The book cover for Struggling to Learn

Struggling to Learn

An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina

A semi-autobiographical history of civil rights struggles to educate Black children and desegregate public schools.



The battle for equality in education during the civil rights era came at a cost to Black Americans on the frontlines. In 1964 when fourteen-year-old June Manning Thomas walked into Orangeburg High School as one of thirteen Black students selected to integrate the all-white school, her classmates mocked, shunned, and yelled racial epithets at her. The trauma she experienced made her wonder if the slow-moving progress was worth the emotional sacrifice. In Struggling to Learn, Thomas, revisits her life growing up in the midst of the civil rights movement before, during, and after desegregation and offers an intimate look at what she and other members of her community endured as they worked to achieve equality for Black students in K-12 schools and higher education.

Through poignant personal narrative, supported by meticulous research, Thomas retraces the history of Black education in South Carolina from the post-Civil War era to the present. Focusing largely on events that took place in Orangeburg, South Carolina, during the 1950s and 1960s, Thomas reveals how local leaders, educators, parents, and the NAACP joined forces to improve the quality of education for Black children in the face of resistance from White South Carolinians. Thomasʼs experiences and the efforts of local activists offer relevant insight because Orangeburg was home to two Black colleges—South Carolina State University and Claflin University—that cultivated a community of highly educated and engaged Black citizens.

With help from the NAACP, residents filed several lawsuits to push for equality. In the notable Briggs v. Elliott, Black parents in neighboring Clarendon County sued the school board to challenge segregation after the county ignored their petitions requesting a school bus for their children. That court case became one of five that led to Brown v. Board of Education and the landmark 1954 decision that declared school segregation illegal. Despite the ruling, South Carolina officials did not integrate any public schools until 1963 and the majority of them refused to admit Black students until subsequent court cases, and ultimately the intervention of the federal government, forced all schools to start desegregating in the fall of 1970.

In Struggling to Learn, Thomas reflects on the educational gains made by Black South Carolinians during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, how they were achieved, and why Black people persisted despite opposition and hostility from White citizens. In the final chapters, she explores the current state of education for Black children and young adults in South Carolina and assesses what has been improved and learned through this collective struggle.


This book is a unique synthesis of deep historical research with a searing personal memoir.


Redevelopment and Race

Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit

The standard history of the role of racial inequity in Detroit’s urban planning decisions about redevelopment.

The book cover for Redevelopment and Rade

This is history at its best, showing how easy it is to keep following the [planning] profession’s timeworn habits instead of assessing them on their merits.




In the decades following World War II, professional city planners in Detroit made a concerted effort to halt the city’s physical and economic decline. Their successes included an award-winning master plan, a number of laudable redevelopment projects, and exemplary planning leadership in the city and the nation. Yet despite their efforts, Detroit was rapidly transforming into a notorious symbol of urban decay. In Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit, June Manning Thomas takes a look at what went wrong, demonstrating how and why government programs were ineffective and even destructive to community needs.

In confronting issues like housing shortages, blight in older areas, and changing economic conditions, Detroit’s city planners worked during the urban renewal era without much consideration for low-income and African American residents, and their efforts to stabilize racially mixed neighborhoods faltered as well. Steady declines in industrial prowess and the constant decentralization of white residents counteracted planners’ efforts to rebuild the city. Among the issues Thomas discusses in this volume are the harmful impacts of Detroit’s highways, the mixed record of urban renewal projects like Lafayette Park, the effects of the 1967 riots on Detroit’s ability to plan, the city-building strategies of Coleman Young (the city’s first Black mayor) and his mayoral successors, and the evolution of Detroit’s federally designated Empowerment Zone. Examining the city she knew first as an undergraduate student at Michigan State University and later as a scholar and planner, Thomas ultimately argues for a different approach to traditional planning that places social justice, equity, and community ahead of purely physical and economic objectives.

Redevelopment and Race was originally published in 1997 and was given the Paul Davidoff Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning in 1999. Students and teachers of urban planning will be grateful for this re-release in 2013, with a postscript offering insights into changes between 1997 and 2013.


This is an extremely well-conceived and well-executed assessment of planning in Detroit from the 1940s through the early 1990s.


Cover image of the book Planning Progress Lessons From Shoghi Effendi

Planning Progress

Lessons from Shoghi Effendi

Spiritual principles necessary to plan successfully as revealed in plans led by Shoghi Effendi.



A practical examination of the idea that all people are planners and can benefit from the example of Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith. This book begins with a description of the spiritual principles associated with planning, and then reviews key principles that emerged in the plan-related correspondence between Shoghi Effendi and his fellow believers living in North America, particularly between 1937 and 1957. The book thereby summarizes key observations about the role of such planning qualities as love, praise, consistency, purposeful goals, ability to call on divine assistance, and follow-through. With a foreword by Anna C. Vakil and a fold-out map of global accomplishments, hand-drawn by Shoghi Effendi. Ottawa: Association of Baháʼí Studies.

“The format of this book is designed to provide information as well as to suggest specific skills. Various tables summarize the highlights of Shoghi Effendi’s approach to different phases of the planning process, and four of the seven chapters end with bulleted points that offer guidance for practical planning applications. These points offer advice relevant to both religious and secular settings. The last chapter offers a summation that focuses on how Shoghi Effendi’s approach could help the broader field of planning,” as cited at Peaceful Pages. 


This book is essential reading for at least four reasons: first, because it clearly identifies and describes the spiritual principles that help make planning effective…


The City After Abandonment

The City in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas

Critical issues facing U.S. cities that have lost population over the last few decades.

