Contested Memories of Race and White Supremacy in the South’s “Capital of Cool”: Interrogating Montgomery, Alabama’s Urban Redevelopment in the Context of Memory Work

Authors: Joshua Inwood*, Pennsylvania State University, Derek J Alderman, University of Tennessee
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Memory, Race, Urban Development, Gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Long venerated as the first Capitol of the Confederacy and more recently for George Wallace’s vitriolic support of segregation, over the last decade the City of Montgomery, Alabama has worked to reinvent itself. Montgomery officials and private developers have invested in its downtown core and more recently have declared the city to be the “capital of cool.” Interspersed among the new restaurants, baseball stadium, boutiques and high rise apartments are reminders of the city’s past and its connection to some of the most divisive moments in US history. This paper focuses on the urban core’s contested memorial landscape, efforts at urban redevelopment, and contradictory visions of Montgomery’s connection to its past. Specifically, we argue Montgomery, Alabama’s development vision attempts to navigate the raw activism of “memory work” and the taking responsibility for histories racism, but is also indicative of how Montgomery and other southern cities appropriate commemorative change to serve the growing market influence of civil rights tourism, neoliberal urban development and promotion, and strong opinions about the valorization of white supremacy in Southern cities. As a result, we can use efforts at redevelopment in Montgomery to understand the use and appropriation of memory and the way cities in the Southeastern United States are envisioning urban development in the context of broader changes to our understandings of how race operates in the United States.

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