First Advisor

Tina Burdsall

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Economics and University Honors






Emergency medical services -- United States -- History, Fire fighters, Race relations, Race discrimination, Black people, African Americans, Urban violence -- United States -- History




The history of the fire service is unique and provides the opportunity for national growth and evolution through local level models of engagement with the Communities fire departments are tasked to serve. There is a specific project in realigning the narratives and improving the relational dynamic between fire service personnel and low-SES Black Communities. The investigation of the relational gap between low-SES Black Community members and fire and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel is conducted through historical investigation and quantitative analysis, situated in distinct moments of amplification that serve as a lens through which the dynamic can be understood. The analytical frameworks rest on the recognition and acknowledgement of systemic structural and infrastructural racism, ghettoization, intergenerational poverty, and social determinants of health that disproportionately affect low-SES Black Communities. The density of identifiable moments depicting clear propagation of the relational gap, social inequality, and interactions between Black Community members and fire service personnel resulted in the 1960s serving as the decade for the moments of amplification and the large-scale analysis of the structural racism built into institutions throughout the United States. The identification of national moments of amplification does not claim to be the origin of tensions between the fire service and Black Communities, however the consideration of two moments in particular; the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963 and the Watts Rebellion of 1965 build a lens through which to understand the relational gap. There is a phenomenal lack of literature and interdisciplinary investigation of this field, which breeds the continued propagation of this dynamic, and a lack of awareness that the hegemonic national narrative depicting the fire service and firefighters as heroes, is not universally shared. This work aims to identify and explore the inherent complexities of interdisciplinary contradictory discourse and emphasize the importance of awareness in this field for evaluation and future development of local provisional equity in fire departments across the United States. Humanity necessitates a respect for the work and commitment that firefighters display when they run into burning buildings and scenes of emergency, what has been missing is the trust of the Communities being served and the deeply consequential misalignment of narratives that propagate the relational gap between low-SES Black Communities and fire and EMS personnel. Developed from perspectives gained from relationships with Black Community members and numerous firefighters, supported by literature and academic publications, this work seeks not to charge or prosecute the institutions included in the structural investigation, but rather to outline a dynamic and suggest a starting point for institutions and Community leaders to improve understanding and develop objectives to address dynamics of relational interactions on individual local levels.


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An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in University Honors and Economics & Pre-Medicine.

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