PANEL SEARCH (UHA '16): Integration and segregation in American cities and suburbs

Chris Rasmussen's picture

For the 2016 Urban History Association conference in Chicago, October 13-16, 2016, I would like to create a panel on Integration and Segregation in American Cities and Suburbs. Panel proposals are due to the UHA by March 1, 2016. I would like to assemble proposals at least a month prior to that, and preferably earlier. Prospective panelists should submit a one-page paper proposal a 1- to 2-page cv to

Chris Rasmussen, History, Fairleigh Dickinson University,

For more information about the UHA conference, go to:

My own work is about the tensions over education and integration between cities and suburbs in New Jersey. Specifically, I am researching the struggle over school integration that convulsed New Brunswick and surrounding communities from 1965 to 1975.

Below is a possible panel proposal. I am entirely open to suggestions for improving it.


Integration and segregation in American cities and suburbs

This panel examines patterns of racial segregation in housing and education in American cities and suburbs in the decades after WWII in an effort to offer detailed and nuanced pictures of integration, segregation, and suburbanization and to question broad historical generalizations. Debates over racial segregation involve the history of cities and suburbs, as well as the policies of state and the Federal government. This panel aims to look at the processes of segregation, integration, and suburbanization from multiple perspectives in order to understand better this controversial and still timely issue.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, some cities and states began to create regionalized schools, and to use busing and other means to desegregate their public school systems. The effort to integrate public education occurred at a moment in which some urban residents were moving to suburbia. So-called “white flight” to suburbs often undercut the integrationist effort by resulting in de facto racial segregation and leaving urban school districts with lower tax bases to support their public schools. The resulting battles between cities and suburbs over schooling, local control of education, and resources, were sometimes fierce.

Efforts to integrate schools met with staunch resistance from some white parents, who fought against racial integration, and even some black parents, who were more concerned with the quality of their children’s education and with maintaining local control over schooling than with the racial composition of the students. Battles over busing to achieve racial integration were also complicated by class, as some urban white residents charged that they and their children were effectively being asked to bear the burden of integrating America’s public schools, while more affluent whites continued to live in and educate their children in virtually all-white enclaves or send their children to private schools.

Scholars have recently become even more keenly aware of the importance of housing and housing markets in creating and maintaining racial segregation. This panel will consider real estate segregation within cities, where white residents sometimes fought to preserve segregated neighborhoods and, thus, de facto segregation in the schools, or opted out of public schools by enrolling their children in private schools instead.