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How the Fight Against Urban Renewal Shaped 1970s Houston

A case study in local infrastructure, racial inequality, and civic activism.
A view of Houston's I-45 before it was widened.
A view of Houston's I-45 before it was widened. Texas Department of Transportation via Kinder Institute

Without a doubt, the urban renewal projects of the 1960s and 1970s hit low-income neighborhoods of color hardest. All over the U.S., city officials targeted these kinds of communities as “blighted” risks to growing, suburbanizing cities. The effects of these projects still reverberate today.

Less visible in the history of urban renewal is how it extended to well-off neighborhoods, too. Residents of both types of areas fought for their communities—a form of civic engagement that influenced how cities are shaped today. But the same activist strategies that worked for privileged communities often failed for minority ones.