As we round out Black History Month at SDOT, conversations about Black history and culture will continue.

Mural in Capitol Hill on a recent snow day. Photo by Katie Olsen.

If you haven’t already, check out our Black History Month posts: 

This week we’re sharing books and resources to help broaden our understanding of how racism in America has shaped our cities and influenced urban design. One of the first steps to undoing institutional and systemic racism is through knowledge and education. 

Overview/Summary: 

Mural of Martin Luther King Jr by Desmond Hansen on a SDOT traffic signal. Photo by Jeanne Clark on SDOT Flickr
Mural of Martin Luther King Jr by Desmond Hansen on a SDOT traffic signal. Photo by Jeanne Clark on SDOT Flickr

Our recommended reads: Here’re some noteworthy books you can find at the Seattle Public LibraryBlack-owned book stores, and other places books are sold:  


The Fire Next Time 

By James Baldwin 

This national bestseller was published in 1963 and was a lynchpin for understanding why the civil rights movement was so necessary.  James Baldwin offers his observations, musings, some autobiographical reporting, and much more to attack the legacy of racism in our country.  


The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America 

By Richard Rothstein 

If you don’t know much about redlining and what led to it, then this is the book you should read. Rothstein offers an extensive look at the history of discriminatory housing practices that excluded Black people. He also explores how governmental measures turned a blind eye to these practices, exacerbating the effect they would have on the Black community decades later.   


How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood 

By Peter Moskowitz 

Gentrification entails more than the arrival of trendy shops, much-maligned hipsters, and expensive lattes. The very future of American cities as vibrant, equitable spaces hangs in the balance. This read helps fill in the gaps on how gentrification has and continues to change the cityscapes and communities.  


Home 

By Toni Morrison 

Morrison’s novel finds a Black man in search of his manhood and home. The novel also explores the precarious state of Black womanhood in a 1950s society that often tries to erase the significance and role Black women play in society, both now and then.


Killing Rage: Ending Racism 

By bell hooks 

bell hooks has always had a finger on the pulse of the cultural phenomenon of racism. She argues that eradicating racism and sexism must occur at the same time because the two concepts are tied together at the hip. For a deeper dive into how racism works, specifically through intersectionality, read this book. 


Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life 

By Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields 

Most people (incorrectly) assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: that the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft often goes unnoticed. 


The Warmth of Other Suns 

By Isabel Wilkerson 

From 1915 to 1970, the Great Migration took place, an exodus of almost six million Black people. It forever changed the physical and cultural face of America. Wilkerson interviewed more than a thousand people and gained access to new data and official records to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. 


Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors 

By Carolyn Finney  

Author Carolyn Finney asks why African Americans are so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism in this book. To answer her question, she bridges environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, to argue that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the “great outdoors” and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. 


For more reading recommendations on race and urban design, check out Danielle Ferguson’s Inclusive Urbanism Reading List and Aric Jenkin’s compellation of articles about How Race Shapes the American City


And, if you’d like more Black History Month reading recommendations, check out Seattle Public Library’s Black History Month reading lists

Black Lives Matter mural in Seattle. Photo Credit: Howard Wu.

Be sure to think about how the media sources you trust and follow engage with Black people and Black culture. For example, do their pieces write about or with communities?

If that seems confusing here’s a breakdown: A source that only writes about a community is likely to have blind spots. The result? These blind spots might expose perspectives that add to, rather than refute misinformation about the community at hand. 

The best practice comes from writing with communities, wherein an organization finds itself in partnership with the community at hand and actively works alongside members of that community to produce content in-line with what their needs are. This way, the needs of the community are always foregrounded and present every step of the way, eliminating blind spots, keeping the organization in check about the community’s boundaries, and ultimately creating a well-thought out piece about the subject matter.  

It also helps to support Black-owned media as well.

Add these Seattle Black-owned media sites to your daily reading lists. 

Mural in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. Photo by Casey Rogers on SDOT Flickr.
Mural in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. Photo by Casey Rogers on SDOT Flickr.

Supporting Black-owned businesses/Black enterprises has the potential to vitalize the Black community.

Don’t just view it as you being a patron. Rather, view it as an investment in Black people, their products, lifestyles, culture, and their economic viability in a market that often excludes or dismisses their participation.  

Search and support Seattle Black-owned businesses through Intentionalist and Seattle Green Book.

Seattle Green Book pays homage to the Negro Motorist’s Green Book, a travel guide that was published between 1936 and 1966 to help Black people navigate the nation in search of vacation spots, entertainment venues, repair shops, and businesses that were accepting of Black people. Seattle’s Green Book also highlights Black enterprises  minus the racial oppression of the mid 20th century. 

Also, check out Seattle Met’s Guide to Seattle’s Black-Owned Restaurants 

Our conversations on Black history and culture will continue this spring and throughout the year.

In the meantime, we encourage you to read SDOT’s own Matthew Howard’s 3-part blog series on race and mobility.