Addressing social injustices through urban planning in Philadelphia and Atlanta

Philadelphia, PA is a city known for its history of freedom, but it has also played a role in the oppression of its neighborhoods through urban expansion. This trend of metropolitan cities expanding at the expense of their communities is not unique to Philadelphia. The City Beautiful Movement, which aimed to improve the city’s appearance and civic life, is a prime example of how urbanization can negatively affect marginalized and impoverished communities. Both Philadelphia and Atlanta, GA have experienced the inequalities perpetuated by racism in the United States.

Putting Aesthetics Above Citizens’ Needs: Lessons from City Beautiful Movement & Atlanta Expressways

The City Beautiful Movement, which took inspiration from European urban planning projects, emerged in Greater Philadelphia during the 19th century and continued until the 1920s. Its goal was to address issues such as overcrowding and pollution caused by industrialization. However, while it was marketed as a solution for all citizens, it ultimately had a negative impact on some. As stated in the blog “The City Beautiful Movement- Urban Design and Well-being”, “the actual implementation of City Beautiful ideas actually reinforced urban inequality – as older slums and their tenement structures were cleared, and poor residents displaced, to make way for the sweeping boulevards and rigorous geometries of the new plans.” The focus on aesthetic improvements overshadowed the importance of improving the quality of life for all citizens. This mirrors the creation of expressways in Atlanta, which prioritized urbanization over civic prosperity.

In the article “A traffic jam in Atlanta would seem to have nothing to do with slavery. But look closer.” author Kevin Kruse states, “As in most American cities in the decades after the Second World War, the new highways in Atlanta — local expressways at first, then Interstates — were steered along routes that bulldozed ‘‘blighted’’ neighborhoods that housed its poorest residents, almost always racial minorities.”. This further highlights the pattern of expansion and oppression in metropolitan cities in the United States.

Acknowledging Historical Injustices in Infrastructure Decisions

Reading Kruse’s article has made me realize the socioeconomic impact of historical infrastructure in my own city of Philadelphia and others like it. The City Beautiful Movement and Atlanta’s expressway are examples of how solutions for some can have detrimental effects on others. It is crucial that we are aware of the intentions behind decisions that affect our communities and acknowledge the injustices of the past. We must prioritize the well-being of all citizens in important decisions to ensure that everyone can thrive in the progress of our cities and society as a whole.

Works Cited

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