Students should not schedule any classes immediately after this class to allow ample time to travel from off-site locations.
Neighborhood change comes in many varieties. Mid-twentieth century urban renewal in U.S. cities brought bulldozers and tower-in-the-park housing developments to dozens of poor neighborhoods considered ripe for revision. Early-twenty-first century gentrification, meanwhile, has brought high-end commerce and affluence to areas once occupied by low-income and working class communities. In the Melrose section of the South Bronx, a series of changes have influenced the streetscapes and lives of residents. Rampant arson in the 1970s and 1980s destroyed acres of the neighborhood, for example, while migrants from Puerto Rico and immigrants from the Dominican Republic, West Africa, and Bangladesh, among others, settled in the remaining homes of Melrose to build new lives in a new city. Most recently, federal dollars have been earmarked for Melrose’s reconstruction and redevelopment. This course, offered in partnership with the Bronx-based community empowerment organization WHEDCo, invites students to become activist historians whose objective is to identify, map, and collaboratively interpret the key themes and places that have historical, social, and cultural meaning to Melrose residents. Students will conduct archival and secondary research; meet with activists and residents who are working to protect the interests of the current community of Melrose; and produce collaborative, mini-exhibits with residents and business owners that designate places of significance to the neighborhood. The course will culminate in a digital and physical map of these sites that will encourage residents and visitors alike to discover the rich history of the neighborhood and the indomitable resilience of its people. Readings may include Evelyn Gonzalez’s The Bronx: A History , Mark Naison and Bob Gumbs’s Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s to the 1960s , and Tom Angotti’s New York For Sale: Community Planning Meets Global Real Estate .