An Introduction to “Heritage and African-American Suburbia”
This class examines the historical legacy of African-American suburbanization and the contemporary meanings of that history. We will produce an ethnographic, historical, and material analysis of African-American suburbanization in Indianapolis and assess the consequence of that heritage on our broader understanding of the Black experience and American history. The course will partner with suburbanites, conducting oral histories and primary historical research on Indianapolis’ earliest predominately and exclusively African-American suburbs.
The course will focus on the heritage of a series of predominately or exclusively African-American communities, including Flanner House Homes (near-Westside), Augusta Way (Washington Township), Douglas Park homes (eastside), and Kingsley Terrace (eastside). The course will produce histories of several Indianapolis neighborhoods that are based on ethnographic interviews with suburban residents and historical research on those communities, and that research will be shared on this course blog. Students are expected to develop a clear understanding of the American suburban experience by studying postwar housing, reading contemporary discussions on housing, and listening to suburbanites who were part of this process.
Each student will conduct a one-hour oral historical interview with an African-American suburban resident. Teams of two students will conduct an interview, prepare a transcript of the interview, and write a summary biography of the memoirist and their suburban experience. The oral historical interview will provide each student with the opportunity to share and closely analyze one person’s experience of suburbanization. At the end of the semester students will be part of a public event at which we will summarize the results, examine the significance of suburban residency, and assess the variations between life in various American suburbs. These oral histories will be available on the web page. All interviews must be concluded by April 6, and I strongly recommend finishing them sooner. Transcriptions are due to me as Word files on April 20. The final oral histories will be presented to the class on April 27. The oral history (including interview, transcription, and presentation) is worth 30% of the course grade.
Prior to conducting the interviews all students in the course must take and pass the online Institutional Review Board’s Human Subjects Research Course online exam. Please provide your test results to me by February 3. The IRB exam is mandatory prior to conducting an oral historical interview. All passing exams receive 5% of the course grade.
Students will be responsible for three blog posts. Two of these posts will summarize primary historical records for a community (e.g., Indianapolis Recorder articles, advertisements, city directory inventories for particular neighborhoods). The third will be a written post on some aspect of life in an Indianapolis suburb. Each blog is worth 15% of the course grade.
- The first blog post will provide an inventory of all heads of household in one of the study suburbs at five-year intervals. This information can be found in the Indianapolis City Directory collection that is available from the IUPUI University Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Directions for the specific neighborhoods and address ranges are provided as a page on the course blog. This post must be submitted to me as a Word document by February 8.
- The second blog post will catalog the Indianapolis Recorder’s coverage of particular neighborhoods or streets in those neighborhoods. You will record the first 20 instances in which a particular street is mentioned in the Recorder between 1945 and 1980, which can include, for instance, articles about the suburban neighborhoods, real estate advertisements, and social club meetings in one of the homes. You must save a PDF of each article and a table that inventories the articles you identified. This information can be found in the Indianapolis Recorder collection that is available from the IUPUI University Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Details on this exercise will be provided as a page on this blog. This material is due to me electronically on February 29.
- Your third blog post will be an approximately 750 word text (roughly 1 ½ page single spaced) on some subject linked to these neighborhoods. For example, this might include a history of a neighborhood park (e.g., Juan Solomon and Douglass Park are part of two suburbs) or a school (e.g., Grandview Elementary); a biography of a developer (e.g., W.T. Ray); an analysis of the Indianapolis Recorder advertisements for a specific suburb; a post on the social club meetings in a certain neighborhood (e.g., the Grandview community had constant club meetings that were reported in the Recorder); or a history of one of the city’s African-American suburbs. You can suggest another topic if you like, but do not prepare a blog that is not a subject I provide without first approving it with me. You must plan to include graphics, which can include your pictures or historic images from the Indianapolis Recorder, but please do not use any images that are not expressly identified as Creative Commons, I will not use any images that are or may be copyright unless the photographer provides permission. This text is due to me as a Word file (images sent separately or provided to me in a Box or Oncourse folder) by March 23.
At some point in the semester, each student will present a reading. The readings page will include all readings and indicates the class members who will present those readings. You must prepare a Powerpoint on the reading to present in class. You should expect to direct the class’ discussion of the reading: your review should minimally be about 10-15 minutes. You absolutely must pose at least three questions for the class at the end of the presentation. Anybody whose presentation is too short, fails to include questions for discussion, or is otherwise disorganized or unprepared will not receive the full credit for the assignment. You can volunteer to present any reading of your choosing on a first-come, first-serve basis; any students who do not sign up by the second class will be assigned a reading. Anybody who does not attend on the night of their reading will receive no credit unless they have a substantial excuse. The reading presentation and powerpoint presentation are 10% of your final grade.
