Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Department of History & Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies

Latinos and the Urban Crisis in New York City and New Jersey, 1960-2000

595:312 & 508:

v. 2.22

A. Lauria Santiago
Contact info


How did the Urban Crisis of the 1960s, 70s and 80s affect Puerto Ricans, Cubans Dominicans and other Latinos in New York City, Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, Perth Amboy, Paterson, Camden? How did the Urban Crisis in NJ differ from NYC?  Was the urban crisis different for Latinos and African Americans? What responses did the urban crisis produce in Latino communities and governing elites? How did the anti-poverty programs affect Latinos? How did Latinos respond to all these challenges?  Did Latino poverty originate in these crises or was it a result of migration and community characteristics?

The Urban Crisis has been defined by the exclusion of African Americans from full access to the benefits of capitalism and citizenship in urban contexts. In his classic study of Detroit Sugrue framed the emerging urban catastrophe that would launch Detroit into the headlines as a story rooted in this exclusion and worsened by the loss of jobs through deindustraalization and the city's fiscal base through suburbanization. We will draw from these insights but link our study of the Crisis to additional themes that are more specifically grounded in the experience of New York City. Did the troubles of New York begin with deindustralization and suburbanization or were more deeply rooted in the political economy of poverty? How did Latino peoples-marked variably as racially non-white, white, in-between and black-experience the city's worsening economic, fiscal and social problems? Between the 1960s and the 1980s the city became impoverished and hellish, with rampant arson, neglect, crime and joblessenss. How did Latinos respond to these crisis? Latinos (People of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican descent) were both recent immigrant and long-standing residents of New York and did not necesarily share their responses to these problems. Where Latino Rights and politlca movements a response to these issues?

This history research seminar will introduce you to the literature on the Urban Crisis in northeastern cities and relate the crisis to Black and Latino social and political movements.  We will spend about eight sessions reviewing the literature and will have time to focus on individual research projects with newspapers, archives, interviews and other materials.

Student research projects will involve analyze census data, newspapers, government reports and other primary sources.

Students will travel to New York City or New Jersey libraries and archives at least five times during the semester. The last four weeks of the semester will have no assigned readings in order to allow time for this research work. I will find sources to cover all or most of your travel costs.

Please notice that readings will change and will be posted as we go along the semester.


Your participation in this class constitutes an agreement between us. I expect you to come to all class sessions prepared and on time.  I will provide you with feedback on your progress and present these materials to you in a coherent and organized manner. You will have approximately 100-150 pages of readings each week until after spring break when we will reduce the assigned reading so you can focus on your own research

You should expect to spend 7-10 hours a week working for this class. If you are not able to do this because of work or family obligations (or lack of interest) you should not take this course. Readings will be aroud 200 pp./week.

This is a seminar. Your participation in every session is obligatory. If you are absent more than once you will be asked to drop the course. Your participation in class activities, including attendance, will be an important component of your final grade. I will take attendance most of the time and more than two absences will reduce your class participation grade by half of a full grade for each absence.  The short assignments that form part of the participation grade include occasional short response papers.  They should be about one page long and need not be typewritten as long as your handwriting is legible.   Occasionally we will break down into small discussion groups in order to tackle a question or designate students as discussion leaders for a session.

We will have short assignments almost and student presentation of the readings every week.  Short assignments will be graded with a plus, a check or a minus and will accumulate towards grades of A, B, or C (if they are all handed in).  The usual grade will be a check which will indicate satisfactory completion (B).  A minus indicates the absence of important components which will be specified.   Lower grades will result from missing homework items.

For most of the term you will focus on research for your research paper.

Students are required to be familiar with departmental and University guidelines on plagiarism and the submission of written work.  Please note that stringing together fragments of notes taken from the reading materials does note constitute paper-writing! 

Determination of Grade:

Your research paper will require analysis of relationships, not mere recitation of facts or stories.  Because of the May due date late papers will not be accepted.

There will be a writing tutor available for this course.  I encourage you to take advantage of this valuable resource, its not only for students struggling with their writing...everyone can use a critic.

You are required to meet with me individually to discuss your strategy for the research project at least once before the weeks designaed for individual meetings and then once a week during those two weeks.

Research plans and reports:

You will have to submit various documents throughout the semester: a preliminary and final research proposals, research plan, reports on sources, and a log of work accomplished. See here for a detailed description of the research process and the documents required for the course.

You will also have a due date (around April 20) for a full draft of your research paper and have an absolute final due date on May 5.

The research paper will have to be based on your own research and discuss a very specific story drawn from the materials we will read in class and applied to a context you identify. The paper should have to be 20-25 pages and you will need to spend half of the semester doing in -depth research. We will aim to publish these papers.

This course relies on our SAKAI site for access to readings, submission of work, communication, etc. The use of Sakai is not an optional component of the course but a vital parallel track to our class discussions and readings. You should check it once or twice a week and your email daily. The links from the web pages take you directly to the reading. If for some reason this does not work, you can access Sakai directly at Many of the readings are in PDF format. In order to read or print PDF format documents you must have Adobe's Acrobat Reader installed. In order to read documents in MS-Word format you must have MS-Word or a word processor that can import files in MS-Word format (most of them can). 


Week 1 Jan 22--Introduction: What Urban Crisis? A Crisis of the City, of Race or of Class?

Week 2 Jan 29--New York's Urban Crises



Week 3 – Feb 5--Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans in NYC--Great Migrations and Class


Week 4 –Feb 12--Work, Incomes and Poverty

Week 5–Feb 19--Housing, Communities and Ghettos

Week 6–Feb 25--Violence, Street Crime, Policing and Riots

February 31-March 4--Spring Break: Work on your Research Proposals

Week 7–Mar 5--Wars Against Poverty

Week 8–March 19--Civil and Class Rights: Liberal and Radical Responses Week 9–March 26-Racial Politics of the Crisis Week 10–April 2-Burning Down the House and the City's Fiscal Crisis Week 11–April 9-Individual Meetings

Week 12–April 16-Individual Meetings

Week 13–April 23--In-class Research reports

Week 14-April 30--In-class Research reports