Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech
On September 18, 1895, African-American spokesman
and leader Booker T. Washington spoke before a predominantly white
audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.
His “Atlanta Compromise” address, as it came to be called, was one of
the most important and influential speeches in American history.
Although the organizers of the exposition worried that “public sentiment
was not prepared for such an advanced step,” they decided that inviting
a black speaker would impress Northern visitors with the evidence of
racial progress in the South. Washington soothed his listeners’ concerns
about “uppity” blacks by claiming that his race would content itself
with living “by the productions of our hands.”
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens:
of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise
seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can
disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I
but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment of the
masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and manhood
of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously recognized than
by the managers of this magnificent Exposition at every stage of its
progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship
of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom.
only this, but the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new
era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not
strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top
instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the state
legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that
the political convention or stump speaking had more attractions than
starting a dairy farm or truck garden.
A ship lost at sea for many
days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the
unfortunate vessel was seen a signal,“Water, water; we die of thirst!”
The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your
bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us
water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down
your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was
answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the
distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket,
and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the
Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their
condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of
cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their
next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”—
cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all
races by whom we are surrounded.
Cast it down in agriculture,
mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions. And
in this connection it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins
the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and
simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the
commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent than
in emphasizing this chance. Our greatest danger is that in the great
leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of
us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in
mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and
glorify common labour, and put brains and skill into the common
occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the
line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental
gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that
there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is
at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we
permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.
To those of
the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and
strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I
permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race,“Cast down your
bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes
whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days
when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast
down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour
wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads
and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth,
and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress
of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and
encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of
head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus
land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your
factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the
past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient,
faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen.
As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your
children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and
often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the
future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no
foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in
defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and
religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both
races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate
as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual
There is no defense or security for any of us except in
the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are
efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these
efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most
useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a
thousand per cent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—blessing
him that gives and him that takes. There is no escape through law of
man or God from the inevitable:
The laws of changeless justice bind Oppressor with oppressed;
And close as sin and suffering joined We march to fate abreast...
sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or
they will pull against you the load downward. We shall constitute
one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one-third
[of] its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to
the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a
veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort
to advance the body politic.
Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we
present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you
must not expect overmuch. Starting thirty years ago with ownership here
and there in a few quilts and pumpkins and chickens (gathered from
miscellaneous sources), remember the path that has led from these to the
inventions and production of agricultural implements, buggies,
steam-engines, newspapers, books, statuary, carving, paintings, the
management of drug stores and banks, has not been trodden without
contact with thorns and thistles. While we take pride in what we exhibit
as a result of our independent efforts, we do not for a moment forget
that our part in this exhibition would fall far short of your
expectations but for the constant help that has come to our educational
life, not only from the Southern states, but especially from Northern
philanthropists, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing
The wisest among my race understand that the
agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and
that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to
us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of
artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the
markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important
and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more
important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The
opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely
more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.
conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more
hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race,
as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending, as it
were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of
your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three decades
ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate
problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at
all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this he
constantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings
of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory, letters, and
art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits
will be that higher good, that, let us pray God, will come, in a
blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and
suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute justice, in a
willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This,
coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a
new heaven and a new earth.
Source: Louis R. Harlan, ed., The Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol. 3, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), 583–587.
Red Summer refers to the summer and fall of 1919, in which race riots
exploded in a number of cities in both the North and South. The three
most violent episodes occurred in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Elaine,
Arkansas. On the afternoon of July 27, 1919, a stone-throwing melee
between blacks and whites began after a black youth mistakenly swam into
territory claimed by whites off the 29th Street beach in Chicago.
Amidst the mayhem, Eugene Williams, a black youth, drowned. When a white
police officer refused to arrest the white men involved in the death,
and instead arrested a black man, racial tensions escalated. Fighting
broke out between gangs and mobs of both races. Violence escalated with
each incident, and for 13 days Chicago was in a state of turmoil. By the
time the riot ended, 23 blacks and 15 whites were dead, 537 injured,
and 1,000 black families were left homeless.
