Race, Sprawl, and Sustainability: How the American Way of City Building is Destroying the Planet


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships


History, Philosophy and Political Science


Over the past half-century, suburbia in the United States has continued to expand at a phenomenal pace. The unique structure of these suburbs, comprised of single-family homes and dependent on automobiles, has created a fossil fuel intensive system that is one of the United States’ primary contributors to climate change. This project is about how the key driver of that system is race. After the successes of the civil rights movement, suburban whites used zoning, development, and transportation policy to try and limit access to the suburbs by people of color. These efforts were successful in some instances, and failed in others, but the overall result has been the continued growth and entanglement of metropolitan racial inequality and fossil fuel dependent sprawl across the United States.