Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis by Andrew Highsmith

Historian Andrew Highsmith’s indepth look at the intersection of race, housing, education, and politics in Flint is a must-read for anyone hoping to truly understand the past, present, and future of the Vehicle City, and, by extension, other post-industrial cities around the country. It’s really a portrait of America. It explores the decisions — often made during the boom years — that brought Flint to its present state. And it reveals that even when the city was viewed as a industrial success story, racial politics ensured that many were systematically excluded from the prosperity. Highsmith’s work profoundly changed my understanding of Flint and the forces that animate it. In an era when quick hits and shallow reporting have come to define a great deal of what is written about complicated issues, Demolition Means Progress captures the complexity of cities like Flint. I highly recommend it.

Pre-order Demolition Means Progress here.


  1. You can read a lot of the book here.

    I'm not sure I agree with a lot of his conclusions. It's true that in the '50's Flint was de facto segregated but so was every other city in the United States. At least in flint minorities had union jobs and made good money.

    Central Fl had real segregation right up tot he mid 1960's.

    I think he's forcing a lot of his facts to fit a certain narrative.

    This book was the author's Ph.D. dissertation which accounts for the wonky nature of the book.

    The entire dissertation is here:

  2. Flint was the Silicon Valley of the 1950's. The really interesting question is will San Jose become Flint in the next 50 years. The techies will say it won't happen. I remember when we del that way in Flint. Arrogance will always get you in the end.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at