Toxic Debt: An Environmental Justice History of Detroit
Josiah Rector (Author)
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DescriptionFrom the mid-nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century, environmentally unregulated industrial capitalism produced outsized environmental risks for poor and working-class Detroiters, made all the worse for African Americans by housing and job discrimination. Then as the auto industry abandoned Detroit, the banking and real estate industries turned those risks into disasters with predatory loans to African American homebuyers, and to an increasingly indebted city government. Following years of cuts in welfare assistance to poor families and a devastating subprime mortgage meltdown, the state of Michigan used municipal debt to justify suspending democracy in majority-Black cities. In Detroit and Flint, austerity policies imposed under emergency financial management deprived hundreds of thousands of people of clean water, with lethal consequences that most recently exacerbated the spread of COVID-19.
Toxic Debt is not only a book about racism, capitalism, and the making of these environmental disasters. It is also a history of Detroit's environmental justice movement, which emerged from over a century of battles over public health in the city and involved radical auto workers, ecofeminists, and working-class women fighting for clean water. Linking the histories of urban political economy, the environment, and social movements, Toxic Debt lucidly narrates the story of debt, environmental disaster, and resistance in Detroit.
University of North Carolina Press
April 26, 2022
6.14 X 9.21 X 0.94 inches | 1.56 pounds
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About the Author
Josiah Rector is assistant professor of history at the University of Houston.