Prof. Colin Gordon's Public Lecture on the History of Urban Crisis


In partnership with the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative and the Departments of History, English, Geography and Religious Studies, the Kinder Forum sponsored an October 23, 2014, public lecture by University of Iowa Professor of History Colin Gordon titled, “‘The Fire This Time’: Ferguson, St. Louis, and the Fate of the American City.” Rather than focus solely on the recent events in Ferguson, Prof. Gordon put Ferguson in context, highlighting the political and economic factors underlying the history of urban decline in the St. Louis area. Throughout the lecture, Prof. Gordon drew on his incredibly comprehensive and impressive work with GIS mapping to build out this historical narrative, using an interactive illustration of St. Louis’ demographic and geographic transformation over the past 100 years to demonstrate how the city’s early twentieth-century legacy of race-restricted real estate practices and zoning laws, coupled with its gross misuse of federal housing and urban renewal funds, have resulted in an institutionalized perpetuation of segregation and income inequality, particularly in northern inner suburbs like Ferguson. Prof. Gordon argued that acknowledging the consequences of this continued management of segregation and inequality–along with the effects a wildly ineffective fragmentation of civic government and a declining municipal revenue base–is essential to understanding contemporary manifestations of urban crisis in St. Louis.

For more information on Prof. Gordon’s work with GIS mapping, you can visit his website or his “Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the American City” project, published on Harvard University’s WorldMap website.