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Email list on urban history (and discussion of the Katrina disaster in historical perspective)

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  • asha.weinstein@sjsu.edu
    Greetings, MURPS members - Some of you who have an interest in urban history and planning history may wish to subscribe to H-Urban, a list-serve that posts
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2005
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      Greetings, MURPS members -

      Some of you who have an interest in urban history and planning history may wish to subscribe to "H-Urban," a list-serve that posts discussions and book reviews on those topics.    Members range from history and planning students, to people interested in history though without a professional connection, to some of the pre-eminent scholars in the country writing about urban history.  Below you will find the latest set of postings, which discuss the Katrina hurricane and compare it to past natural disasters.  ( Note that I have forwarded the "digest" version, which compiles several days' messages and sends them as a single email, a way to reduce traffic in your email in-box.)

      For information about H-Urban, including a link to subscribe, go to: http://www.h-net.org/~urban/.  Note that there are many other lists run by H-Net that you can also join, on a wide variety of historical topics from California history to environmental history.

      Best regards,

      Asha Weinstein

      Assistant Professor
      Department of Urban and Regional Planning
      San José State University
      One Washington Square
      San Jose, CA 95192-0185
      email: asha.weinstein@...
      phone: 408-924-5853
      web page: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/weinstein/

      ----- Forwarded by Asha Weinstein/SJSU on 09/04/2005 09:16 PM -----
      H-URBAN automatic digest system <LISTSERV@...>
      Sent by: H-NET Urban History Discussion List <H-URBAN@...>

      09/04/2005 09:04 PM

      Please respond to
      H-NET Urban History Discussion List <H-URBAN@...>

      H-URBAN Digest - 2 Sep 2005 to 4 Sep 2005 (#2005-140)

      There are 4 messages totalling 212 lines in this issue.

      Topics of the day:

       1. The disaster in New Orleans (4)


      Date:    Sun, 4 Sep 2005 15:47:00 +1000
      From:    Mark Peel <kraml@...>
      Subject: Re: The disaster in New Orleans

      From: Ken Jackson <ktj1@...>

      The 1923 earthquake and fire in Tokyo destroyed about half the city
      and led to a rebuilding effort that included at least some wide
      streets, and so the physical plan was somewhat different from that
      which existed earlier.  And then Tokyo was about half destroyed in
      1945 by B-29s.  Had the war continued beyond August Tokyo would no
      doubt have been totally flattened, either by General LeMay's
      firebombing raids or, after October, by another atomic bomb. And of
      course Hiroshima, which I visited last month, has reemerged as quite
      a nice and thriving city.

      Sometimes, the trajectory of a city is altered.  After its big
      hurricane about a century ago, Galveston was soon eclipsed by
      Houston, and Memphis dropped back after yellow fever epidemics in
      1873 and 1878 killed off the Irish and sent the Germans running to
      St. Louis and Cincinnati.  But Chicago was hardly slowed by the great
      fire of 1871, and New York raced forward after much of the inhabited
      and business part of Manhattan was reduced to ashes in 1835.

      I cannot think of a big settlement since Pompeii that was totally
      lost to natural disaster, and my own guess and hope is that we will
      rebuild New Orleans.  The site is no doubt a bad one, but history has
      witnessed a city there, and the political, psychological, and social
      pressures to rebuild will be overwhelming.  And, as Larry Vale has
      reminded us, the rise of the insurance industry and of the
      nation-state has made the abandonment of cities less likely in our

      So if you have not been to a Mardi Gras yet, you will still have your chance.

      Ken Jackson
      Columbia University


      Date:    Sun, 4 Sep 2005 15:47:11 +1000
      From:    Mark Peel <kraml@...>
      Subject: Re: The disaster in New Orleans

      From: Robin Bachin <rfbachin@...>

      While there are clear social and economic similarities between the
      1871 Chicago fire and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, there also
      are longer-term consequences in New Orleans that Professor Keller
      fails to mention.  The recovery of New Orleans will not be complete
      once the water is pumped out of the city.  Instead, the city then
      will be confronted with the devastating and deadly effects of the
      environmental and public health effects of the flood.  The potential
      for malaria, typhoid, and other diseases resulting from standing and
      contaminated water are real, as we saw after the Asian tsunami. The
      toxins seeping into the floodwaters from the chemical solvents,
      pesticides, and cleaners in people's homes will make the clean-up
      that much more complicated, not to mention the growth of toxic mold
      throughout the flooded areas. In addition, we don't yet know the
      effects of the oil spills off the coast, though many geologists have
      suggested that they may have contaminated not just the fisheries in
      the Gulf but also the waters of the Mississippi.  To suggest that the
      tourist districts of New Orleans will return to normalcy once the
      water is gone is wishful thinking. New Orleans and its environs may
      never recover fully from the long-term consequences of this disaster.

