Below is an announcement of this paper on COMM-ORG, and then the paper itself.

Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 09:13:18 CST

Sender: H-Net/H-Urban Seminar on History of Community Organizing & <COMM-ORG@UICVM.UIC.EDU>

From: Wendy Plotkin <U13972@UICVM.BITNET>

Subject: PAPER: Planning, Community Control, & Cincinnati Ghetto,1950s-70s Charles Casey-Leininger, a Ph.D. Candidate in history at the University of Cincinnati, has agreed to make available on-line the paper he presented at the 1995 meeting of the Society of American City and Regional Planning History: Planning, Community Control, and the Persistent Ghetto in Cincinnati, 1956-1980

This paper presents many of the contradictions that emerged in this period in dealing with the objectives of maximizing community control and achieving the civil rights of African-Americans. Casey-Leininger describes the integration of community participation into the U.S. urban renewal program, and the attitudes of both blacks and whites towards community control. Among the issues discussed is the desire by both blacks and whites to use community control to sustain racial and ethnic solidarity in a neighborhood. To obtain a copy of the paper, send e-mail to with the message: GET PERSIST GHETTO The paper is 508 lines long -- if you have problems in obtaining it due to its length, contact me. As this is not a regularly scheduled paper, comments sent to COMM-ORG will be packaged into a file and made available on our fileserver (and the WWW server, still in the works!). To contact Charles ("Fritz") directly with your comments, his e-mail address is: Charles.Casey-Leininger@UC.EDU Race and community organizing will be covered in later papers in the seminar. To obtain the full schedule of papers, send e-mail to with the message: GET COMM-ORG SCHEDULE We appreciate Charles making this paper available to COMM-ORG.

Wendy Plotkin


Planning, Community Control, and the Persistent Ghetto in

Cincinnati, 1956-1980

Charles F. Casey-Leininger

Sixth National Conference on American Planning History

Knoxville, Tennessee

October 15, 1995

By the late 1960s, much of the legislative battle for the Civil Rights agenda had been won, including the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which banned racial discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. Ohio had passed such a law in 1965, though it was a fairly weak one, and Cincinnati, like a number of other cities, had developed a fair housing group that had assisted in the passage of these laws and acted to ensure their enforcement. But fair housing laws and fair housing organizations attacked the problem of continued racial discrimination on a case by case basis that would take many years to bring about racial residential integration. At the same time, widespread housing discrimination remained, though now largely covert, a symptom of the persistent racism that continued to pervade American society. Real estate agents, mortgage lending companies, real estate insurance companies, and individual property owners all found ways to exclude blacks from white neighborhoods and to steer black demand for housing that spilled out of black neighborhoods into racially mixed areas ensuring that these too would in time became largely black.[1] By themselves, the tactics of property owners and members of the real estate industry would have proved a formidable challenge to fair housing. But the efforts to create racially neutral housing opportunities faced another challenge from a widely held ideology that is often, and wrongly, associated largely with liberal or progressive ideas. The failure of efforts to create housing choices unencumbered by race can be attributed, in part, to the emergence since the mid-1950s of the idea of community control of self-defined neighborhoods. This idea is one of several contradictory and competing tendencies in American social thought, which include the civil rights movement, all of which fall under the rubric of support for individual choice and which reflect the widespread desire of many groups in American society for self-determination. The idea of community self-determination attained such widespread legitimacy that in the mid-1960s Lyndon Johnson's Model Cities program incorporated the idea as a central goal. And in the early 1970s in Cincinnati one African American neighborhood activist defended the right of a working-class white neighborhood to oppose the siting there of public housing which would be largely filled by blacks. He did so on the grounds that whites had the right to control the nature of their communities. Moreover, wealthier white neighborhoods effectively camouflaged race and class concerns by invoking the notion of community control when they opposed subsidized housing for their neighborhoods.[2]

Among the most visible and widely known examples of the desire for community self-determination is black nationalism which re-emerged as an influential force in the struggle for the rights of African Americans during the mid-1960s. Elements of nationalist ideology stood at odds, at least in the short term, with the goal of racial integration. Within the Civil Rights Movement itself, some blacks demanded that African Americans control the form and direction of the movement and develop independent bases of black power in black communities. The proper role of whites, these activists contended, was to organize white communities against white racism.[3] In a number of cities, including Cincinnati, militant black leadership came to lead neighborhood or community councils and to act as official representatives from those communities to city agencies. They demanded that their largely African-

