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Baby Boomers Brainwashed into Hating Cities

August 29, 2006 Books, History/Preservation, Planning & Design 9 Comments

Although I am going to have a huge amount of reading for my classes in Urban Planning at Saint Louis University this Fall I could not help but stop by the Carondelet YMCA for their annual book fair (continuing through tomorrow). I bought a number of Life magazines from the 1960s as well as a former school library book, Cities and Metropolitan Areas in Today’s World by Samuel L. Arbital. The book is copyrighted 1968.

Wow, no wonder some many people hated cities, if I had read such propaganda as a child I might be living out in a suburb and fearful of the city. Here are some selected quotes from the first half of the book:


The problems of our cites and metropolitan areas are nation-wide. No city is along in crisis.

Chapter 1 – From City to Megalopolis

During business hours, the core of the city teems with action. People at work, people shopping, people on a visit — people coming or going. Workers travel into the core every weekday morning from other parts of the city or from the suburbs. After work the movement of people flows in reverse — away from the core to their homes in the outlying sections of the city or suburbs.

Highways and main traffic arteries have had to be built to help route traffic into and out of the core. In Minneapolis, Hiawatha Avenue cuts across the core. In Detroit, the main arteries are Gratier Avenue, Woodward Avenue and Grand Avenue.

Those who live in the core are, for the most part, people who cannot afford to live elsewhere and must settle for old rundown tenements until they can afford to move away.

The majority of people who live in the inner ring, however, are poor. They live in old, outdated, neglected houses built when the city was young. Many houses lack adequate sanitation, heat, hot water, garbage removal facilities, fire protection or other requirements for decent living standards.

Just as the pioneers of old moved ever outward from the crowded areas, many families today have been pushing beyond the political boundaries of the city into open space in the suburbs.

Chapter 2 – The Problems of Cities and Metropolitan Areas

It is typical today for young married couples to move to the suburbs, while their parents and grandparents remain in the core. One of the chief reasons for deterioration has been the in-migration of rural families, both white and Negro, whose customs and values are different from those of older city dwellers, thus giving additional momentum to the movement out of the city. Those who remain have to adapt to the old houses, stores, schools and streets.

As national legislation helps to finance long-range programs worked out by local agencies, there can be a reduction in grinding poverty and improvement in educational and cultural opportunities within the city. Cities will then regain their vitality and blight can be eliminated.

All too often it is to the core of the city that Negro families have moved and the boundaries have become hardened and fixed. Housing is interior to the housing for white families on the city’s fringe or in the suburbs. Negro communities are permitted to deteriorate with no encouragement for those who want to maintain their property.

Every central city is faced with the difficulty of transporting passengers into and through the core at a minimum cost and with maximum speed and efficiency. Narrow streets in the downtown sections of cities are inadequate for the steady flow of automobiles, buses, taxis and trucks that move through them each day.

Detroit has 21 redevelopment and nine neighborhood conservation projects. One of the problems which Detroit has in common with other large cities is the relocation of Negro families, even those who can afford middle income or high rental housing, from the city slum areas.

In a future post I’ll bring you quotes from the second half with chapter 2, Cities meet the challenge and chapter 4, the future by design.

– Steve


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Dionna says:

    Lordy! What a huge load of crap! Negro families?

  2. Child of the 60s says:

    Doubt that many people made their decisions based on articles like this.

    Rather, those were days when diversity was not valued.

    The article was a reflection of the times.

    REPLY This was not an article, it was a 176-page school book — from Notre Dame Elementary school at 2647 Ohio. Young children were taught this BS and as a result many still argue we need to raze neighborhood and build more roads. – SLP]

  3. Mike says:

    Isn’t this just describing the Chicago School for Urban Sociology/Psychology.


    This used to be more true than it is today. Just outside the core business districts of most cities in the rust belt used to be industrial areas. They produced exhaust and a lot of trash, not desirable places to live. Typically, immigrants would live around these areas and work the factories, and the more one could afford to live further out, the more likely it would be that they would.

    Today, the economy is more of a service economy, and the tables have basically turned. You don’t see as many factories in cities. In fact, with highway systems built out, it seems that factories seem to prefer to build in exburbs rather than inner cities.

    So it’s an outdated model of the city, but it was outdated by the 1960s, so I don’t know what to make of this book. Seems like they were just running with the suburb fad.

  4. Hans Gerwitz says:

    As Mike indicated, it’s probably fair to see this and other “propaganda” of the time as a reflection, rather than driver, of the zeitgeist.

    Investigation of any period in history finds a dishearteningly large swath of the public thoughtlessly following the meme du jour. Media like this are just the persistent footprints left behind; imagine how archives of 2002’s Iraq coverage will look in a decade (or Fox News now).

    Your implicit message that we need to keep tabs on what messages are being communicated through our education system is well-heard, though.

  5. Joe Frank says:

    Ya know, I’ve read lots of those old textbooks, and that’s just how they were written. It was a different time, when the Great Society programs were in full-swing, but not exactly well-appreciated by suburbanites.

    The book’s former home is ironic, considering Notre Dame Elementary was itself located in a neighborhood where lots of rural whites had moved to during the 1950s and 1960s from the Ozarks.

    Sometimes self-hatred is the worst kind.

    Fortunately, the successor to Notre Dame — St. Frances Cabrini Academy at Oregon and Arsenal — is among the most diverse Catholic schools I’ve ever seen.

  6. Matt B says:

    I think persistent of subtle messages do have an impact, especially when this is your only exposure to the city. How many suburban teenagers have been to the city other than to see a sporting event or go to the Arch.

    Maybe things have changed, but in the 80’s I can’t ever recall a meaningful trip to the city outside of downtown. I had no clue about the Central West End, Lafayette Square, etc.

    Similar messages continue today. I remember a few months ago there was a controversy in Chicago regarding an American Girl book where our young hero was able to escape her Hispanic city neighborhood in Chicago (the neighborhood was real and specifically identified), move to the suburbs, live in a nice suburban home and go to a good school. Reality was the city neighborhood wasn’t really that bad, and residents protested in front of the American Girl store.

  7. Matt B says:

    Also from the way back machine, check out this film from the late 50’s warning about the effects of urban sprawl.


    Surprisingly it was produced in cooperation between the Home Builder’s Association and the Urban Land Institute.

  8. Seth says:

    To the person that commented on the use of the word “Negro;” this term was used then as “African American” is used now.
    No disrespect was intended. In fact, the author was anything but. He was very active in civil rights movement at the
    time. He also worked dilligently in the New York City School system for over 30 years, trying to build up the level of
    education available in the NY city schools. He was instrumental in learning history through reinactment, developing
    geography programs. He wrote curriculums and worked dilligently (50-60 hour weks) to develop the GED programm giving
    high-school dropouts the chance to earn their diploma. His students, of all backgrounds felt he was inspriational and changed their lives for the better.

    When you read text, you need to make sure you keep the time period in mind. However, what he said is still accurate.
    Many of the middle-class and upper middle class do move out of the city into the suburbs. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and
    now commute to NY city each morning, treking 2 hours each way to the suburbs so my kids can have a better education,
    and to offer my family a better lifestyle. Most city workers commute into the city from the suburbs. It is unfortunate that
    the city dwellings are for the most part run down or are so expensive, that only the very poor or very wealthy occupy

    When reading the text, please do not take it out of context, apply it to the time period written and try to understand as
    opposed to react. The author of this book was more than an honorable man who always sacrificed for others and never
    lied. He always gave of himself in both time and money to help others, even strangers. Please do not be so quick to

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