theCommons - Black Spaces Matter

Black Spaces Matter

an aggregated list of readings and resources on race and space.

Three Black children playfully chasing birds down the street.image credit: Juan Colombo at Unsplash

In 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois famously declared that the central issue of the twentieth century would be the question of the color line. While on the surface, du Bois was referring to the figurative place of race in the collective imagination, his statement about the color line also suggested the literal spatialization of race. Racial differentiation—and its various expressions through culture, legislation, and social mores—has been historically enacted and regulated through physical lines drawn in space. In many ways, the history of racial discrimination and anti-Black sentiments in the United States can be reduced to the prohibitions—both implicit and explicit—of Black bodies in public spaces. The rallying cry that “Black Lives Matter” has made clear, now more than ever, that Black Spaces Matter too as we see the ways that social differences (perceived or real) are instituted through spatial differences.

When African-Americans were restricted from common public places and institutions earlier in this country’s history, the private homes of Black Americans and the institutions created by Black Americans became places of freedom, sanctuary, and resistance. These Black publics mattered intensely for African-Americans from the moment the first enslaved Africans were brought to this continent.

Yet notions of “Black space” had long been antithetical to academic understandings of home, public space, and common institutions. Spatial studies of the Americas in architecture and urban planning have historically taken whiteness as a default backdrop to understanding cities, landscapes, and architectures, often only turning to non-white populations to problematize the various crises afflicting cities. In recent years, that notion has changed and we increasingly have more scholarship tracing not only the place of African-Americans and other members of the Black diaspora in shaping collective spatial practices but also new studies on race and space have critiqued the histories and practices of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban design that have sought to exclude rather than include and stratify rather than diversify.

The following books and articles reflect the most recent literature in this vein, examining the intersection of race and space, all published since January 2019. The resources cover events, reading lists, syllabi, and others. This list will be continuously updated as new publications and resources are made available. The full list is below; see abstracts and links to full text at theCommons.

Updated 12 July 2020.


  • Joe Darden, Ron Malega, and Rebecca Stallings, "Social and Economic Consequences of Black Residential Segregation by Neighbourhood Socioeconoimc Characteristics: The Case of Metropolitan Detroit," Urban Studies vol. 56 no. 1 (January 2019): 115-130.
  • Virginia P. Dawson, "Protection from Undesirable Neighbors: The Use of Deed Restrictions in Shaker Heights, OH," Journal of Planning History vol. 18 no. 2 (May 2019): 116-136.
  • Gardiner Hallock, "Mulberry Row: Telling the Story of Slavery at Monticello," SiteLINES: A Journal of Place vol 14. no. 2 (Spring 2019): 3-8.
  • Chuo Li, "Postwar Urban Redevelopment and the Politics of Exclusion: The Case of San Francisco's Chinatown," Journal of Planning History vol. 18 no. 1 (February 2019): 27-43.
  • Andrea Roberts and Mohammed Javad Biazar, "Black Placemaking in Texas: Sonic and Social Histories of Newton and Jasper County Freedom Colonies," Current Research in Digital History vol. 2 (2019).
  • June Manning Thomas, "Socially Responsible Practice: The Battle to Reshape the American Institute of Planners," Journal of Planning History vol. 18 no. 4 (November 2019): 258-281.


  • Frederick M. Binder, David M. Reimers, and Robert W. Snyder, All the Nations under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants, and the Making of New York, Revised Edition (Columbia University Press, 2019).
  • Lawrence T. Brown, The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021).
  • Karen Chapple and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (MIT Press, 2019).
  • Irene Cheng, Charles L. Davis II, and Mabel O. Wilson, Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).
  • Orly Clerge, The New Noir: Race, Identity, and Diaspora in Black Suburbia (University of California Press, 2019).
  • Martha J. Cutter, The Illustrated Slave: Empathy, Graphic Narrative, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800-1852 (University of Georgia Press, 2020).
  • Charles L. Davis II, Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019).
  • Hubert Fichte, The Black City (MIT Press, 2019).
  • Laura Forlano, Molly Wright Steenson, and Mike Ananny, Bauhaus Futures (MIT Press, 2019).
  • Marco Garrido, The Patchwork City: Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila (University of Chicago Press, 2019).
  • Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch, Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of Harlem Family (Columbia University Press, 2019).
  • Anne Harley and Eurig Scandrett, Environmental Justice, Popular Struggle and Community Development (Bristol University press, 2019).
  • Claire W. Herbert, A Detroit Story: Urban Decline and the Rise of Property Informality (University of California Press, 2020).
  • Walter Hood and Grace Mitchell Tada, Black Landscapes Matter (University of Virginia Press, 2020).
  • Mark Jay and Philip Conklin, A People's History of Detroit (Duke University Press, 2020).
  • Lorraine Leu, Defiant Geographies: Race and Urban Space in 1920s Rio de Janeiro (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).
  • Johana Londoño, Abstract Barrios: The Crises of Latinx Visibility in Cities (Duke University Press, 2020).
  • Marcus P. Nevius, Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1763-1856 (University of Georgia Press, 2020).
  • Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, Parenting Empires: Class, Whiteness, and the Moral Economy of Privilege in Latin America (Duke University Press, 2020).
  • Monique Roelofs, Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and the World (Central European University Press, 2020).
  • Ashanté M. Reese, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. (University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
  • Carlo Rotella, The World Is Always Coming to an End: Pullng Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (University of Chicago Press, 2019).
  • Timo Schrader, Loisaida as Urban Laboratory: Puerto Rican Community Activism in New York (University of Georgia Press, 2020).
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (University of North Carolina Press, 2019).
  • Bobby M. Wilson, America's Johannesburg: Industrialization and Racial Transformation in Birmingham (University of Georgia Press, 2019).


The above lists include only books and journal articles published within the last two years (since January 2019). The resources below include reading lists of older texts, articles from online magazines and news sources, podcasts, videos, calls for papers and proposals, syllabi, and other resources on race and space.