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"Urban thunder" tears black communities asunder; displacement and development whittle away at the collective psyche.

Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It

by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D. One World/Ballantine Books, June 2004 $25.95, ISBN 0-345-45422-7

We've witnessed the 3-D disintegration of many of America's once dynamic and thriving African American neighborhoods and communities, victims of destruction, demolition and displacement for more than five decades. In Root Shock, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., uses her incisive skills as a psychiatrist to provide an astute socially constructed analysis of three urban settings-the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Central Ward in Newark, New Jersey; and neighborhoods of Roanoke, Virginia, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When a neighborhood is destroyed, its inhabitants suffer "root shock": a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one's emotional ecosystem, according to Fullilove, a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University.

From 1949 to 1973, urban renewal, spearheaded by business and real estate interests, uprooted that emotional ecosystem and destroyed some 1,600 African American neighborhoods in cities across the country. Along with stripping these communities of many of their hard-won victories and dignity, urban renewal spawned economic despair, cultural erosion and scores of riots across the country.

Salad Udin, a former Pittsburgh council man, talks about the sense of fragmentation: "We didn't know what impact the amputation of the lower half of our body would have on the rest of our body until you look back twenty years later, and the rest of your body is really ill because of that amputation Now we are scattered literally to the four corners of the city, and we are not only politically weak, we are not a political entity."

While some concerned people have sought community action to address the issues, Dr. Walter Claytor of Roanoke, Virginia, sought legal recourse. When redlining led to the devaluation and destruction of a 22-room mansion built by his father, Claytor's actions resulted in a preliminary victory in a suit against the city.

Through stories collected from people like Charles Meadows and Mary Bishop of Roanoke, as well as maps, archival materials and newspaper clippings, Fullilove provides historical context and hard data. Fullilove's work documents how urban renewal, combined with crime and violence, have shredded the social and economic structure of African Americans and compounded the trauma of the individual and the collective mental health of our communities.

While documenting the toll on the human psyche, Root Schock also provides strategies for rebuilding through a combination of building on existing structures and incorporating local history.

Other recent titles examine the formation of black communities across the country and document how urban renewal, trauma and violence affected communities and cities from post-World War II Oakland, California, to Chicago, Illinois, and Muncie, Indiana, to Atlanta, Georgia.

Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street

by Jonathan Tilove, photographs by Michael Falcon, Random House, November 2003, $29.95, ISBN 1-400-06080-X

A freelance photographer presents the results of his travels along some 650 streets, avenues and boulevards across America, all named for Martin Luther King Jr., capturing and mapping many countries within a country.

American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland

by Robert O. Self Princeton University Press, December 2003 $35, ISBN 0-691-07026-1

This engaging book describes how the Civil Rights Movement and black liberation politics in California represented a long-term struggle for economic rights that began during World War II and continued through the rise of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s.

Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration An Oral History

by Timuel D. Black Jr. Northwestern University Press, May 2003 $29.95, ISBN 0-810-11362-7

Through more than 30 oral histories, we "hear" the voices of those who left the Jim Crow South during WWI seeking political freedom and economic opportunity, only to encounter new configurations of prejudice and segregation.

L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles From the Great Depression to the Present

by Josh Sides University of California Press, January 2004 $39.95, ISBN 0-520-23841-9

In 1964, an Urban League survey ranked Los Angeles as the most desirable city for African Americans to live. A year later, one of the worst riots in America's history sent L.A. into an orbit of flames. This compelling story chronicles the struggles for equality in L.A.'s neighborhoods, schools and workplaces from the Great Depression to present times.

No Fire Next Time: Black-Korean Conflicts and the Future of America's Cities

by Patrick D. Joyce Cornell University Press, September 2003 $19.95, ISBN 0-801-48890-7

Joyce's book demonstrates how different patterns of city politics affect African American and Korean race relations and conflicts.

The Other Side of Middletown: Exploring Muncie's African American Community

Edited by Luke Eric Lassiter, Hurley Goodall, Elizabeth Campbell and Michelle Natasya Johnson, AltaMira Press, July 2004 $29.95, ISBN 0-759-10668-1 (with DVD)

This study fills gaps from the omission of Muncie, Indiana's black community, from a 1929 landmark study of Middleton, Indiana.

The Pain Didn't Start Here: Trauma and Violence in the African American Community

by Denyse Hicks-Ray, Ph.D. TSA Communications, June 2004 $16.95, ISBN 0-975-36770-6

Psychological trauma and its behavioral affects on the African American community are examined and challenged in this book.

To Build Our Lives Together: Community Formation in Black Atlanta, 1875-1906

by Allison Dorsey University of Georgia Press, July 2004 $19.95, ISBN 0-820-32619-4

This history of a complex urban society speaks volumes about the struggles black Atlantans endured to reach their gods of achievement.

Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen

by David Hilfiker, M.D. Seven Stories Press, September 2003 $11.95, ISBN 1-583-22607-9

This history of the inner city also includes a grounding chapter on welfare history.

Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and poet who has witnessed six decades of urban renewal and its legacies.
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Title Annotation:Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It; Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street; American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland; Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration An Oral History; L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles From the Great Depression to the Present; No Fire Next Time: Black-Korean Conflicts and the Future of America's Cities; The Other Side of Middletown: Exploring Muncie's African American Community; To Build Our Lives Together: Community Formation in Black Atlanta, 1875-1906; Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen
Author:Muse, Daphne
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:976
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