What prevents cities whose economies have been devastated by the flight of human and monetary capital from returning to self-sufficiency? Looking at the cumulative effects of urban decline in the classic post-industrial city of Camden, New Jersey, historian Howard Gillette, Jr., probes the interaction of politics, economic restructuring, and racial bias to evaluate contemporary efforts at revitalization. In a sweeping analysis, Gillette identifies a number of related factors to explain this phenomenon, including the corrosive effects of concentrated poverty, environmental injustice, and a political bias that favors suburban amenity over urban reconstruction.
Challenging popular perceptions that poor people are responsible for the untenable living conditions in which they find themselves, Gillette reveals how the effects of political decisions made over the past half century have combined with structural inequities to sustain and prolong a city's impoverishment. Even the most admirable efforts to rebuild neighborhoods through community development and the reinvention of downtowns as tourist destinations are inadequate solutions, Gillette argues. He maintains that only a concerted regional planning response—in which a city and suburbs cooperate—is capable of achieving true revitalization. Though such a response is mandated in Camden as part of an unprecedented state intervention, its success is still not assured, given the legacy of outside antagonism to the city and its residents.
Deeply researched and forcefully argued, Camden After the Fall chronicles the history of the post-industrial American city and points toward a sustained urban revitalization strategy for the twenty-first century.
PART I. SHIFTING FORTUNES
Chapter 1. A City That Worked
Chapter 2. Camden Transformed
PART II. SHIFTING POWER
Chapter 3. To Save Our City
Chapter 4. From City to County: The Rise of the Suburban Power Structure
PART III. SHIFTING STRATEGY
Chapter 5. The Downtown Waterfront: Changing Camden's Image
Chapter 6. The Neighborhoods: Not by Faith Alone
Chapter 7. The Courts: Seeking Justice and Fairness
PART IV. SHIFTING PROSPECTS
Chapter 8. The Politics of Recovery
Chapter 9. Future Camden: Reinventing the City, Engaging the Region
Note on Sources
"A fascinating and frequently eloquent exploration of the city's history since World War II."—Camden Courier Post
"A thorough, well-researched, and important book. Through a careful analysis of people and politics, Gillette challenges the accepted narrative of postwar urban decline. The story of Camden is of special consequence to urban historians, historians of late twentieth-century U.S. political economy, and students of contemporary urban policy. Gillette is certainly the person to tell that story."—Robert Self, Brown University
"The best study so far about the virtual collapse in the late twentieth century of South Jersey's largest city."—New York Times
"With keen insight, Howard Gillette movingly details how de-industrialization, suburbanization, racial isolation, and political exploitation reduced Camden from industrial powerhouse to America's third poorest city. Through the rich biography of one city, Camden's fall could be the story of the half-century decline of many industrial cities and their struggles to revive, just more so. Camden After the Fall will become a classic in the field of urban history."—David Rusk, author of Inside Game/Outside Game: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban America
"A masterly narrative. . . . An invaluable primer to understanding the dynamics, parameters, institutions, and politics of urban renewal after the Great Society."—Journal of American History
"A masterly narrative of the twists and turns of Camden's renewal politics from the perspective of local politicians, regional and state power brokers, and citizens groups."—Journal of American History