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Why Don’t American Cities Burn?

Inequality, Poverty, and Hope for Urban America
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American cities have remained relatively free of collective violence in recent years. Why, given record inequality and historically negative economic events, is this the case? University of Pennsylvania Professor Michael Katz explores these questions and the intersections of race, inequality and poverty in his new book, Why Don't American Cities Burn?

One of the country's leading urban historians, Katz has previously chronicled the evolution of the welfare state and the transformation of urban forms. He now has set out to explain the shift away from images of a pathological black "underclass" to praise of the entrepreneurial poor who work to find the beginning of the path to the middle class. Katz examines the possibility of a new narrative that acknowledges the complicated history of American cities while simultaneously demonstrating the capacity of residents, advocates and government to address many of the problems facing urban centers. Rather than waiting for a "silver bullet" to solve long-standing problems, he asks, can we create a politics of modest hope?

This event, recorded February 17th was a discussion with the author on how the interlocking forces of lingering racial inequality, social and economic exclusion, and urban policy have contributed to a society deeply fragmented along the lines of race and class.

Listen to the full audio of this event:


Featured Speaker
Michael B. Katz
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
Author, Why Don’t American Cities Burn?
Devin Fergus
Assistant Professor of US History
Hunter College
Director, Asset Building Program
New America Foundation

Event Time and Location

Friday, February 17, 2012 - 12:15pm - 2:00pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

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A range of photos from this event are available on Flickr. Click on the icon at left to view or download the photos.