Indeed, August Meier and Elliot Rudwick noted that several urban Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapters, including Cincinnati's, turned to community organizing in African American communities around 1964 and they argued that this occurred because CORE members increasingly believed that the struggle against housing discrimination and employment opportunities would have limited immediate effect on the lives of the vast numbers of the black poor trapped in ghetto neighborhoods.[5] But Meier and Rudwick apparently failed to note that in Cincinnati, at least, young white members helped lead CORE's movement into organizing black communities for self-determination. In fact, many African American members of the chapter resisted the idea of black community organizing because, according to national CORE field organizer, Mike Lesser, they had "recently escaped from [low income areas] and because community organization work is the fetish of ... [the] white kids [in the Cincinnati chapter]." Lesser described these "white kids," as "dedicated and serious." But he also noted that they wanted to move on community organizing "faster ... than the rest of the chapter is capable of .... [and] this has alienated many of the Negroes in the chapter."[6]

Thus black militants were not the only ones touting community control of self-defined neighborhoods. Nor was support for self-determination limited to left or liberal activists of whatever race. The notion of community control also made sense to whites intent on preserving their neighborhoods a white communities. Among the most bitterly fought battles caused by conflicts between the perceived needs of black communities and of white communities was the siting of various forms of low-income subsidized housing, housing that would be occupied largely by blacks. Black neighborhoods often rejected such developments because they increased the concentration of poor people in already overcrowded and overly poor communities, while whites rejected them on the grounds that they lowered property values, increased the likelihood of crime, and changed the nature of their communities unacceptably. The question became which community ought of right to have control over such planning. Too often the wealthier and more powerful white neighborhoods were the ones in control.[7]

The notion of community control made its appearance in city planning at least as early as the mid-1950s as a requirement of Section 101(c) of the federal Housing Act of 1954, a bill passed by a Republican majority congress and signed by a Republican president in the middle of the red scare.[8] The planning and urban renewal arms of the Cincinnati city administration embraced the concept wholeheartedly when they approached the Avondale Community Council (ACC) in 1956 to determine whether the council might become an effective vehicle to organize citizen participation in planning for a major urban renewal program involving that aging and racially changing community.[9] A Cincinnati city document mandated by the 1954 federal housing legislation, "A Workable Program for Urban Renewal," outlined the rationale for citizen participation. It stated that

According to the "Workable Program" the city would make initial proposals and then hold neighborhood hearings on the plan so that "meritorious suggestions" could be incorporated in the final product which the city would then execute.[11] The city worked closely with the Avondale Community Council throughout the planning process, even contracting with the council at one point to do an urban renewal feasibility survey of the neighborhood. The council did indeed help shape the urban renewal plan, though sometimes more forcefully, perhaps, than the planners had bargained for.[12]

The Model Cities program authorized by Congress in 1966 went even further than the attempt to include block clubs and neighborhood associations in city planning and urban renewal.[13] The official guide to the program stated that

Proposals for Model Cities programs in Cincinnati reflected this mandate.[15] Indeed, consultants, hired in late 1967 by the City of Cincinnati to prepare a preliminary proposal, described its long range goal as "An action program supportive of the self- determined change efforts of existing community interest groups in American communities should

control their own destinies without interference from whites.[4]community development ...." To that end the Community Development Program was intended to "train and develop a cadre of change agents whose roles are to act as a catalyst so that others within communities can act more effectively to solve the problems of their community."[16]

A later conference on the Model Cities proposal which included significant community participation called for majority representation by "neighborhood and/or community groups ... on the Model Cities policy making board." Participants also demanded that "People should make decisions - `experts' should just implement them." And it proposed a "history" of the United States that argued that this nation had been made up of homogeneous groups of citizens who had voluntarily chosen to live together but that racial fears now interfered with communication and mobility between these communities. Among the changes needed to allow disparate groups to live together again peacefully was the "Development of mutual tolerance for the separatism of communities, where appropriate, within a system that allows for communication and support also, when desirable."[17]

