Independent Authors Examine Eminent Domain Abuse

February 1, 2007

Independent Authors Examine Eminent Domain Abuse

By Christina Walsh

The Institute for Justice recently launched a new series of independently authored studies—Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse—that explores the different aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted experts.

The series’ inaugural study, Eminent Domain and African Americans:  What is the Price of the Commons? by Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, a research psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, examines the effects of urban renewal and forced displacement on the African American community.  As an example, Dr. Fullilove focuses specifically on the Federal Housing Act of 1949 under which 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities, displacing one million people—two-thirds of whom were African American.  While this loss of property was devastating in and of itself, Dr. Fullilove looks deeper into how eminent domain abuse destroyed the “commons”—the irreplaceable social, political, cultural and economic networks that individuals and communities depended on for their well-being.  She shares the story of David Jenkins, who lost his Philadelphia home to urban renewal in the 1950s, to relay the priceless importance of these vital support systems.

Neighborhoods like David’s were not just a collection of private homes and businesses.  They were organized networks that were able to provide social and economic support, political power and a means to achieve the American Dream.  In her writing and teaching, Dr. Fullilove documents with compelling evidence the tremendous losses faced by David and hundreds of thousands of African Americans like him—not just of the house, but of the “home” of the neighborhood—that caused such significant harm to their well-being that she coined the term “root shock” to describe it.   Her pioneering work, Root Shock:  How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, is a powerful look at the effects of urban renewal on the African American community.

Dr. Fullilove’s new study, and others like it, will be available at

Christina Walsh is the assistant Castle Coalition coordinator.

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