Elaine, Arkansas Riot 1919
Chicago riot was part of a national racial frenzy of clashes,
massacres, and lynchings throughout the North and the South. All of the
incidents were initiated by whites. In Washington, D.C., from July 19 to
23, four whites and two blacks were killed; whites were astonished that
blacks dared to fight back. The NEW YORK TIMES lamented the new black
militancy: "There had been no trouble with the Negro before the war when
most admitted the superiority of the white race." A "Southern black
woman," as she identified herself, wrote a letter to THE CRISIS,
praising blacks for fighting back. "The Washington riot gave me a thrill
that comes once in a life time ... at last our men had stood up like
men. ... I stood up alone in my room ... and exclaimed aloud, 'Oh I
thank God, thank God.' The pent up horror, grief and humiliation of a
life time -- half a century -- was being stripped from me."
Omaha, Nebraska lynching and burning of William Brown, 1919
October 1-3, a race war exploded in Phillips County, Arkansas. On the
night of September 30, a small group of black men and women were
gathering a rural church to organize a sharecroppers' and tenant
farmers' union -- the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of
America. When two white law-enforcement officers arrived at the church,
one later claiming they were looking for a bootlegger, shots were
exchanged. One white officer was killed and the other wounded. As word
of the shootings spread throughout the county, the local sheriff sent
out a call for men "to hunt Mr. Brotha Man in his lair."
Prisoners in Elaine, Arkansas 1919
call went out to Mississippi to come to the aid of white men in
Phillips County. Hundreds of armed men jumped into trains, trucks, and
cars and, crossing into Arkansas, fired out of windows at every black
they saw. Some said that if it was black and moving, it was target
practice. Frank Moore, one of the farmers at the church, saw the
massacre as it unfolded: "The whites sent word that they was comin down
here and kill every Brotha Man they found. There were 300 or 400 more white
men with guns, shooting and killing women and children."
Press muckraking, yellow journalistic lies (like Fox News--oh yes, I
went there what's the difference between this pack of bullspit lies and
what Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin...I just don't see the
difference, Rupert Murdock knows what he's doing. There is a long
tradition of race baiting for political gains in this country.)
from the United States Army eventually restored order, although some
claimed the military participated in the killings. By the time the
shooting ended, 25 blacks and five whites were listed as officially
dead. Many blacks believed that perhaps as many as 200 were killed,
their bodies dumped in the Mississippi River or left to rot in the
canebrake. The white establishment charged that blacks had formed a
secret conspiracy to rise up and overthrow the white planters, take
their land and rape their women. No evidence was ever produced to
substantiate the charge. (source:" The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow," by Richard Wormser, PBS)
Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912) was a Liberian educator and
statesman. More than any other figure, he laid the foundation of West
African nationalism and of pan-Africanism.
Edward Blyden was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on Aug. 3,
1832, of free, literate parents. A precocious youth, he early decided to
become a clergyman. He went to the United States in May 1850 and sought
to enter a theological college but was turned down because of his race.
In January 1851 he emigrated to Liberia, an African American colony
which had become independent as a republic in 1847.
He continued his formal education at Alexander High School, Monrovia,
whose principal he was appointed in 1858. In 1862 he was appointed
professor of classics at the newly opened Liberia College, a position he
held until 1871. Although Blyden was self-taught beyond high school, he
became an able and versatile linguist, classicist, theologian,
historian, and sociologist. From 1864 to 1866, in addition to his
professorial duties, Blyden acted as secretary of state of Liberia.
From 1871 to 1873 Blyden lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There he
edited Negro, the first explicitly pan-African journal in West Africa.
He also led two important expeditions to Fouta Djallon in the interior.
Between 1874 and 1885 Blyden was again based in Liberia, holding various
high academic and governmental offices. In 1885 he was an unsuccessful
candidate for the Liberian presidency.
