Evaluating Hilfiker (Outlines)


As you decide whether or not you agree with Hilfiker’s thesis about the overpowering influence of the environment on the behavior of poor people, consider these two different ways of interpreting how the modern ghetto came into being.


Macro Argument (Historical Forces)

Micro Arguments (Human Choices)





Industrial Revolution

The Legacy of Two Centuries of Slavery

·         Huge demand for raw cotton In English Factories

·         Impact on African-American Family

·         Huge demand for a pool of cheap, unskilled labor in the cotton fields of the South

·         Deliberate Denial of Education to African-American Children

·         Growing Demand for Factory Labor in the Urban North: Railroads, Manufacturing, Meat Packing

·         Self-Definition via Racist Oppression

·         Upon Liberation: Brief Period of Political Rights during Reconstruction, but No Forty Acres and a Mule

·         Impact of Railroads on Economy

Injustice of Sharecropping and Segregation

·         Heterogeneous Urban Neighborhoods develop in northern walking cities (including some blacks)

·         Swindling of tenant farmers results in forced labor

·         Upward Mobility of European Immigrants (Irish, Italian, Greek, German, Scandinavian, Jewish) is achieved but the process of assimilation and then upward progress to middle class usually takes at least a full generation.

·         Jim Crow: Segregation by Racist Policies that deny political rights and legal rights

·         Jim Crow: Policies enforced by violence against blacks (Lynching)

·         Jim Crow Schools deny black students the same educational opportunities as whites receive in public schools



·         World War I Economic Boom (US supplies weapons, manufactured goods, and canned food to the Allied Armies.)

·         The Mechanization of the Cotton Picker eliminates the demand for a huge pool of unskilled labor

·         The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the Cities of the North (5 million+ over forty years) enables blacks to earn salaries beyond a sharecropper’s dreams

·         Vertical Integration of Urban Walking Cities combines black workers with emerging black middle class teachers, business people, and other professionals.


·         Segregated Urban Housing drives prices up and contributes to the deterioration of housing stock in black urban neighborhoods. Black students in sub-par underfunded schools.

·         Racist Union rules deny blacks union rights and relegates black workers to the bottom rung of the factory ladder (dangerous and unhealthy jobs). Use of black workers as strikebreakers exacerbates racism among working class whites.

·         African American Cultural Hey-Day: jazz, blues, birth of rock and roll, Black businesses, churches and volunteer organizations flourish in inner cities.


·         The Great Depression destroys businesses, wipes out savings, causes mass unemployment (25% of work force), and hard times persist throughout the 1930’s (until the onset of WWII.) Black unemployment reaches high of 50%.

·         FDR New Deal legislation offers jobs, social security, unemployment compensation, and housing loans to whites, but these services are not offered to agricultural workers and domestics (i.e. most black workers) (FHA redlining, Zoning black neighborhoods as ‘industrial’.)



·         post-WWII Manufacturing Boom due to destruction of European and Japanese factories and infrastructure

·         Great Migration of Blacks to the North reaches its height

·         Governments construct interstate highways which open rural areas to development (Birth of the Suburbs and commencement of White Flight to the Suburbs)

·         Huge Demand for Labor leads to integration of blacks into unions and the extension of generous union benefits to workers (including blacks)

·         Black Workers start entering the Middle Class: home ownership, better neighborhood services, better schools in segregated neighborhoods

·         Overpopulated Black neighborhoods are bursting at the seams. Redlining of blacks continues to deny government loans to blacks

·         “Urban Renewal” projects target black neighborhoods for demolition to make way for highways and urban development projects

·         Governments construct huge, high rise public housing projects for the blacks displaced by Urban Renewal

·         1948 Supreme Court Decision: Shelley vs. Kramer makes housing discrimination illegal and blacks begin to apply for homes in the suburbs.

·         Unethical Real Estate Agents use Block busting tactics to profit from white flight and subdivide suburban housing for black families leading to deterioration of housing stock

·         Relation of Civil Rights Movement to thriving manufacturing economy?

·         Cold War leads America into Korea and then the Vietnam War

·         American Troops wind up in quagmire in guerilla war in Vietnam, new asymmetrical warfare stymies vast US firepower

·         Civil Rights Movement achieves ‘life and liberty’ for blacks and outlaws segregation

·         War on Poverty offers urban blacks federal money to start neighborhood programs: Head Start, Community Action

·         Urban Riots/ Vietnam Demonstrations/ Black Power Movement lead to collapse of Liberal Consensus in Washington

·         Nixon expands welfare to pay off urban blacks and quell riot ideology.



·         Technological Advances in Shipping and Highway construction combined with industrial recovery in Japan and Europe begin period of Economic Globalization

·         Big Labor in America begins decline. Rise of Service Economy

·         Manufacturing Jobs leave the Urban North and head to factories overseas where workers are paid 1/10th-1/20th US wage, unions are illegal, and environmental and safety regulations do not exist.

·         Although Black politicians finally achieve power in cities, they do not control the massive patronage jobs and funds that had been available to earlier generations of rising immigrants

·         Rise of Drug Trade and Gangs, Deterioration of schools and infrastructure, cut backs on social services.

·         Unemployment skyrockets in urban neighborhoods

·         Black Middle Class flight to suburbs leaves concentrated poverty in inner city.

·         Supreme Court rules in 1972 (San Antonio v. Rodriguez) that school financing via property taxes is legal and in busing of black students to suburbs is illegal, resulting in de facto re-segregation and under financing of urban schools.

·         Blacks cannot compete for information economy jobs without higher education and are thus relegated to low level service economy jobs (domestics, clerks, retail, janitors, cashiers) which do not have the generous benefits offered earlier generations of immigrants

·         Concentrated Poverty in High Rise Projects that quickly degenerate into hell holes