      Robin Bachin
      Charlton W. Tebeau Associate Professor of History
      University of Miami


      Date:    Sun, 4 Sep 2005 15:47:23 +1000
      From:    Mark Peel <kraml@...>
      Subject: Re: The disaster in New Orleans

      From: Denise Spooner <jmds1997@...>

      [This posting contains four short responses. I am also pleased to
      relay to H-Urban subscribers the news that Carolyn Kolb, a frequent
      poster, is safe, well and staying with friends in Cleveland,

      [1] From Denise Spooner <jmds1997@...>
      Dear H-Urbanites,

      Subscribers to H-California are currently discussing the similarities
      to and differences between the current disaster in the Gulf Coast
      states and the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 in terms of
      governmental and community response. You can check out the discussion
      logs on this subject titled "1906 and 2005."

      Denise S. Spooner
      Co-editor H-California

      [2] From: Amy Bridges <abridges@...>
      Re: The disaster in New Orleans

      In response to Amanda Seligman, the disaster that comes to mind first
      is the hurricane that wiped out Galveston in 1900: four to six
      thousand people died. I am immensely sad, and angry, that the federal
      government has mounted so scanty an effort to help the devastated
      areas, to rescue those who are waiting, hungry, and sick, and to bury
      the dead.

      Amy Bridges
      University of California San Diego

      [3] From: Laura Pangallozzi <laura@...>

      The closest direct analogy--dam break and flooding--seems to be the
      1953 North Sea flood as it played out in the Netherlands.  There is
      an article about the impact and rebuilding effort here:


      Laura Pangallozzi

      [4] From: Mark  Rose <mrose@...>

      Courtesy of Dom Pacyga and Ray Mohl, Arnold Hirsch's email is:
      <ahirsch1@...>. Rose and Arnold and one of their sons were in
      Dallas, heading for Chicago.

      Mark Rose


      Date:    Sun, 4 Sep 2005 15:47:05 +1000
      From:    Mark Peel <kraml@...>
      Subject: Re: The disaster in New Orleans

      From: Sylvia Hood Washington <NLITENME@...>

      I have been engaged in research on the intersections of race,
      technology and urban environments for more than 10 years and I find
      it very disturbing how race is being "played" and discussed around
      relief efforts and responses to Katrina.

      A great historical parallel to what is happening in the region is the
      1927 Great Flood of Mississippi which saw more than 700,000 people
      displaced that included 330,000 African Americans. The African
      Americans were placed in 154 relief camps and forced to labor at
      gunpoint during relief efforts.  During this period the majority of
      African Americans were Republicans however the poor response of the
      Republican controlled administration to them led to their defection
      from the party of Lincoln. This history is cogently elucidated by
      John M. Barry in his 1997 monograph, _Rising Tide: The Great
      Mississippi  Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America_.

      Another environmental parallel for the destruction of African
      American  communities is the little discussed 1874 Chicago fire. This
      fire consumed 85% of the African American community (47 acres and 812
      buildings) and led to the dispersal of half the population across the
      city (like the dispersal of Katrina's victims) but also the creation
      of  Chicago's notorious "Black Belt."  This disaster is discussed in
      greater depth in my recently released monograph, _Packing Them In: An
      Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954_. The
      monograph compares the historical environmental disenfranchisement
      and public policy responses to Eastern Europeans and African
      Americans on Chicago's South Side and Packingtown (The Back of the
      Yards). There is no question that ethnic groups in the past have been
      environmentally disenfranchised to the same extent or worse than
      African Americans. The problem with some of these comparisons is that
      the history of African Americans is unique because they have been in
      the country for a much longer time frame and they continue to suffer
      from problems that other groups eventually leave behind because of
      their eventual assimilation and acceptance in the Anglo American

      This race based perspective of environmental history and
      environmental  justice will be taught this year in a course I have
      designed for Northwestern University's African American Studies and
      Environmental Science programs.

      The fact that New Orleans has an African American mayor may have
      resulted in the city not receiving an adequate and timely response
      for the disaster.  Mayor Carl B. Stokes and other African American
      politicians have long lamented that their positions of power and
      influence were not equal to their Anglo American counterparts. The
      ability (or inability depending on one's perspective) of African
      American mayors (and politicians) to deal with environmental
      inequalities in black communities is discussed at length in my essay
      "'Wadin in the Water': African American Struggles for Environmental
      Quality in Cleveland, Ohio, 1928-1970" that will be published in my
      co-edited collection (with Heather Goodall and Paul Rosier) _Echoes
      from the Poisoned Well: Global Memories of Environmental Injustice_
      (Lexington Books) at the end of this year ( December/January 2006).

      The Katrina situation is personal for me since my family is from that
      area and I have hundreds of relatives who are still living New
      Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. African Americans have complained for
      generations that their communities have been environmentally
      marginalized from of the lack of infrastructures or the lack of
      equitable public and environmental policies. We can learn if these
      complaints are grounded by examining the historical and current
      responses to their lament.

      Sylvia Hood Washington
      Northwestern University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
      University of Maryland, University College, History


      End of H-URBAN Digest - 2 Sep 2005 to 4 Sep 2005 (#2005-140)
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