First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Antislavery movements -- Ohio -- Cincinnati -- 19th century, Community development -- Ohio --Cincinnati -- 19th century, Race riots -- Ohio -- Cincinnati -- 19th century, Cincinnati (Ohio) -- Race relations -- 19th century



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 449 p.) : maps


This project is an historical ethnography and a cultural history of the anti-black race riots and anti-abolition riots in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1829, 1836, and 1841. It is also a case history in an urban and commercial/early industrial context of the idea that violent social practices such as riots, as well as law and the customary practices of everyday living, are deployed as race making technologies, actually constructing racial categories. By extending this constructivist concept to the conversion of space to place through the human ascription of meaning, this study also examines racial violence as a strategy for place making - for establishing and maintaining Cincinnati as a white city, one in which the social practices of its white residents, including those of community development, consistently define and preserve the privileges of being white. Many sectors of the white-identified population performed this co-construction of race and place. Using a multi-disciplinary approach to method and theory, the discourses and practices of improvement - the community development of the period - and of race making in antebellum Cincinnati were analyzed using local newspapers and a variety of other published and unpublished sources from the period. Analysis of the overlapping discourses and practices of race making and the "Negro problem" and of improvement indicated that white Cincinnatians of all classes, men and women, participated in creating a local racialized culture of community development. This was a prevailing set of values and practices in the city based on assumptions about who could be improved, who could improve the city, and who should benefit from the city's improvements. The language of local improvement boosters was particularly powerful in synthesizing images of nation, region, and community in which a harmonious fit between the land, the virtuous population who comes to develop it, and the free and republican institutions they put on the land had no room for Negroes and mulattoes in the picture. White rioters, and those elites and city officials who enabled them to act, acted with them, or didn't stop them from assaulting Negroes, mulattoes, or the abolitionists who were their allies, and burning and looting their property, acted within a socio-cultural context of widespread local economic and social boosterism and improvementism. Using their local common sense about race relations, as well as about improving the community, the white residents of Cincinnati enacted a public strategy of community development to attempt to achieve a city with few Negroes. Racialized community development, instrumentalized though the collective violence of race riots and ant-abolition riots, made Cincinnati a whiter city.


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Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning

Persistent Identifier