Seeing the River: Visualizing race, infrastructure, and ecology on the New River, Fort Lauderdale

Authors: Wanda Liebermann*, Florida Atlantic University
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Environment
Keywords: Critical Mapping, Race, River Ecology, Infrastructural Power, Segregation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Passing under the Broward Boulevard bridge, up the New River, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, reveals an abrupt transformation of the river’s edge: well-tended gardens, bordered by concrete seawalls and yacht berths, give way to chain link, discontinuous bulkheads, and—no boats. In this “yachting capital of the world” moveable bridges allow pleasure boats to navigate between waterfront residences and ocean. The Broward bridge prevents passage of vessels larger than a dinghy into what was known under Jim Crow as “Colored Town,” suppressing black land value and wealth. However, an oral history project, held at the African American Research Library, shows that the bridge also led to the accidental preservation of this subtropical Eden, historical heart of the black community. This paper is based on my ongoing research of the changing cultural geography of this riverine system and its effects on the material, social, and political landscape. The topic of race and uneven, complex, and even paradoxical development in this region has barely been studied, particularly through visual means. Drawing on my training as an architect, and on oral histories, local archives, GIS data, environmental reports, and formal analysis, I develop mixed-media techniques for disclosing new insights about the intersection of race, class, ecological health, and pleasure on this waterway.

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