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Blockbusting in Baltimore: The Edmondson Village Story

by W. Edward Orser

Availablepaperback$35.00x 978-0-8131-0935-0
Out of Printcloth$0.00 978-0-8131-1870-3
256 pages  Pubdate: 08/28/1997  6 x 9  17 b&w photos, 4 maps, 4 figures

This innovative study of racial upheaval and urban transformation in Baltimore, Maryland investigates the impact of "blockbusting"—a practice in which real estate agents would sell a house on an all-white block to an African American family with the aim of igniting a panic among the other residents. These homeowners would often sell at a loss to move away, and the real estate agents would promote the properties at a drastic markup to African American buyers.

In this groundbreaking book, W. Edward Orser examines Edmondson Village, a west Baltimore rowhouse community where an especially acute instance of blockbusting triggered white flight and racial change on a dramatic scale. Between 1955 and 1965, nearly twenty thousand white residents, who saw their secure world changing drastically, were replaced by blacks in search of the American dream. By buying low and selling high, playing on the fears of whites and the needs of African Americans, blockbusters set off a series of events that Orser calls "a collective trauma whose significance for recent American social and cultural history is still insufficiently appreciated and understood."

Blockbusting in Baltimore describes a widely experienced but little analyzed phenomenon of recent social history. Orser makes an important contribution to community and urban studies, race relations, and records of the African American experience.

W. Edward Orser is professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland.

Has deftly revealed the social fragility of an apparently 'stable' white community. -- American Historical Review

A valuable contribution to urban history and to the history of race relations in the United States. -- Journal of Southern History