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The Black Butterfly

The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America

The best-selling look at how American cities can promote racial equity, end redlining, and reverse the damaging health- and wealth-related effects of segregation.

Winner of the IPPY Book Award Current Events II by the Independent Publisher

The world gasped in April 2015 as Baltimore erupted and Black Lives Matter activists, incensed by Freddie Gray's brutal death in police custody, shut down highways and marched on city streets. In The Black Butterfly—a reference to the fact that Baltimore's majority-Black population spreads out like a butterfly's wings on both sides of the coveted strip of real estate running down the center of the city—Lawrence T. Brown reveals that ongoing historical trauma caused by a combination of policies, practices, systems, and budgets is at the root of uprisings and crises in hypersegregated cities around the country.

Putting Baltimore under a microscope, Brown looks closely at the causes of segregation, many of which exist in current legislation and regulatory policy despite the common belief that overtly racist policies are a thing of the past. Drawing on social science research, policy analysis, and archival materials, Brown reveals the long history of racial segregation's impact on health, from toxic pollution to police brutality. Beginning with an analysis of the current political moment, Brown delves into how Baltimore's history influenced actions in sister cities such as St. Louis and Cleveland, as well as Baltimore's adoption of increasingly oppressive techniques from cities such as Chicago.

But there is reason to hope. Throughout the book, Brown offers a clear five-step plan for activists, nonprofits, and public officials to achieve racial equity. Not content to simply describe and decry urban problems, Brown offers up a wide range of innovative solutions to help heal and restore redlined Black neighborhoods, including municipal reparations. Persuasively arguing that, since urban apartheid was intentionally erected, it can be intentionally dismantled, The Black Butterfly demonstrates that America cannot reflect that Black lives matter until we see how Black neighborhoods matter.

About the Author

Lawrence T. Brown (BALTIMORE, MD) is an equity scientist, urban Afrofuturist, and the director of the Black Butterfly Academy, a racial equity education and consulting firm. In June 2018, he was honored by Open Society Institute–Baltimore with the Bold Thinker award for sparking critical discourse regarding Baltimore's racial segregation. He is currently a research scientist in the new Center for Urban Health Equity at Morgan State University, where he is leading the Black Butterfly Rising Initiative.

Reviews

"A must-read book."

- The Real News Network

"The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America is a complex book that will both intrigue and shock you. You will find yourself both grateful for his research and frustrated that it hasn't yet reached the right hands. It's not every day that a blueprint is created to directly address the issues of an urban city. This book is not only an eye-opener, but also a call to action, and a reminder of the work that needs to be done to heal a city with many open wounds."

- Baltimore Fishbowl

"A provocative book."

- WYPR Midday with Tom Hall

"With clear and succinct writing, buttressed by rigorous research and copious examples, Dr. Brown casts an unflinching light on the problems Baltimore suffers as a hyper segregated city. Only when a critical mass of concerned citizens is made aware of the issues raised in this book, can change begin."

- Baltimore AIA Newsletter

"The book provides a helpful tool for public affairs educators seeking to incorporate discussions of race into the classroom and steps to connect public administration theories of performance, budgeting, and management into a hands-on analysis of cities. It details a process to learn both about spatial inequity and to implement the next steps toward the remediation of historical trauma."

- Regina Lewis, Andrew Sullivan, University of Kentucky, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville - Journal of Public Affairs Education

Endorsements

"Describing the myriad policies that have created the crises of apartheid in Baltimore, this book analyzes the dilemma of African Americans living in hypersegregated cities while proposing new solutions. A highly original, excellently written work, The Black Butterfly will appeal to urban studies scholars, anyone involved in Black studies, and policymakers at many levels. I have the highest regard for Dr. Brown; his broad understanding of urban policy and its outcomes for the health of Baltimore, especially its Black population, is refreshing and important."

- Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, The New School, coauthor of From Enforcers to Guardians: A Public Health Primer on Ending Police Violence

"The Black Butterfly dissects American apartheid with unflinching precision and poignancy, weaving together fresh historical accounts with undiluted analysis of our present moment. Coupling diagnosis with prescription, this book provides readers with the necessary tools to dismantle spatial inequity and develop policies and practices for thriving Black neighborhoods and communities!"

- Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University, author of Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

"Dr. Brown makes visible the patterns and processes of inequality and systemic racism that have defined American urbanism. As we confront the role that race and space play in shaping our cities, people, and health, The Black Butterfly provides the grounding and better understanding needed to repair and reinvent our communities."

- Justin Garrett Moore, AICP, NOMA, Executive Director, New York City Public Design Commission

9781421439877 : the-black-butterfly-brown
Hardback
384 Pages
$29.95 USD
9781421439884 : the-black-butterfly-brown
Electronic book text
384 Pages
$19.95 USD
9781421445441 : the-black-butterfly-brown
Paperback / softback
September 6, 2022
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