When Cincinnati City Manager Richard Krabach forwarded Cincinnati's Model Cities First Year Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he asserted that it had resulted from a process which had improved the level of citizen participation in Cincinnati's inner-city by "involving residents of the target neighborhoods ... in a ... `process of identifying problems, understanding their causes, and developing priorities, strategies, and programs to combat them' in order to improve their quality of life." The city manager also noted that the plan spelled out a continuing role for the residents of these neighborhoods in identifying and solving problems through the community action process.[18]

These Model Cities proposals are in marked contrast to the plan for the renewal of Avondale developed only a few years before and make clear the transformation in the notion of citizen participation that had occurred in that time. The earlier proposal presupposed citizen participation only in the fine tuning and implementation of a detailed plan crafted by experts, though Avondale citizens demanded and obtained more than that, and it emphasized bricks and mortar work that the city might take to enhance the infrastructure of the neighborhood. The authors of the Model Cities proposal, on the other hand, were far more interested in helping the Model Cities area communities establish a process by which those communities could define the problems and goals of the Model Cities area and create programs to achieve them.[19]

Planning for the redevelopment of another portion of the city -- the Queensgate II area of the city's old largely black West End -- occurred at about the same time that the city administration carried out planning for the Model Cities program. Here too, the community took a central role in developing and implementing plans for a neighborhood, but also made explicit and clear that the community, through its representatives, wanted the area to remain largely or exclusively black as an integral part of its quest for self-determination.

Cincinnati City Council established the West End Task Force in 1966 as the primary vehicle for citizen participation in Queensgate II as a result of pressure from existing West End community organizations.[20] The task force spoke for the residents of the neighborhood through representatives from neighborhood groups. But it also represented a broader West End "community" that included West End business interests and churches, private and public social service organizations operating in the West End, and government officials who served the neighborhood.[21] Ultimately the task force adopted a plan that called for the "development within seven to ten years of a black or predominantly black community" composed of 6,000 people living in 2,000 low-, moderate-, and middle-income housing units along with a variety of institutions and businesses to serve them.[22]

In reflecting later on the planning process for Queensgate II, Richard W. Lewis and Jerome Jenkins, task force members and social workers at the West End based Seven Hills Neighborhood House, justified the decision to opt for a predominantly black neighborhood in part on the basis of communal memories of a coherent, functioning, and vibrant African American community in the West End that had existed prior to World War II. This community had been severely disrupted, they noted, by extensive interstate highway construction and urban redevelopment that had displaced over 10,000, mostly black, families during the 1950s and early 1960s. "In short," they said, "a spirit of community existed in the `old' [black] West End .... [and] we hoped to retrieve and revivify that feeling." The community also made that decision because, according to Jenkins and Lewis, it wanted to "redress the grievances of blacks in the West End, an effort which ... we expected to emerge as a program for black [community] development."[23]

Advocates of inter-racial neighborhoods in Cincinnati also sought control over the planning process for their communities, though less successfully. During 1971, the racially mixed North Avondale Neighborhood Association (NANA) and community councils in several other neighborhoods complained to City Council that their neighborhoods had excessive allotments of public housing. This seemed a particularly critical issue for community activists in North Avondale because the city had recently targeted the area for new public housing units. NANA objected because the units would be occupied predominantly by blacks and would thereby increase their racial concentration in what had become, with great effort, a stable racially mixed area. In addition to the pressure that the city felt from NANA and other similar groups, it also felt pressure from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which in February of 1972 issued a directive that required cities receiving HUD funding to adopt a racially integrative housing policy. In response, city council called for the development of a "comprehensive strategy" to provide housing choices for all elements of Cincinnati's population in all its neighborhoods and it hired the nationally known housing consultant Anthony Downs to help do that.[24]

Downs prepared a series of recommendations for achieving racial and economic balance in Cincinnati but warned that goal would require that the city make decisions that would be unpopular in neighborhoods that needed to change to achieve these goals.[25] The strategy of developing balanced neighborhoods by ignoring the objections of residents ran exactly counter to ideas expressed in the Model Cities Planning Grant Application and in the Queensgate II planning process and was ultimately rejected by the city.

