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“Riot” Heritage of the Civil Rights Era

Lang, Janine

From slave uprisings of the colonial period, to protests of the Civil Rights Era, to Black Lives Matter protests of present day, black American demonstrations of resistance permeate American life, with some attaining iconic status in history books and other media. However, a large number of protest events that impacted entire cities, especially those that contained violence, remain unacknowledged and uncommemorated in their urban fabrics. Unacknowledged sites of violent black protest are particularly prevalent for those of the Civil Rights Era, when protests proliferated in the United States throughout the late 50s and 60s. The narrative of the Civil Rights Era is traditionally one of civil disobedience in southern states, while the experience of the majority of black Americans during this time was much different and often involved events of violence that decimated entire neighborhoods. The research of this thesis revealed that the lack of recognition of violent protest outside the south during the Civil Rights Era is partially because of mislabelling and partially because of interpretive complications. While southern civil disobedience labelled as “protest” is highly commemorated on the sites where these events took place, events of the same that have been considered “riots” are virtually invisible from the memorial landscape of their cities. The work of this thesis revolves around identifying, cataloging, mapping, and evaluating the commemoration of sites of black American uprising outside of the South to redefine what “Civil Rights Era protest” means today. By revealing the commemorative gaps for significant sites of the era, this thesis also identifies sites that preservationists, designers, and historians can address to rectify this narrative inequality.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Neville, Christopher P.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2019
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