities: Documenting Our Divides brings together students working in transdisciplinary teams to create documentary videos of the civil unrest that sparked nationwide protests and the subsequent efforts for reform. Creating art gives students the opportunity to enter into conversations that often polarize and marginalize — not just because of skin color, but because of differences in religion, economic status, ancestral origin, sexual preference and/or political ideology. Working together toward a positive and achievable goal ensures we are not complicit with the assumptions we have about one another. Thus, the transformative work that leads to true social change necessarily is internalized within the actors. Taking a cue from our country’s response to grassroots movements in our history (e.g., women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement), we have the ability to witness and document local groups as they strive for short/long-term goals and local/national reform to create strong, sustainable communities. The intersection of education, social justice, art and technology can bring into focus a powerful dialogue about social and spatial segregation. When artists, designers, architects, planners and communicators engage in this critique, they help reframe the debate and shift momentum toward positive change.
Oral Histories of the Ferguson Movement
Community Engagement Project
Associate Professor of Political Science, Arts & Sciences
Jeffrey Q. McCune
Associate Professor of Performing Arts, Arts & Sciences
Associate University Librarian, Olin Library
DESCRIPTION: Since August 2014 “Ferguson” has come to signify racial segregation in the very broad sense in which the Divided City Initiative uses that term. A majority-black community, the town of Ferguson is governed by a nearly all-white power structure. Like neighboring suburbs in North St. Louis County, its poverty and unemployment rates are high relative to other municipalities in the region, while its tax base is weak. Like many nearby suburbs, Ferguson relies on what has been denounced as predatory policing to help fund local public services. But even still, local services, including, crucially, local public schools, perform exceptionally poorly. Normandy High, the school from which Michael Brown graduated, lost state accreditation in 2012 and was taken over by the Missouri Board of Education in 2014.
Much attention has been focused on these problems, and rightly so. Our project expands the focus of much work on segregation and structural racism to consider grassroots political activism aimed at challenging and changing it. Specifically, we aim to learn how the activists associated with the Ferguson movement became involved, initially; what their goals, strategies, and political identities were at the start, and how they evolved over the course of the year; what events, activities, and resources enabled and encouraged them to make progress toward their goals; what obstacles they faced; and how they dealt with these challenges. Understanding the experiences and perspectives of these activists who have drawn national and international attention to the problem of segregation, broadly understood, is central to the concerns that drive the Divided City Initiative.
Noon In the City: The Odunde Festival and the Shaping of Philadelphia
Collaborative Research Project
Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in Arts & Sciences
Associate Editor for Periodicals, Public Affairs
Naomi Richardson, PhD
Documentarian and Adjunct Professor
Scribe Video Center
Video Media Activist
DESCRIPTION: “Noon In the City: The Odunde Festival and the Shaping of South Philadelphia” focuses on the gentrification of South Philadelphia’s historical 7th and 30th wards. These wards were where blacks settled during the Great Migration, and it was in this part of the city that sociologist W.E.B. DuBois conducted his famous study that resulted in The Philadelphia Negro, published in 1899.
The area is no longer black, having been through more than five decades of gentrification. The Odunde Festival, a Yoruba New Year festival that was founded by African-American, South Philadelphia resident Lois Fernandez, is Fernandez's attempt to establish the Odunde Festival as a cultural marker in black identity in Philadelphia, and stake a claim in the changing neighborhood. Through film and book, the Divided City Initiative project examines this grassroots response to gentrification.
Visualizing Urban History: Segregation, Social Transformation and the Built Environment in 150 Years of St. Louis History
Community Engagement Project, Collaborative Research Project
Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Associate Professor of History, Arts & Sciences
Director of Exhibitions and Research
Missouri History Museum
DESCRIPTION: For scholars of urban history, “Visualizing Urban History” highlights a multidisciplinary approach to tracing the history of a place and analyzing the history of the existing built environment. A museum exhibit of our research will, in many ways, showcase the powerful use of humanities methods in urban scholarship, calling attention to both the evidence used by historians and the analytic stance of humanists. Most important, the exhibit and accompanying catalogue will offer St. Louis residents a history of their neighborhoods and a way to think through the dramatic changes in the city’s demographics and built environment. The exhibit will urge viewers to take seriously the power of policy makers, politicians, business leaders and local activists in shaping urban space and struggling over the meanings of the city’s history.