Attendance is of course essential to mastering the class material. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class meeting on a course roster that circulates through class. If you come in late, you must ensure that you sign this roster at the end of class; at the end of the semester I will not negotiate over the days you actually attended but forgot to sign the attendance roster. I will not allow students to sign the roster if they arrive halfway through the class meeting; please discuss any delays outside your control with me (e.g., caught in traffic jam, but not an errant alarm clock). You are allowed one absence with no penalty to your final attendance grade. After that your attendance grade of ten points (i.e., 10% of course grade) will be deducted will be deducted two points for each absence. Consequently, if you have two absences you will receive eight points for attendance; three absences received six points; four absences receive four points; five absences receive two points; and six or more absences will receive no attendance points. An excused absence is a documented illness (i.e., a physician’s note, not simply sniffles in the next class or sounding really crappy on the phone), a religious holiday recognized in the calendars of a well-documented faith, or participation in an Athletic Department-excused event. I will be reasonably forgiving about things over which you have no control, like flat tires and sick children. I will negotiate these things on a case-by-case basis, but please let me know immediately via email and do not plan to barter over these absences at semester’s end.
This syllabus includes deadlines for all assignments: it is your responsibility to know when assignments are due. There will not be any extra credit material. If you do not complete course work by semester’s end you will receive no credit for unfinished work unless you have negotiated a legitimate reason for an extension with either me or the Dean of Student Affairs. You can monitor your grades over the semester on Oncourse.
If you cannot complete an assignment on time for any reason, you must contact me. I can always be contacted after class, you can schedule an appointment, and I check my email virtually everyday. Even if it is embarrassing to acknowledge that you simply forgot an assignment due date or your boss unexpectedly demanded a long shift when you planned to do the assignment, please come see me and I will do my very best to resolve it in some way that doesn’t mean you receive no credit at all. Do NOT wait until after a deadline to talk to me, and do NOT postpone talking to me if you are having any difficulty completing an assignment for any reason. Late assignments will be penalized significantly if you do not negotiate an extension with me beforehand. To miss any of the exercises is, at best, mathematically ill-advised.
Save every single assignment in two places: Don’t just save it on your laptop or a thumb drive, since they can crash, get lost, or be purloined by somebody who undervalues your commitment to scholarship, and do not delete assignments instantly after their due date until their grades have been posted to Oncourse. Please submit assignments in Word format. You can send them to my IUPUI email address or on Oncourse electronically; if your electronic files exceed email capacity, please consider using IU Box or simply bring a thumb drive by my office to download the material. Be absolutely certain to keep a copy of any emailed assignments you send to me should the email disappear or not arrive at my end.
All work in the course is conducted in accordance with the University’s academic misconduct policy. Cheating includes dishonesty of any kind with respect to exams or assignments. Plagiarism is the offering of someone else’s work as your own: this includes taking un-cited material from books, web pages, or other students, turning in the same or substantially similar work as other students, sneaking a peek at the neighbor’s exam, or failing to properly cite other research. If you are suspected of any form of academic misconduct you will be called in for a meeting at which you will be informed of the accusation and given adequate opportunity to respond. A report will be submitted to the Dean of Students, who will decide on further disciplinary action. Please consult the University Bulletin’s academic misconduct policy or me if you have any questions.
The Office of Adaptive Educational Services (AES) ensures that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations from the University and their professors. Students must register with the AES office in order to receive such services.
Portable electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers must have their sound turned off before the start of class. You can use a laptop in class for note-taking but should silence it; I know it is nearly impossible to ignore a Facebook message or email notifications popping up on your laptop or phone, but please do not answer your emails, watch Twitter, answer texts, and monitor Candy Crush during class. Please let me know if you expect to need to respond to your phone for specific reasons (e.g., pregnancy monitoring, disabled family, or awaiting notification for a heart transplant–not to stay in touch with a significant other who just likes to hear your voice, buddies planning the evening pub crawl, and so on). Anyone whose clever Star Wars ringtone disturbs class will be given a verbal warning on first offense and will be asked to meet with me after class if you can’t remember to turn off your phone before class.
