The Urban Country: Municipal Annexation and the Origins of Metropolitan America

Type: Advance Text Session (Gerstle-Style)

Tags: Urban and Suburban


Municipal annexation has generally been described as a progressive action in urban scholarship, but upon further historical review, local officials also used this policy to restrict property rights and limit democratic governance. Urban historians have only recently begun to correct this scholarly oversight through case studies on municipal annexation. New research on municipal annexation shows how this policy transforms the cultural, political, and economic development of urban communities. This panel reveals how local policies, like municipal annexation, worked across space and time to transform the United States into a nation of cities in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Session Participants

Chair: Andrew D. Heath, University of Sheffield

Presenter: Coleman Allums, University of Georgia
I am a human geographer interested in racial capitalism, cities, critical theory, and post/qualitative methodologies. These interests are manifest in my current long-term project on the geographies of suburban secession in the Atlanta area; they also inflect my more diffuse writings on such themes as mass shootings, epistemology, and urban housing.

Presenter: Anthony Charles Pratcher II, Independent scholar
Anthony Pratcher II is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. He earned his Ph. D. in American History from the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded
a B.A. in History from Howard University. His research intersects civic boosterism with racial capitalism in the historical development of the metropolitan Sunbelt. His research has been funded by the Arizona Historical Society, the Captain Victor Gondos Research Fellowship, and an NEH/ODH Fellowship on Space and Place in Africana/Black Studies. He co-edited a textbook on planning history, Planning Future Cities (Dubuque, IA: KendallHunt, 2017), with Walter Greason and has been published by Pennsylvania Magazine of Biography and History, Southern California Quarterly and Technology and Culture.

Commentator: Russell M. Smith, Winston Salem State University
Dr. Russell M. Smith is a Professor of Geography in the Department of History, Politics & Social Justice and the Faculty Lead for the Spatial Justice Studio at the Center for Design Innovation (SJS @ CDI). He received his doctoral degree in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His research interests include a variety of topics related to spatial justice including: local government boundary change, urban form and the built environment and urban sustainability. Recently, Dr. Smith has been selected as a Fulbright Specialist for his expertise and experience in urban planning.

Dr. Smith is the author of numerous research publications (20), contracted reports, and presentations. In 2018, Dr. Smith published a book titled, Municipal Incorporation Activity in the United States: Patterns, People and Procedures, which highlighted his decade long investigation into new municipalities in the united States. He is also the 2017-2018 recipient of the Cedric S. Rodney Distinguished Service Award and the 2018-2019 Bill Sheppard Master Teacher Award. Prior to joining Winston-Salem State University, Dr. Smith was an AICP certified urban planner for a variety of local governments where he specialized in land use planning and urban redevelopment.

Dr. Smith has made a concerted effort and had been committed to supporting a variety of projects, programs and initiatives aimed at addressing spatial justice issues on campus and in our community through his service work. He has served as the Chair for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities within the Department of History, Politics and Social Justice, had classes participate in the development of a strategic plan for the Waughtown neighborhood and currently serves as the Vice President of the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation. Dr. Smith also has served his academic profession by regularly attending academic conferences and serving as the Vice President of the North Carolina Geographical Society (NCGS).

Presenter: Kristian Taketomo, University of Pennsylvania
My dissertation, City Mutable: Delimiting Urban Space from Metropolis to Megalopolis, traces how “the city,” as an object of study, grew larger over time. It explores how new theoretical constructs and administrative definitions for urban space informed policy decisions and how these policy choices reinforced these constructs, making them more real. The project tracks the development of progressively more expansive definitions of the city, from the United States Census Office’s first attempts to systematically distinguish urban places from rural ones in the nineteenth century, to the rise of metropolitan thinking in the early twentieth century, through the post-World War II entree of Jean Gottmann’s concept of Megalopolis. The project identifies unease with and opposition to these evolving definitions, exploring moments where the city’s notional boundaries had been seemingly stretched to the breaking point, becoming so vast that the concept risked losing its explanatory capacity, its cultural relevance, and its power as an idea.