I’ve gotten lucky again and had a paper I proposed accepted to SACRPH, the planning history conference this fall in Portland, Maine. This is my second solo acceptance to a pretty major conference; the first one was the even-year counterpart to this one, Urban History. In the interest of self promotion, I offer my abstract:
From Protestors to Planners: Housing and the Local Engagement of Students in Ann Arbor, 1968-1975.
University students have yet to be adequately recognized within the realm of urban and planning history. While a handful of historians have begun to consider universities as agents of change within the metropolitan region, they have largely downplayed or ignored the role of university students in this analysis. This paper introduces New Left activists as a previously unrecognized set of urban actors in the multi-threaded history of post-World War II planning and housing. While university administrations promoted inner city urban renewal and extended the metropolitan periphery by developing research parks, student-led radical groups in Ann Arbor, Michigan, engaged issues of economic and housing equity in the local community. Nearly a decade after creating a national student movement, Ann Arbor activists provided models for political activity, organizing and executing a 1969 rent strike of more than a thousand participants, setting off a series of strikes around the country. Students followed on that success by earning local voting rights, electing candidates to city council and pursuing an agenda of housing equity and human rights.
I argue that university students were more than passive recipients and ineffectual opponents of collaboration between university administrations and city, state, and federal governments. By drawing upon archival documents, oral histories and housing research within the community, I will demonstrate that Ann Arbor student activists after 1968 became a locally focused coalition of groups that became an important force in urban governance. Students achieved this by exploiting changes in state law and postwar university planning, as well as effectively organizing within the community. Allying with labor and minority groups, students became central actors in the political contests and urban restructuring of the 1970s, as well as the experimentation that arose in response to urban crisis and economic distress. This paper illustrates a new aspect of the emerging scholarship on the relationship between universities and cities in postwar American urban and planning history, tying it to larger issues of metropolitan history and illuminating a previously obscure set of agents in the urban realm.
Keywords: universities; housing; local politics; students
This will draw upon much of the research I did for a chapter of my MUP Thesis (available in the sidebar). I look forward to coloring in the beautiful state of Maine on my lifetime state map.