Online Program

Cleaning up our own backyards: The urban conservation movement's fight for sustainable communities and environmental health equity during the Northern African American migration periods, 1895-1965

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 11:15 a.m. - 11:35 a.m.

Sylvia Hood Washington, PhD, Environmental Health Research Associates, Aurora, IN
African American professional and social organizations whose public missions were to help assimilate their migrating sisters and brothers from southern communities into the exodus centers of Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit found themselves in an American struggle for the development of one of the first anthropocentric focused sustainability movements in the United States during the first two thirds of the twentieth century.  Although their original concerns focused on teaching migrants how to adapt to workforce norms of industrialized cities and social norms of living in interracial societies, their efforts soon turned toward migrants’ literal survival in environmentally comprised living and working environments. This was before environmental and occupational protection laws, and before the environmental movement of the 1970s.  These migrants who may have found better wages by coming north found themselves living in legally constructed African American belts that were optimal environmental breeding grounds for epidemic outbreaks of tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid fever and hepatitis. Unable to rely solely on the philanthropy of white social service agencies and government institutions, African American communities and organizations created self-help programs to ensure their own physical well-being through the redevelopment and optimization of African American geographical spaces.  Belted into areas of poor air quality, with garbage strewn streets, stagnant pools of water with little or sometimes non-existent sewage and storm water infrastructures, they found their own resources to combat environmental health inequalities, creating the “Urban Conservation Movement” and “Block Beautiful Movements” - whose primary goals and achievements are today called sustainability movements.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the limitations of the philanthropy of white social service agencies and government institutions in the promotion of the well-being of African American communities. Describe the goals and activities of the “Urban Conservation Movement” and “Block Beautiful Movements” of the African American communities in Chicago, between 1895-1965.

Keyword(s): African American, Social Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold a Phd in the History of Science, Technology, Environment and Medicine and a MPH in Epidemiology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.