After 1885 Blyden divided his time between Liberia and the British
colonies of Sierra Leone and Lagos. He served Liberia again in the
capacities of ambassador to Britain and France and as a professor and
later president of Liberia College. In 1891 and 1894 he spent several
months in Lagos and worked there in 1896-1897 as government agent for
While in Lagos he wrote regularly for the Lagos Weekly Record, one of
the earliest propagators of Nigerian and West African nationalism. In
Freetown, Blyden helped to edit the Sierra Leone News, which he had
assisted in founding in 1884 “to serve the interest of West Africa … and
the race generally.” He also had helped found and edit the Freetown
West African Reporter (1874-1882), whose declared aim was to forge a
bond of unity among English-speaking West Africans. Between 1901 and
1906 Blyden was director of Moslem education; he taught English and
“Western subjects” to Moslem youths with the object of building a bridge
of communication between the Moslem and Christian communities. He died
in Freetown on Feb. 7, 1912.
Writings, Ideas, and Hopes
Although Blyden held many important positions, it is more as a man of
ideas than as a man of action that he is historically significant. He
saw himself as a champion and defender of his race and in this role
produced more than two dozen pamphlets and books, the most important of
which are A Voice from Bleeding Africa (1856); Liberia’s Offering
(1862); The Negro in Ancient History (1869); The West African University
(1872); From West Africa to Palestine (1873); Christianity, Islam and
the Negro Race (1887), his major work; The Jewish Question (1898); West
Africa before Europe (1905); and Africa Life and Customs (1908). His
writings displayed conversancy with the main current of ideas as well as
originality, and he was often controversial.
Blyden sought to prove that Africa and Africans have a worthy history
and culture. He rejected the prevailing notion of the inferiority of
the black man but accepted the view that each major race has a special
contribution to make to world civilization. He argued that Christianity
has had a demoralizing effect on blacks, while Islam has had a unifying
and elevating influence.
Blyden’s political goals were the establishment of a major modern
West African state which would protect and promote the interests of
peoples of African descent everywhere. He initially saw Liberia as the
nucleus of such a state and sought to extend its influence and
jurisdiction by encouraging selective “repatriation” from the Americas.
He hoped, also in vain, that Liberia and adjacent Sierra Leone would
unite as one nation. He was ambivalent about the establishment of
European colonial rule; he thought that it would eventually result in
modern independent nations in tropical Africa but was concerned about
its damaging psychological impact. As a cultural nationalist, he pointed
out that modernization was not incompatible with respect for African
customs and institutions. He favored African names and dress and
championed the establishment of educational and cultural institutions
specifically designed to meet African needs and circumstances.
A full-length biography of Blyden is Hollis R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot
Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot, 1832-1912 (1967). Edith Holden, Blyden of
Liberia: An Account of the Life and Labors of Edward Wilmot Blyden
(1966), is an important source containing biographical details and
excerpts from Blyden’s letters and published writings. See also Hollis
R. Lynch, ed., Black Spokesman: Selected Published Writings of Edward
Wilmot Blyden (1971), the only representative anthology of his writings.
Cheikh Anta Diop (Born 29 December 1923 – Died 7 February 1986)
Cheikh Anta Diop, the brilliant Black
anthropologist, historian, and physicist was one of the most prominent
and proficient Black scholars in the history of African civilization.
His discoveries and deductions have shown the world the true
accomplishments of African history, effectively put an end to the debate
over who the original people of Egypt were, and pioneered techniques of
scientific research – such as carbon dating as a means of dating
artifacts and remains.
To those who would believe that people
of African descent have accomplished nothing, and to those who would
believe that Blacks are incapable of higher thought and science, Cheikh
Anta Diop stands as a shining example.
