MICCO: Urban Renewal With the People, By the People, For the People
Assistant Professor American Studies, Skidmore College
On March 12, 1967, at Cardozo High School in northwest Washington, DC, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a speech titled ‘On People and Shaw Urban Renewal’ to a crowd of around 3,800 people. King had been invited to speak by Reverend Walter Fauntroy, head of New Bethel Baptist Church and president of the Model Inner City Community Organization (MICCO). Here, in the heart of the nation’s capital, one of the most well-known and influential political activists of the time was advocating for urban renewal in a predominately African-American neighborhood.
The building campaigns in Washington in the late 1960s reflected new power dynamics in African-American community politics and urban renewal that emphasized a progressive agenda for reform. Community leaders and activists took advantage of federal legislation put forth by Lyndon B. Johnson to counteract the devastating consequences of residential segregation, upper-middle- and middle-class suburban flight and concentrated poverty. These clergy members, architects, planners, school board members and city council members used their political and social capital to transform their communities. The result was one of the most praised community – government collaborations of federal urban renewal planning, orchestrated “with the people, by the people, for the people.”
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