The classroom is a safe speech situation in which it is your responsibility to treat other classmates fairly and with mutual respect, even if they have the audacity to disagree with you, champion an opinion that is inconsistent with your worldview, or simply bore you. Anyone who talks when someone else is talking, is hostile, or otherwise violates classroom etiquette will be considered to be in violation of this policy and will need to meet with me.
There are a number of campus-wide policies governing the conduct of courses at IUPUI. These can be found at the Registrar’s Course Policies page.
A basic requirement of this course is that you will participate in class and conscientiously complete writing and reading assignments. If you miss more than half our class meetings within the first four weeks of the semester without contacting me, you will be administratively withdrawn from this section. If you miss more than four classes in the first four weeks, you may be withdrawn. Administrative withdrawal may have academic, financial, and financial aid implications. Administrative withdrawal will take place after the full refund period, and if you are administratively withdrawn from the course you will not be eligible for a tuition refund. If you have questions about the administrative withdrawal policy at any point during the semester, please contact me.
RISE Undergraduate Research Experience
“Heritage and the African-American Suburbs” is a RISE Undergraduate Research Experience Course. RISE courses focus on one of four areas: research, international experiences, service learning, and experiential learning. This course’s partnership between students and African-American suburbanites revolves around the RISE initiative’s service learning dimension and aspires to produce relevant, rigorous, and compelling scholarly interpretations of the African-American suburban experience. The course’s public scholarship is meant to address racist heritage that continue to shape the contemporary landscape. The class development began in Summer 2015 with support from an IUPUI RISE Curriculum Development Grant.
Principles of Undergraduate Learning
The course’s focus on the Critical Thinking Principle of Undergraduate Learning is committed to erode the stereotypes of a universally White middle class settling American suburbs after World War II. You will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the specific legal and social conditions that shaped African-American suburbanization, and students will be expected to reflectively and creatively express how ethnographic and historical evidence complicates suburban ideologies. Students will address the Principle of Understanding Society and Culture by articulating the ways citizen rights like good schools and roadways were at the heart of suburbanization for all Americans, including people of color. Students should be able to express suburbanization as a consequential citizen right that was systematically denied to African Americans, and their analyses should clearly articulate that contemporary spatial demography is indebted to the suburban residency barriers put in place after World War II.
The implications of this study of racism in American suburban housing are intended to address the Principle of Understanding Society and Culture. Students will be expected to recognize the depth of racial inequality in modern American life and appreciate the experiences of people of color who were seeking fundamental citizen rights (e.g., access to housing, good schools, public utilities, etc). The course should compel students to express how our communities can thoughtfully and civilly address racist barriers that continue to shape the contemporary landscape in places like central Indiana. Rooting this study in the oft-ignored contemporary suburban landscape is intended to place the heritage of racism firmly in the life of contemporary central Indiana.
Course Schedule and readings
January 11-13, 20
- Introduction to the course and the American Suburbs
Chapter 1: The Outskirts of Town: The Geography of Black Suburbanization Before 1940 (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Chapter 2: “Who Set You Flowin’?”: The Great Migration, Race, and Work in the Suburbs (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Exclusion and Park-Neighborhood Building, 1922 to 1929 (LeeAnn Lands, Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950)
Residential History Due February 8
Chapter 3: Places of Their Own: An African American Suburban Dream (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
A Free Market for Housing: Policy, Growth, and Exclusion in Suburbia, 1940–1970 (David M. P Freund, In Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America)
Chapter 4: “Forbidden Neighbors”: White Racism and Black Suburbanites, 1940–1960 (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Jim Crow’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Integrate Levittown (Thomas J. Sugrue, in Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania, edited by Dianne Harris).
Chapter 5: Driving a Wedge of Opportunity: Black Suburbanization in the North and West, 1940–1960 (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
February 29, March 2
Recorder Neighborhoods Due February 29
Chapter 6: “The House I Live In”: Race, Class, and Suburban Dreams in the Postwar Period (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Chapter 7: Separate Suburbanization in the South, 1940–1960 (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Neighborhood History Narrative Due March 23
Chapter 8: Something Old, Something New: Suburbanization in the Civil Rights Era, 1960–1980 (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
White Property and Homeowner Privilege (LeeAnn Lands, Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950)
Chapter 9: The Next Great Migration: African American Suburbanization in the 1980s and 1990s (Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own : African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century)
Critiques of Suburban Conformity (Amy Maria Kenyon, in Dreaming Suburbia : Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture)
Oral History Transcriptions Due April 20
Class Presentations April 27