Cheikh Anta Diop was educated early in
life. As part of an aristocratic Muslim family, Cheikh was privileged to
have studied at a traditional Islamic school before graduating and
achieving a Bachelors degree at age 23. The year was 1946. Following his
Undergraduate achievement, he moved to Paris where he would stay for 15
years to study Physics (translating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
into the Senegalese language of Wolof), history, and Egyptology. It was
here that Cheikh Anta Diop would become a Pan-Africanist. In 1948, his
studies led him to explore the accomplishments of African cultures. He
would write, “Quand pourra-t-on parler d’une renaissance africaine”
(When we will be able to speak of an African Renaissance). For the next
three years, he immersed himself in the study of anthropology,
sociology, and Pan-Africanist thought and philosophy with an eye towards
identifying the contributions that Africans made to the world as we
know it. His studies led him to three primary revelations:
That Ancient Egypt was founded, populated, and ruled by Black Africans
That the Egyptian language and culture still exists in modern African languages – including his own Wolof language – and
That Black Egypt was responsible for
the rise of civilization throughout Africa and the Mediterranean
(including Greece and Rome)
These findings were published in what
could be considered Cheikh Anta Diop’s first book – Negro Nations and
Culture. Immediately, he became one of the most controversial scientists
in the world during a time when civil rights and African independence
were focal points on the world stage. It was assumed that Blacks had
never produced anything of cultural value, and were incapable of
constructing such majestic works of engineering as the Great Pyramids.
Diop’s work effectively and irrefutably destroyed the assumptions of
Black cultural inferiority. Negro Nations and Cultures – despite the
controversy it caused – earned Dr. Diop a Ph. D. At the University of
Paris in 1960.
From Scholar to Activist
Dr. Chiekh Anta Diop leading a political rally
Dr. Diop’s studies solidified his
political philosophy as well as his academic credentials: he was a
full-blown Pan-Africanist. In 1950, shortly before publishing Negro
Nations and Culture, Cheikh Anta Diop was elected as the
Secretary-General of the African student nationalist organization
Rassemblement Democratique Africaine (RDA). The organization made its
first priority the restoration of Black consciousness, which had been
(and still is) warped by slavery and colonialism. Immediately after his
election as Secretary-General, he organized and successfully hosted the
first Pan-African student conference for the purpose of promoting
African national independence from colonial rule. At this conference,
Diop would reveal his plan for the restoration of Black Consciousness
through a focus on Ancient Egypt. By acknowledging the civilizing role
of Ancient Egypt and adopting its political structure (in the form of a
federated state), Africa would be best positioned to deal with the
challenges that it faced at the time. These early ideas would lead to
his second major work in 1962: Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State.
In it , he wrote “ the formation of a federated and unified Africa,
culturally and otherwise,is the only way for Africa to become the power
in the world that she should rightfully be.”
Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State
served as a manifesto for his political party – the Mass Senegalese
Bloc (BMS). Armed with a faith in Pan-African principles, and Dr. Diop’s
manifesto, the BMS won the hearts and minds of so many Senegalese that
they became a clear threat to then President Leopold Senghor. Diop was
arrested and tortured to the point of death, and his political party was
banned in Senegal. All his work was nearly lost, and would have been
forgotten had it not been for other loyal BMS fighters. Diop supporters
unleashed a barrage of anti-Senghor campaign messages, threats, and
stand-ins. Ultimately, President Senghor folded, and offered to not only
release Diop, but to offer him a position in a new government. Diop
refused when Senghor refused to release all other political prisoners,
and disappeared from politics until 1975.
Rather than remaining idle, Dr. Diop
continued his research. He became a pioneer of the scientific method of
radiocarbon dating, and established the Institut Fondamental de
L’Afrique Noir, which was renamed Cheikh Anta Diop University
in his honor after his death on February 7, 1986. His techniques
provided scientific means of identifying the racial identity of mummies
(providing proof of the race of the Ancient Egyptians), as well as
dating artifacts and remains.