A "Working Review Committee" appointed by the city manager to study the situation eventually adopted a resolution which attempted to balance desires for community control of the planning process with local and federal demands for decreasing racial concentrations. It called for the "significant participation of all key elements of the community in the formulation of the housing strategy for the whole city and for each of its neighborhoods," and noted that "neighborhood representatives" should be part of the planning process. At the same time the resolution noted that "It is the official policy of the City of Cincinnati to encourage economically heterogeneous neighborhoods, including efforts to attract middle- and upper- income households into central core areas ... [and] to support equal housing opportunity in all parts of the city."[26]

The city chose to give community organizations control over basic planning for the city's housing strategy at the neighborhood level despite Downs' warning that achieving economic and racial balance would involve locally unpopular decisions. Indeed, the resolution avoided the difficult question of how to achieve racial and economic integration by leaving that task to each neighborhood planning group. Since that planning process would take several years to complete and to coordinate into an effective citywide plan, council had effectively postponed dealing with a deeply divisive issue while providing elements that it could cite as satisfying the needs of contending interests in city and federal housing policy. Council, moreover, failed to enforce and eventually gutted the policy. Ultimately, the North Avondale Neighborhood Association which had helped push the city to develop an integrative housing policy lost its battle to exclude additional public housing.[27]

By the early 1980s, the city administration had been stymied repeatedly in its efforts to disperse low-income subsidized housing outside of areas of the city with the highest concentrations and thereby encourage racial and economic balance in its residential areas. White neighborhoods outside the inner- city mounted prolonged political and legal battles to keep such housing out, assisted sometimes by a Cincinnati City Council that acknowledged the right of those neighborhoods to reject housing that they didn't want. When the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority approached the Hamilton County Commissioners for its legally required cooperation in developing new public housing outside the city, the Commissioners refused, citing objections from trustees of the townships where projects were proposed. Legally, the consent of township trustees was not required, but politically these objections had sufficient clout to stop the projects.[28]


These political decisions, justified by the widely accepted notion of community control and neighborhood self-determination allowed Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commissioners to avoid the politically risky task of ensuring racial and economic integration of the metropolitan area and freedom of choice in housing for blacks while minimizing the risk of being accused of being racists. This, combined with continued racial discrimination in mortgage lending and by property owners, and racial "steering" by real estate agents, meant that blacks of all economic circumstances remained circumscribed in their housing choices throughout the 1980s.[29] As a consequence, the 1990 census showed that the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area, despite a slow decrease since 1950 in its Taeuber index of racial residential segregation, remained one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the nation.[30]


[1] For a detailed look at this issue from a national perspective see Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).

[2] Don Lenz to author, interview, Dec. 1991.

[3] Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, 1954-1980 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), chpt. 5-7; and C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, 3rd revised ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), chpt. 5-6.

[4] Thomas H. Jenkins, "The 1960s -- A Watershed of Urban Planning and Renewal," and "The West End Task Force: Community Participation and Policy Planning," in The Planning Partnership: Participants' Views of Urban Renewal, Zane L. Miller and Thomas H. Jenkins, eds. (Beverly Hills, Ca.: Sage Publications, 1982).

[5] August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement, 1942-1968 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 318, 332.

[6] Mike Lesser to Jim McCain, "Field Report," Nov. 2, 1964, The Papers of the Congress of Racial Equality, Addendum, 1944-1968, (Sanford, North Carolina: The Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982), F:II:128, Organization Department, Chapter Files, 1958-1967; Meier and Rudwick, 318, 332.

[7] On planning and the rise of neighborhood autonomy see Zane L. Miller, Suburb: Neighborhood and Community in Forest Park, Ohio, 1935-1976 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981); Miller and Jenkins, eds.; Miller, "The Trickiness of Regional Thinking and the Neutralizing of Public Planning and Policy Professionals," Planning History Present, 3 (1989), 3-6; and Miller and Bruce Tucker, "The Revolt Against Cultural Determinism and the Meaning of Community Action: A View from Cincinnati," in Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies, 15 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

[8] Office of the City Manager, "A Workable Program for Urban Renewal," (Cincinnati, May, 1956), 2.

[9] Better Housing League of Greater Cincinnati, Minutes of the Board of Trustees, May 26, 1956, 3-4; June 21, 1956, n.p.

[10] "Workable Program", 30-31, 33.

[11] "Workable Program," 35

[12] Better Housing League of Greater Cincinnati, Annual Report, 1959, 1; Margaret Moogan, "Attitudes and Financial Capability Survey of the Avondale-Corryville Area, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1960," (Cincinnati, Avondale Community Council, Inc. 1960).

