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People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is NOT required
Members Free and Non-members Free with admission ($10)

People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making

Karilyn Crockett

In 1948, inspired by changes to federal law, Massachusetts government officials started hatching a plan to build multiple highways circling and cutting through the heart of Boston, making steady progress on planning through the 1950s. But when officials began to hold public hearings in 1960, as it became clear what this plan would entail—including a disproportionate impact on poor communities of color—the people pushed back. Activists, many with experience in the civil rights and antiwar protests, began to organize.

Linking archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and oral history, Karilyn Crockett in People Before Highways offers ground-level analysis of the social, political, and environmental significance of a local anti-highway protest and its lasting national implications. The story of how an unlikely multiracial coalition of urban and suburban residents, planners, and activists emerged to stop an interstate highway is one full of suspenseful twists and surprises, including for the actors themselves. And yet, the victory and its aftermath are undeniable: federally funded mass transit expansion, a linear central city park, and a highway-less urban corridor that serves as a daily reminder of the power and efficacy of citizen-led city making.

Dr. Karilyn Crockett’s research focuses on large-scale land use changes in twentieth-century American cities and examines the social and geographic implications of structural poverty. Karilyn co-founded Multicultural Youth Tour Of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, educational non-profit organization. During its nearly 15 years of operation, MYTOWN created jobs for more than 300 low and moderate-income teenagers, who in turn led public walking tours for more than 14,000 visitors and residents. Crockett holds a PhD from the American Studies program at Yale University, a master of science in geography from the London School of Economics, and a master of arts and religion from Yale Divinity School. She is a research affiliate in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at MIT.

 In the first song of The Modern Lovers’ self-titled album, Jonathan Richman belts out, “I'm in love with modern moonlight/128 when it's dark outside/I'm in love with Massachusetts/I'm in love with the radio on.” Richman’s love affair with Boston is heavily highlighted throughout his music, and in Sean Maloney’s 33 ⅓ book, The Modern Lovers, Maloney explores this album in comparison to Boston’s infrastructure, political climate, and urban renewal.

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