Segregating the Suburbs: New Rochelle in Black and White, 1900-1970

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This thesis analyzes the role segregation and white flight played in the development of New York City’s suburban Westchester County, particularly in regards to how white flight from (and within) New Rochelle during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s was presaged by the racial reification of the suburb’s communal boundaries during the preceding four decades. Historians have charted how white flight after World War II trapped Blacks within urban spaces that public officials proceeded to devalue and underfund, but have paid less attention to the dynamics of white flight within, and between, suburban communities; nor have they analyzed the various housing and educational policies that enabled whites to create segregated suburbs even when those suburbs had substantial Black populations. Using newspapers, NAACP documents (including correspondences and press releases), title deeds, City Council minutes, and municipal government records, this project traces the development of New Rochelle’s neighborhoods along racialized lines in the early twentieth century. It explores city officials’ efforts to contain the suburb’s burgeoning Black population during the 1930s and 1940s, and shows how these processes precipitated white flight in the 1960s. In doing so, this project showcases how integral white flight was to the suburban development process while also stressing the importance of considering inter-suburban (and intra-suburban) dynamics.

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  • 04/20/2018
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