The City After Abandonment Book Cover



A number of U.S. cities, former manufacturing centers of the Northeast and Midwest, have suffered such dramatic losses in population and employment that urban experts have put them in a class by themselves, calling them “rustbelt cities,” “shrinking cities,” and more recently “legacy cities.” This decline has led to property disinvestment, extensive demolition, and abandonment. While much policy and planning have focused on growth and redevelopment, little research has investigated the conditions of disinvested places and why some improvement efforts have greater impact than others.

The City After Abandonment brings together essays from top urban planning experts to focus on policy and planning issues related to three questions. What are cities becoming after abandonment? The rise of community gardens and artists’ installations in Detroit and St. Louis reveal numerous unexamined impacts of population decline on the development of these cities. Why these outcomes? By analyzing post-hurricane policy in New Orleans, the acceptance of becoming a smaller city in Youngstown, Ohio, and targeted assistance to small areas of Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit, this book assesses how varied institutions and policies affect the process of change in cities where demand for property is very weak. What should abandoned areas of cities become? Assuming growth is not a choice, this book assesses widely cited formulas for addressing vacancy; analyzes the sustainability plans of Cleveland, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; suggests an urban design scheme for shrinking cities; and lays out ways policymakers and planners can approach the future through processes and ideas that differ from those in growing cities.


A valuable contribution to the literature on declining or shrinking cities and, in particular, cities with long-term property abandonment.


Urban Planning and the African American Community Book Cover

Urban Planning and the African American Community

In the Shadows

Edited by June Manning Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf

Compilation of insights into the fractured relationship between urban planning and Black communities.



How have urban planning policies contributed to racial injustices in American cities? Does urban planning really address and attempt to solve the social and economic problems of African Americans in cities, or does it just perpetuate ghetto conditions? What have African Americans done to confront injustices in planning? Historically, race and city design are linked. This book aims to clarify the historical connections between the African American population and the urban planning profession and to suggest means by which cooperation and justice may be increased.

The book focuses on areas of zoning and real estate, planning and public policy, African American initiatives and responses to urban planning, and urban planning education. Individual chapters examine the racial origins of zoning in American cities; how Eurocentric family models have shaped planning policies applied to African American families; the rise of equity planning and its effects; the role of race and empowerment in the Model Cities experiment; and the influence of African American experiences on the planning of such cities as Los Angeles, Greensboro, and Birmingham.

The editors also include a chapter of excerpts from important court cases and government reports that have shaped or reflected the racial aspects of urban planning.


This collection by two planning academics long concerned about this [race] problem makes a timely contribution to a better understanding of how black-white issues have affected the field of urban planning.


Mapping Detroit

Land, Community, and Shaping a City

Edited by June Manning Thomas and Henco Bekkering


Collection of essays (with maps) about critical issues in land use, vacancy, and social equity in Detroit.

The book cover for Mapping Detroit



One of Detroit’s most defining modern characteristics—and most pressing dilemmas—is its huge amount of neglected and vacant land. In Mapping Detroit: Land, Community, and Shaping a City, editors June Manning Thomas and Henco Bekkering use chapters based on a variety of maps to shed light on how Detroit moved from frontier fort to thriving industrial metropolis to today’s high-vacancy city. With contributors ranging from a map archivist and a historian to architects, urban designers, and urban planners, Mapping Detroit brings a unique perspective to the historical causes, contemporary effects, and potential future of Detroit’s transformed landscape.

To show how Detroit arrived in its present condition, contributors in part 1, Evolving Detroit: Past to Present, trace the city’s beginnings as an agricultural, military, and trade outpost and map both its depopulation and attempts at redevelopment. In part 2, Portions of the City, contributors delve into particular land-related systems and neighborhood characteristics that encouraged modern social and economic changes. Part 2 continues by offering case studies of two city neighborhoods-the Brightmoor area and Southwest Detroit-that are struggling to adapt to changing landscapes. In part 3, Understanding Contemporary Space and Potential, contributors consider both the city’s ecological assets and its sociological fragmentation to add dimension to the current understanding of its emptiness. The volume’s epilogue offers a synopsis of the major points of the 2012 Detroit Future City report, the city’s own strategic blueprint for future land use.

Mapping Detroit explores not only what happens when a large city loses its main industrial purpose and a major portion of its population but also what future might result from such upheaval. Containing some of the leading voices on Detroit’s history and future, Mapping Detroit will be informative reading for anyone interested in urban studies, geography, and recent American history.


Mapping Detroit brings together incisive and compelling essays to explain Detroit’s condition and draw contours for its future. Wonderfully insightful maps and graphics convey both historic change and new possibility…


Detroit Race and Uneven Development Book Cover


Race and Uneven Development

Joe Darden, Richard Child Hill, June Manning Thomas, Richard W. Thomas


Collaborative book describing connections between racial inequity and uneven development up until 1987.



Hub of the American auto industry and site of the celebrated Riverfront Renaissance, Detroit is also a city of extraordinary poverty, unemployment, and racial segregation. This duality in one of the mightiest industrial metropolises of twentieth-century North America is the focus of this study. Viewing the Motor City in light of sociology, geography, history, and planning, the authors examine the genesis of modern Detroit. They argue that the current situation of metropolitan Detroit—economic decentralization, chronic racial and class segregation, regional political fragmentation—is a logical result of trends that have gradually escalated throughout the post-World War II era. Examining its recent redevelopment policies and the ensuing political conflicts, Darden, Hill, Thomas, and Thomas, discuss where Detroit has been and where it is going.


Anyone interested in urban economic development, the politics of economic development and American race relations will find Detroit: Race and Uneven Development a fascinating and careful analysis of Detroit’s rise, fall and ongoing comeback struggle.


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