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Root Shock

How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It

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Paperback published by One World/Ballantine (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
They called it progress. But for the people whose homes and districts were bulldozed, the urban renewal projects that swept America starting in 1949 were nothing short of assault. Vibrant city blocks—places rich in history—were reduced to garbage-strewn vacant lots. When a neighborhood is destroyed its inhabitants suffer “root shock”: a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem. The ripple effects of root shock have an impact on entire communities that can last for decades.

In this groundbreaking and ultimately hopeful book, Dr. Mindy Fullilove examines root shock through the story of urban renewal and its effect on the African American community. Between 1949 and 1973 this federal program, spearheaded by business and real estate interests, destroyed 1,600 African American neighborhoods in cities across the United States. But urban renewal didn’t just disrupt the black community. The anger it caused led to riots that sent whites fleeing for the suburbs, stripping them of their own sense of place. And it left big gashes in the centers of U.S. cities that are only now slowly being repaired.

Focusing on three very different urban settings—the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the Central Ward in Newark, and the small Virginia city of Roanoke—Dr. Fullilove argues powerfully that the twenty-first century will be one of displacement and of continual demolition and reconstruction. Acknowledging the damage caused by root shock is crucial to coping with its human toll and building a road to recovery.

Astonishing in its revelations, unsparing in its conclusions, Root Shock should be read by anyone who cares about the quality of life in American cities—and the dignity of those who reside there.


From the Hardcover edition.
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They called it progress. But for the people whose homes and districts were bulldozed, the urban renewal projects that swept America starting in 1949 were nothing short of assault. Vibrant city blocks—places rich in history—were reduced to garbage-strewn vacant lots. When a neighborhood is destroyed its inhabitants suffer “root shock”: a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem. The ripple effects of root shock have an impact on entire communities that can last for decades.

In this groundbreaking and ultimately hopeful book, Dr. Mindy Fullilove examines root shock through the story of urban renewal and its effect on the African American community. Between 1949 and 1973 this federal program, spearheaded by business and real estate interests, destroyed 1,600 African American neighborhoods in cities across the United States. But urban renewal didn’t just disrupt the black community. The anger it caused led to riots that sent whites fleeing for the suburbs, stripping them of their own sense of place. And it left big gashes in the centers of U.S. cities that are only now slowly being repaired.

Focusing on three very different urban settings—the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the Central Ward in Newark, and the small Virginia city of Roanoke—Dr. Fullilove argues powerfully that the twenty-first century will be one of displacement and of continual demolition and reconstruction. Acknowledging the damage caused by root shock is crucial to coping with its human toll and building a road to recovery.

Astonishing in its revelations, unsparing in its conclusions, Root Shock should be read by anyone who cares about the quality of life in American cities—and the dignity of those who reside there.


From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
Paperback (304 pages)
Published: August 30, 2005
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: One World/Ballantine
ISBN: 9780345454232
Other books byMindy Fullilove
  • The House of Joshua

    The House of Joshua
    Meditations on Family and Place
    Mindy Thompson Fullilove offers a series of meditations on her remarkable family and the places where they have lived. She lovingly recalls her parents: her father, a black leader of the labor movement, and her mother, a white woman whose boundless generosity was always in conflict with the racial divisions of the world around her. "Place" is a major actor in her family story, and in the course of bringing the backgrounds of six generations into the foreground, Fullilove uncovers the many lives—her own included—that are rooted in those places.

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