Published Date

May 21, 2016

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For the Classroom, Video


African American, Current Events in Historical Context, Economic, Labor, Legal, Migration, Immigration, & Diaspora, Social, State & Local (US), Urban

AHA Topics

K–12 Education, Teaching & Learning, Undergraduate Education


United States

This event was part of the May 2016 conference The Future of the African American Past, co-hosted by the American Historical Association and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Race, Power, and Urban Spaces” investigates African American urban history, a field based heavily on the themes of labor and property. Panelists explore both the lived experiences and theoretical notions behind the issues facing African Americans in urban centers, such as the impact of public policy on individuals who migrated to cities in the 20th century.



Speakers and Contents

  • 00:12 – Introduction by Lonnie Bunch (NMAAHC) and Jim Grossman (AHA)
  • 05:11 – Thomas J. Sugrue (New York Univ.) gives an overview on the historiography of urban scholarship and shows how studies on the processes of racism and discrimination can be used to help understand recent events unfolding in places like Baltimore and Ferguson.
  • 16:27 – Leslie M. Harris (Emory Univ.) discusses how public perceptions of urban success and prosperity often disregard the African American experience.
  • 26:43 – N.D.B. Connolly (New York Univ.) investigates the role of land-owning African Americans during the Jim Crow era and how they attempted to negotiate segregated public services.
  • 42:10 – Joe William Trotter Jr. (Carnegie Mellon Univ.) discusses how the word “ghetto” came to be applied to black communities and the role of government housing policy in creating community divisions.
  • 57:30 – Carl Nightingale (Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York) discusses the history of urban racial segregation from a global and diasporic perspective.


  • August Maier and Elliott Rudwick, From Plantation to Ghetto (Macmillan, 1976)
  • Barack Obama 2016 Howard University commencement speech
  • N.D.B. Connolly, A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)
  • St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton Jr., Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Harcourt, 1945)
  • Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Harvard University Press, 1998)