Date of Award
Planning and Urban Studies
Dr. Vern Baxter
Dr. Marla Nelson
Dr. Jeffrey Parker
This dissertation is a case study of New Orleans East, a collection of diverse suburban neighborhoods that comprise the easternmost part of New Orleans. This interdisciplinary research study chronicles the growth and decline of “The East” to more generally understand the challenges facing Black middle-class suburbs. Decades-long mischaracterizations and overstated negative perceptions of The East persist, unjustly and unceasingly detracting from economic development and prosperity and exacerbating the inequities that have long plagued the city’s Black residents. Findings from this dissertation uncover how, in metropolitan New Orleans, residents, city officials, and local news media have effectively stigmatized and written off the entirety of New Orleans East as a figurative and literal microcosmic dumping ground of all the city’s social ills, from poverty and blight to battles over section-8 housing and economic decline.
First, with the 1980s oil crash and then Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans East has maintained an exaggerated narrative of suburban decline that masks and overshadows Black wealth, economic potential, and plentiful natural resources. According to the middle- and upper-income Black residents who reside in New Orleans East, the area’s disinvestment and decline are due to their race, despite the spending power they possess. They decry how The East’s economic suffocation disproportionately distresses their communities, contributing to blight, low property values, a lack of job creation, an absence of shopping and restaurants, areas of concentrated poverty, and crime (or perceptions of it). Residents have become frustrated that they are forced to shop even for their most basic needs in neighboring parishes, which causes the city to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue annually. Decades-long political neglect and economic disinvestment of The East exacerbate the city’s racial wealth gap and further decrease access to the economic stability and mobility of the “American dream” for the city’s Black middle class. This dissertation seeks a paradigm shift in how New Orleans residents, realtors, private developers, and city and state leaders conceptualize “The East.” New Orleans East has become the forgotten neighborhood in “the city that care forgot,” but it deserves much more.
Miller, Charles, "“The East:” A History of New Orleans East and the Retail Redlining of Black Middle-Class Suburbs" (2023). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 3110.