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Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution

William Bunge
Nik Heynen
Trevor Barnes
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This on-the-ground study of one square mile in Detroit was written in collaboration with neighborhood residents, many of whom were involved with the famous Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute. Fitzgerald, at its core, is dedicated to understanding global phenomena through the intensive study of a small, local place. Beginning with an 1816 encounter between the Ojibwa population and the neighborhood's first surveyor, William Bunge examines the racialized imposition of local landscapes over the course of European American settlement. Historical events are firmly situated in space-a task Bunge accomplishes through liberal use of maps and frequent references to recognizable twentieth-century landmarks. More than a work of historical geography, Fitzgerald is a political intervention. By 1967 the neighborhood was mostly African American; Black Power was ascendant; and Detroit would experience a major riot. Immersed in the daily life of the area, Bunge encouraged residents to tell their stories and to think about local politics in spatial terms. His desire to undertake a different sort of geography led him to create a work that was nothing like a typical work of social science. The jumble of text, maps, and images makes it a particularly urgent book-a major theoretical contribution to urban geography that is also a startling evocation of street-level Detroit during a turbulent era. A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3974-0
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD TO THE 2011 EDITION Fitzgerald Then and Now
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Nik Heynen and Trevor Barnes

    There are few classic books in human geography, but Bill Bunge has written two of them: Theoretical Geography ([1962] 1966) and the one that you are holding in your hands, Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution ([1971] 2011). At times it seemed unlikely that either would see the light of publication. When they finally did, Theoretical Geography was initially ignored, while Fitzgerald was treated to some shockingly bad reviews. The flagship journal of the Association of American Geographers, the Annals, took the unusual step of devoting two separate reviews to Fitzgerald. Neither was complimentary. In his review, David Ley said that...

    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)

    The purpose of this foreword is to strengthen the science of geography so that we can write more books of service to society.

    A two year delay between completion and publication of this book was due to difficulty in obtaining a publisher for such a “controversial” geograohy. Many fellow geographers from various backgrounds helped: Gilbert White, chairman of the Geography Department at the University of Chicago and the head of the American Friends Service Committee; William Warntz, the conservative geographer and steady friend of academic freedom from Harvard; and most vigorously, Ronald Horvath, the humanist geographer from Michigan State University....

    (pp. 1-4)

    July 25, 1967: the soldiers patrol the streets of Fitzgerald in Northwest Detroit to discourage the neighbors from further looting. The Insurrection has shaken the neighborhood and America — yet nobody seems to know what to do. No square mile has been searched for answers to the problem as intensely as the square mile of Fitzgerald, and from Fitzgerald with its 4,240 families an answer is found. The answer is contained in the conclusion, but the reader must not look ahead or he will not fully understand The Lesson. He must struggle through the book to it. The reader must steel...


    • [SECTION ONE: Introduction]
      (pp. 5-6)

      Is all that is left of earlier America the few farm homes lovingly planted with trees that the sub-dividers spared? Or the land, cleared by generations of families, that could now be cleared by a bulldozer in a few weeks? No. The historic geography of America has left its mark everywhere, in our land hunger, in our greed, in our race prejudice, in our love of fun, in our industry, in our Paul Bunyan mentality — and in our recognition of the absurdity of that Paul Bunyan mentality. The wealthy pioneers started out wealthy and hired the poor pioneers to clear...

    • Chapter I: Pioneers — Colored and White
      (pp. 7-22)

      The number of nations that has “pioneered” in Fitzgerald is not known. Working back, we find America, Britain, France and Ojibwa. Then the national identities become murky. If national political units have always been as unstable as they are today, with at least one different nation occupying the same area every hundred years, then Fitzgerald has enjoyed the patriotism of one hundred and twenty different nations since man first occupied it.

      American Indians are colored; indeed, they are of the same racial stock as the Chinese. It is pure white prejudice that insists that America was settled from the east....

    • Chapter II: The Farms Prosper
      (pp. 23-44)

      Permanent human change, as opposed to styles and random fashions, is best explained by the change of tools. The world over, men that used stone tools are “stone age men”, for example. Other differences, such as race, color, creed, or national origin, obviously count for comparatively little in explaining ways of life.

      If changes in tools are the great steam engine of human events, then Fitzgerald has been through four revolutions in little over one hundred years and the social pain must be fantastic. The first tools were the stone tools of the Indians, followed by the steel hand tools...

    • Chapter III: Detroit Envelops Fitzgerald (1925-1960)
      (pp. 45-66)

      Sub-division of the land for urban home construction started in earnest in the mid-twenties and was fairly well completed by 1929. Yet, urbanization was uneven and for a few years many open spaces existed, especially west of Wyoming, providing play space for the young. Other undivided lands were commercial; a special strip around Marygrove College on the Marygrove and Greenlawn sides of the campus was set aside in 1922 by the College in speculation of higher values to come. Considering the liberal policies of the College in the sixties, it is interesting that it originally advertised the lots as in...


    • [SECTION TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 67-68)

      “They are coming!” and urban America, which is seventy percent of America, is terrified. Like some great unstoppable glacier spreading in rings from the city center, “they” push ever out. As “they” come, pollution rises, tax bases decay, schools decline, crime increases, riots break out, streets fall into filth. Parents are especially fearful of “them.” They fear for the lives of their children, a fear of physical injury and a deeper fear of spiritual degeneration. The fear is not confined to the edges of the slum, though there the fear reaches such panic proportions that the people flirt with Nazism....

    • Chapter IV: Races Meet
      (pp. 69-86)

      Despite Kanada, the Seymours, the Pollards, the Turners and the Greers, other black families were labelled “the first colored families in the neighborhood” in the 1960’s. Whites had forgotten the black families in Fitzgerald’s past and tried to block the “first” efforts of blacks to integrate a “white” community. The white response included not only threats of violence, but violence itself.

