The Low Wards
Between 1870 and 1940 urban lowland neighborhoods could be found in many American cities. Newspaper journalists, elected officials, and urban experts frequently blamed residents for water and sanitation problems, stigmatizing people according to place. Municipal debates over what to do about these places and the people who lived there revealed a paradox. Spatial containment of poor people, immigrants, and African Americans in low-lying districts provoked disease fears and stimulated reform efforts. In the early twentieth century, many housing experts and planners incorporated racist and xenophobic attitudes about lowland residents into social surveys and government reports. Since the 1970s, oral histories, museum exhibits, and public history projects have documented the history of these neighborhoods. Hurricane Katrina catalyzed new research on environmental hazards, specifically the connections between race, class, elevation, and flood risk. This introduction concludes with a brief introduction of the four case studies and a description of the structure of the book.
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