Date of Award
Master of Arts
Dr. Susan Hoffmann
Dr. Kevin Corder
Dr. Priscilla A. Lambert
Urban renewal, Great Migration, Albion, Michigan, African American, housing policy
Masters Thesis-Open Access
Albion, Michigan’s African American community built a robust, diverse, and thriving city in the early 20th century. Jobs were plentiful and wages allowed for healthy communities to sprout up across the city’s landscape. During this period Albion’s overall population more than doubled, and its African American community grew exponentially over the course of six decades. However, for many in the African American community, societal and economic gains were overshadowed by a crippling shortage in viable housing options. Albion’s African American community experienced limited options to help remedy the community’s housing challenges. These limitations were due to discriminatory housing norms and practices, racist policy decisions in the form of urban renewal clearances, and a lack of investment in community housing stock. Discriminatory housing practices and policies experienced by migrating African Americans during the period of the Great Migration led to devastating outcomes for many in their community. This paper, while studying the 1949 Housing Act and the Great Migration, illustrates how discriminatory housing practices and policy decisions, led to higher unemployment, increased housing insecurities, generational poverty, neighborhood segregation, decreased educational attainment, and wealth disparities. Albion, and its African American community, represent an effective test case to examine discriminatory housing clearance, through the city’s urban renewal initiative.
In an effort to understand how urban renewal policies associated with the 1949 Housing Act influenced discriminatory land clearances that ravished numerous Black and Brown communities, I utilize data provided through Census records, interviews, historical accounts, established research, financial statements, and the West Central Urban Renewal report. The results of this scholarship tell a story of disinvestment, racial segregation, and land seizure in African American communities. Albion’s urban renewal policy failures, I argue, contributed to the closure and annexation of the public school system, the closure of the city’s lone hospital, increases in the city’s inadequate housing stock, and an unemployment rate for African Americans, of 29.0%. The effects of generational-systemic racism and consistent racist policy decisions towards African Americans are impossible to ignore. These policies I argue contribute to the wealth gap between White and Black Americans, lack of educational attainment, diminished home-ownership, and continued segregation in schools and neighborhoods. Albion, Michigan is no exception. Many of the policies discussed in this paper are reactions to the demographic shifts during “The Great Migration.” There is one policy in particular that shaped Albion today, the 1949 Housing Act and the urban renewal initiatives that it authorized are the focus of this paper.
Goodale, Demetrius R., "Albion through Malleable Eyes: The Great Migration, Urban Renewal and Missed Opportunities" (2020). Master's Theses. 5178.