      In November, 1960, the Mitchams moved to the most affluent section of the neighborhood, the “Behind Marygrove” region, on Florence and Roselawn. Reverend David Mitcham is a highly articulate and well-educated minister, but he received an ignominious “welcome” to...

    • Chapter V: Races Mix.
      (pp. 87-108)

      The achievement of racial integration in Northwest Detroit reflects, to a certain extent, the gradual integration of all of Detroit. People in Detroit have voted on the integration issue with their feet. Detroit is not integrated. Detroit is not segregated. The human landscape of the city consists of three rings: black, mixed, and white. White Americans in the South would never believe how integrated the city really is.

      Detroit, in turn, is only going the way of many American cities, and, ultimately, the way of the world. Integration is inevitable. In the beginning of the existence of our species, Homo...

    • Chapter VI: Races Separate
      (pp. 109-124)

      But do blacks today want to mix with whites? Perhaps they have struggled so long and so hard for the goal of integration that they realize suddenly that the price certainly could not be worth the fight. Or perhaps as blacks near the goal they can see more clearly its imperfections. And the goal of integration is indeed a murky one. To mix requires the merging of both black and white identities, but there is no real white identity or white culture in America.

      White Americans are so uncertain of their identity that they are compelled to express their togetherness...

    • Chapter VII: Slums Move Closer
      (pp. 125-140)

      If, standing in Fitzgerald, one looks away from the city, he sees Fitzgerald’s past, the suburbs, the farms, the forests; then, as he looks toward the city, does he see its future, the slums? Perhaps an answer can be found in urban geography. Recent work has shown a surprising uniformity to the internal structure of American cities. Cities have the same proportions, though they are of different sizes. The tiniest hamlets to the largest cities have startlingly similar proportions of slums. Little is heard of urban blight in small towns since the slums are easily crossed; that is, they do...

    • Chapter VIII: Fitzgeraled Plans
      (pp. 141-162)

      Beauty in a neighborhood, as in an individual, is as much a spiritual as a physical quality. It is important not only that people find their neighborhood beautiful but that they contribute to making it so, for if not, they will soon feel isolated from their environment, no matter how physically glorious it might be. Americans today do not participate in planning and arranging their neighborhoods, and so do tend to be alienated from them.

      An architectural student at Fitzgerald’s University of Detroit, Owen Klugel, has important insights into this problem:

      The problem is to present an environment that is...

    • Chapter IX: Institutions Respond
      (pp. 163-186)

      Fitzgerald and America are seething with unrest. The established institutions are dumbfounded. From the dream of affluent America with split-level homes to this in just a few years. What is to be done? No one seems to know. America’s politicians grapple groggily with America’s problems, suggesting that even they do not know what’s happening; they imply that the Great Society has something to do with the Great Pork Barrel. The experts on the university campuses now see the American slums, but still from a great distance, like Galileo peering through a telescope and discovering the moons of Jupiter. In geography,...

    • Chapter X: Education Strains
      (pp. 187-200)

      Some alienation between the schools and the community in Fitzgerald has always existed, but now it is increasing. In the past the white Protestants and Jewish upwardly mobile groups were powerful enough to keep the schools healthy. The Fitzgerald and Post schools ran especially fine academic programs, which fit in well with middle class cultural traditions. But in the 1960’s, the racial composition of the neighborhood changed greatly. Fitzgerald’s percent of black children in the public elementary school has increased year by year from 19.6 in 1961, 24.8 in 1962, 46.0 in 1963, 66.5 in 1964, 78.9 in 1965, 88.4...


    • [SECTION THREE: Introduction]
      (pp. 201-202)

      The internal political upheavals of this highly convulsed century — the Booming Twenties, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement — have been caused in part by gradual awareness that institutionalized poverty can be ended. The attitude, “There have always been the poor,” implying, “There must always be the poor,” has eroded before the knowledge that twentieth century man can reach for the moon and touch it.

      America’s difficulty is not scientific or technological, but political and social. America has the highest per capita income in the world. How can it turn its wealth and power...

    • Chapter XI: Youth Fights Back
      (pp. 203-220)

      Thus wrote Hugh McCann, with truth, for his TV special on Fitzgerald, “The Winds of Change.” Children must have absolute primacy, for they are helpless. The innocence of children is nowhere more evident than in their racial attitudes, or rather racial non-attitudes, for hard as adults try to teach them, the youngest children do not view the world racially. Young mixed children think and play naturally. The children are innocent; their later attitudes are given them by adults.

      Younger children are often more fortunate than older ones in terms of the quality of their lives. Very young urban children are...

    • Chapter XII: Defeat or Victory?
      (pp. 221-238)

      These four pictures of Fitzgerald people obviously come from foreign ways of life; they are from four different nations all called America. There have been many other nations in America : the Indians, for one, now mostly gone. America I is from the nation called “Rural.” America II is from the nation called “Booster-Urban.” America III is from the nation called “Electronic-Hip.” America IV is from the nation called “Radioactive-Peace.” What will America V, the next country, be, assuming the Americas make it to V? Americas from nations I to IV all still exist side by side in the space...

    (pp. 239-246)

    The story of Fitzgerald is not merely a story of war, for Fitzgerald has also fought against war. Nor is it merely a story of racism and unemployment, for the community has fought for equality, led by the Community Council. Nor is it a story of the invasion of the slums, for the community has fought to keep its streets, its stores and houses liveable, and has fought for more and better schools and recreation areas, for tots and teenagers.

    The story of Fitzgerald is still more comprehensive: it is the story of America itself — how we got this way,...


  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)