Black Suburbanization on Philadelphia's Main Line, 1894-1975

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Black Suburbanization on Philadelphia's Main Line, 1894-1975

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Railroad suburbs first saw deliberate development in the mid-nineteenth century, and since then, both scholarly writing and popular culture have linked these suburbs to images of wealth, whiteness, and power. Yet, interwoven between large single-family homes on expansive tracts of land there has always been heterogeneity in more modest homes and communities whose residents historically have been African Americans. This dissertation departs from portrayals that overlook these individuals and families and asks what suburban identities and geographies of railroad suburbs look like when viewed through the homes, neighborhoods, and lives of black residents. To explore this question with depth and complexity, I ground my dissertation in a case study located on Philadelphia's Main Line, which is among the most prominent examples of all railroad suburbs, and I focus on the presence of black residents in Ardmore, one community on the Main Line. This interdisciplinary project investigates the life experiences and the built environment of the black suburbanites who settled in Ardmore in the late nineteenth century and links these origins to the changing neighborhood context of the black residents who lived there in the postwar era. This alternative narrative will show how black Main Line residents negotiated and shaped racial and class identities through different environments.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2015. Major: American Studies. Advisor: Katherine Solomonson. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 282 pages.

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Pottinger, Trecia. (2015). Black Suburbanization on Philadelphia's Main Line, 1894-1975. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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