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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Constraint and Mobility in the City

On October 7, 2008, the Research Center for Urban Cultural History at UMass Boston held a free and open symposium entitled ‘Constraint and Mobility in the City.’

The symposium was hosted by Tyrone Simpson of Vassar College, Sarah Luria of Holy Cross College, and Betsy Klimasmith of UMB.

The three English professors spoke about the African American urban movement, women’s urban domestic spaces, and capital speculations.

“African Americans were marked by racism and had to live in ‘ghettos’ due to social, political, and economic pressure,” Simpson said. “Though slavery was abolished by the Reconstruction era, minorities did not have access to the opportunities to reach prestigious occupations or lifestyles.”

As the Great Migration and other relocation movements took place, segregation-and discrimination-increased. In response to this, white Americans would begin to move away from inner cities to newer suburban communities; African Americans were restricted to moving to the suburbs even if they were able to afford it.

As a result, the speakers said there were actual constraints and mobility within the cities.

Disadvantaged groups could not hope to free themselves of this social inequality, and in time, factors such as highway constructions and home mortgages made it easier to purchase a house in the suburbs than to rent an apartment in the city.

As time went on, neighborhoods faced gentrification-or a change in an urban space associated with the movement of more affluent individuals into a lower-class area.

These demographic shifts, the panel said, demonstrate how truly powerless disadvantaged groups really are against those with much wealth and influence.

This inequality was not based on access to public spaces but rather the private.

“African Americans had lost human connections to homes,” Klimasmith explained.

For additional information on upcoming events sponsored by the Research Center for Urban Cultural History, visit http://www.rcuch.umb.edu/.