It is thanks to The African Origins of
Civilization, Diop’s first English translated book, that we in America
and other English speakers the world over have become aware of Chiekh
Anta Diop’s contributions to Afrocentric thought and science. The 1974
book openly challenged European archaeologists who then continued to
understate the extent and possibility of Black civilizations, and gave
further proof of the African influence over so-called western
The Legacy of Chiekh Anta Diop
Chiekh Anta Diop University, Dakar Senegal
In 1975 Chiekh Anta Diop died in his
sleep of natural causes, and passed into eternity. His works continue to
be studied, debated, and built upon, both at the Cheikh Anta Diop
University in Senegal, and in Black circles around the world. He is a
pharaoh of Black scholarship, and his name should be enshrined with the
likes of Imhotep, Ahmed Baba , and George Washington Carver. Activists
including Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah,
Huey P. Newton, and Louis Farrakhan have all directly attributed their
evolution as Pan-Africanists to the works of Cheikh Anta Diop.
His university bears the motto “Lux Mea
lex”, which is Latin for “Light is my law”. For more than 50 years the
University has remained a premier institution of higher education and is
currently one of the most successful in Africa. In December of 201, the
institute will hold an international symposium titled “Population,
Development and Climate Change”.
In urban planning, planned shrinkage, sometimes called shrink to survive, is a controversial public policy of the deliberate withdrawal of city services to blighted neighborhoods as a means of coping with dwindling tax revenues.
It involves decreasing city services such as police patrols, garbage
removal, street repairs, and fire protection, from selected city
neighborhoods suffering from urban decay, crime, and poverty.
While it has been advocated as a way to concentrate city services for
maximum effectiveness given serious budgetary constraints, it has been
criticized as an attempt to "encourage the exodus of undesirable
as well as to open up blighted neighborhoods for development by private
interests. Planned shrinkage was mentioned as a development strategy
for the South Bronx section of New York City in the 1970s, and more recently for other urban areas in the United States cities of New Orleans, and several cities in Michigan such as Flint and Benton Harbor. The term was first used in New York City in 1976 by Housing Commissioner Roger Starr. There are conflicting views about whether planned shrinkage
is beneficial; one view is that it is the only way for some cities to
cope with inevitable decline, but an opposing view is that such efforts
have had disastrous consequences, particularly for the people who feel
forced to relocate.
During the twentieth century, a boom in suburban
growth caused in part by increased automobile use led to urban decline,
particularly in the poorer sections of many large cities in the United States
and elsewhere. A dwindling tax base depleted many municipal resources. A
common view was that it was part of a "downward spiral" caused first by
an absence of jobs, the creation of a permanent underclass, a declining
tax base hurting many city services including schools, and it was this
interplay of factors which made change difficult.
New York City was described as "so broke" by the 1970s with
neighborhoods which had become "so desperate and depleted" that
municipal authorities wondered how to cope.
Some authorities felt the process of decline was inevitable, and
instead of trying to fight it, searched for alternatives. According to
one view, authorities searched for ways to have the greatest population
loss in the areas with the poorest non-white populations.
In the early 1970s, a RAND
study examining the relation between city services and large city
populations concluded that when services such as police and fire
protection were withdrawn, the numbers of people in the neglected areas
There had been questions about many fires that had been happening in
the South Bronx during the 1970s. One account (including the RAND
report) suggested that neighborhood fires were predominantly caused by arson, while a contrasting report suggested that arson was not a major cause.
If arson had been a primary cause according to the RAND viewpoint, then
it did not make sense financially for the city to try to invest further
funds to improve fire protection, according to this view. The RAND
report allegedly influenced then SenatorDaniel Patrick Moynihan, who used the report's findings to make recommendations for urban policy. In Moynihan's view, arson was one of many social pathologies caused by large cities, and suggested that a policy of benign neglect would be appropriate as a response.
Shrinkage in particular cities
New York City
Partly in response to the RAND report, and in an effort to address
New York's declining population, New York's housing commissioner, Roger
Starr, proposed a policy which he termed planned shrinkage to reduce the impoverished population and better preserve the tax base. According to the "politically toxic" proposal, the city would stop investing in troubled neighborhoods and divert funds to communities "that could still be saved."
