Preferred Name

M.T. Chiles

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Steven Reich


Between 1960 and 1977, Richmond, Virginia, experienced a tremendous racial shift in its overall population. The shift from majority white to majority black brought about the city’s first black majority city council, black mayor, and majority black school district with a black superintendent. How and why this racial transition happened is the focus of this work. Richmond’s racial transition was a part of Civil Rights legislation destabilizing the sociopolitical landscape. As federal Civil Rights legislation was intended to create a post-racial America, in Richmond, blacks and whites ensured the opposite. Both races combined class interest, past racial norms, and future racial aspirations to recreate a Richmond that suited their interest. This complicated political, racial, and class-centered drama broke a perceived racial solidarity and created interracial political agents that would have never existed under Jim Crow. For example, working-class whites and blacks politically aligned against their racial elite’s efforts to desegregate public school and annex suburban counties. Likewise, the same middle-class black elite who politically opposed affluent whites in the early 1960s supported affluent white desegregation and annexation efforts. In all, Richmond’s urban crisis was a story encompassing how politics, race, class, and space cosmically shifted the racial dynamics of the former Confederate capital. As Richmond looked drastically different in 1977 than in 1960, Civil Rights Era racial, political, educational, and spatial changes best explain Richmond’s racial transition.



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