[13] "Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966, (Public Law 89-754) Title I -- Comprehensive City Demonstration Programs," in United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Improving the Quality of Urban Life: A Program Guide to Model Neighborhoods in Demonstration Cities (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, December, 1967), 46-51. [14] Improving the Quality of Life, 14.

[15] The Model City Area proposed for Cincinnati included a 1.7 square mile area between Interstates 71 and 75 from Central Parkway to "a line under the brow of the hills which serve as a delineator to the basin area" in which about 61,000 people lived. It included the West End, Over the Rhine, Brighton, and a small portion of Mt. Auburn. City of Cincinnati, "Application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Grant to Plan a Comprehensive Model Cities Program" (Cincinnati: April 11, 1968), parts 2:3, 3A:1, here in after Planning Grant Application, April, 1968. Planning in Cincinnati for the Model Cities program began in September of 1966 with the formation of a "Technical Committee" to assist in the preparation of a Model Cities application. The city submitted its first proposal to the federal government in April of 1967. Because of revised federal criteria for such Model Cities grants, the city hired the Cincinnati consulting firm of Vogt, Sage and Pflum to assist in the preparation of a new application, one which Cincinnati City Council approved in April of 1968.

[16] Vogt, Sage & Pflum Consultants, From Problems to Opportunities .... Next Steps in Community Development (Cincinnati: Cincinnati Department of Community Development, November, 1967), 4, 6, 7, 14.

[17] Planning Grant Application, April, 1968, 3B:7, 3B:10, appendix D:9, 14, 16, 19

[18] Zane L. Miller and Bruce Tucker, Planning and the Persisting Past: Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine Since 1920, forthcoming, draft, ch. 10, 1, project files, Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

[19] From Problems to Opportunities, 4, 6, 7, 14; Cooper, Alvare, and Harkins, "Avondale-Corryville Renewal Area #3 Trial Sketch Long Range Plan Summary" (Cincinnati: December, 1957); Ibid., "Avondale-Corryville Renewal Area #3 Trial Sketch Action Plan Summary" (Cincinnati: December, 1957); and Ibid., "Consultant's Preliminary Report: Avondale-Corryville Renewal Area" (Cincinnati: May 22, 1957).

[20] Jenkins, "The West End Task Force..., in Miller and Jenkins, eds., 83-103; Jerome Jenkins and Richard W. Lewis in ibid., 108- 111.

[21] Jenkins, "The West End Task Force...," in Miller and Jenkins, eds., 83-103.

[22] Introduction, Miller and Jenkins, eds., 18-19.

[23] Jenkins and Lewis in Miller and Jenkins, eds., 108-111.

[24] Miller and Tucker, forthcoming, ch. 10, 46, 46b; Pat Crumm, Public Information Subcommittee, Cincinnati Working Review Committee on Housing, "A Comprehensive Housing Strategy for the City of Cincinnati," Aug, 1973, Clifton Town Meeting Collection, US-77-7, box 5, folder "Housing: Cincinnati Housing Strategy, Reports, 1973, 1-7, University of Cincinnati Libraries, Department of Archives and Rare Books.

[25] Real Estate Research Corporation, "Concept of Community Balance," Clifton Town Meeting Collection, 36, 37, 63, cited in Miller and Tucker, forthcoming, ch. 10, 86-89.

[26] Miller and Tucker, forthcoming, ch. 10, 46-47; Cincinnati City Council Resolution no. 228-1974, Nov. 14, 1974.

[27] Resolution 228-1974; Miller and Tucker, forthcoming, ch. 10,


[28] Merrill Goozner, Housing Cincinnati's Poor (Cincinnati: The Stephen H. Wilder Foundation, 1982), 50-52

[29] On discriminatory lending practices see Mark Braykovich, "Gap Seen in Area Lending," Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 26, 1991, 1; "Banks Discriminate by Race, Study Shows," Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct. 11, 1992, A-10; Mark Braykovich, "Home-loan Picture Still Bleak for Blacks," Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 5, 1992, 1. On racial steering see Ben L. Kaufman and Terry Flynn, "Realty Company Sued," Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 23, 1985, clipping in author's possession; and Gail O. Finkbeiner to author, letter, January 8, 1988.

[30] United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Census Tracts, Cincinnati Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. Washington: The Bureau of the Census, 1993.