He suggested that the city should "accelerate the drainage" in what he
called the worst parts of the South Bronx through a policy of "planned
shrinkage" by closing subway stations, firehouses and schools. Starr
felt these actions were the best way to save money. Starr's arguments soon became predominant in urban planning thinking nationwide.
The people who lived in the communities where his policies were applied
protested vigorously; without adequate fire service and police
protection, the residents faced waves of crime and fires that left much
of the South Bronx and Harlem devastated. A report in 2011 in the New York Times suggested that the planned shrinkage approach was "short-lived". Under the Planned shrinkage
program, for example, an abandoned 100-unit development on one piece of
land could be cleared by a real estate developer, and such an outcome
would have been preferable to ten separate neighborhood-based efforts to
produce 100 housing units each, according to advocates of planned shrinkage. According to this view, a planned shrinkage
approach would encourage so-called "monolithic development", resulting
in new urban growth but at much lower population densities than the
neighborhoods which had existed previously. The remark by Starr caused a political firestorm: then mayor Abraham Beame disavowed the idea while City Council members called it "inhuman," "racist" and "genocidal."
According to one report, the high inflation during the 1970s combined
with the restrictive rent control policies in the city meant that
buildings were worth more dead for the insurance money than alive
as sources of rental income; as investments, they had limited ability
to provide a solid stream of rental income. Accordingly, there was an
economic incentive on the part of building owners, according to this
view, to simply let the buildings burn. An alternative view was that the
fires were a result of the city's municipal policies. While there are
differing views about whether planned shrinkage caused fire outbreaks in the 1970s, or was a result of such fires, there is agreement that the fires in the South Bronx during these years were extensive.
In the South Bronx, the average number of people
per [fire] engine is over 44,000. In Staten Island, it's 17,000. There
is no standard for manning areas of multiple dwellings as opposed to
one- and two- family residences.
—A New York City battalion chief from the
New York City Fire Department interviewed in the BBC-TV special "The
Bronx is Burning," in 1976.
By the mid-1970s, The Bronx
had 120,000 fires per year, for an average of 30 fires every 2 hours.
40 percent of the housing in the area was destroyed. The response time
for fires also increased, as the firefighters did not have the resources
to keep responding promptly to numerous service calls. A report in The New York Post suggested that the cause of the fires was not arson but resulted from decisions by bureaucrats to abandon sections of the city.
According to one report, of the 289 census tracts within the borough of
the Bronx, seven census tracts lost more than 97% of their buildings,
and 44 tracts lost more than 50% of their buildings, to fire and
There have been claims that planned shrinkage impacted public health
negatively. According to one source, public shrinkage programs targeted
to undermine populations of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans in
the South Bronx and Harlem had an effect on the geographic pattern of
outbreak. According to this view, municipal abandonment was
interrelated with health issues and helped to cause a phenomenon termed
The populations in the South Bronx, Lower East Side, and Harlem
plummeted during the two decades after 1970. Only after two decades did
the city begin to invest in these areas again. New developments were
built; in 2011, these areas are again experiencing a rebirth.
differed from other cities in that the cause of decline was not based
on economic or political shifts but rather a destructive flood caused by
a hurricane. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, planned shrinkage was proposed as a means to create a "more compact, more efficient and less flood-prone city".
According to one report, planners had been sticking "green pins" into a
city map to target blighted areas which would be turned into parks or
However, residents of New Orleans who examined what had happened in the
South Bronx became more involved in a civic sense, and rejected a
"top-down" approach of planned shrinkage of municipal planners, according to one view.
Cities in Michigan
The city of Flint has lost many residents since the downturn in the automobile industry in the last decade.
The term has also been used in the 2010s in relation to the proposed reconfiguration of inner Detroit suburbs following its population decline and resulting urban decay. One report suggested there were efforts to consider bulldozing swaths of the city of Flint and "razing entire districts and returning the land to nature" in an effort called "shrink to survive". One estimate was that the city should contract by 40% to once again become viable financially.
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