Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Carr, Kay


The following thesis examines the city of Carbondale, Illinois, during the tumultuous years between 1965 and 1975. Carbondale was the recipient of large amounts of funding from the Model Cities program, part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. During that time, Carbondale experienced violent anti-war protests and community-wide unrest. At the same time as Model Cities projects began, the modern environmentalism movement surrounding the first observance of Earth Day, April 22, 1970, also occurred. Within four years, environmental groups comprised mostly of white citizens were pitted against African-American community activists working to improve Carbondale’s segregated Northeast neighborhood and the city officials who supported them. Environmental activism in Carbondale was perceived as a source financial gain, as was the Model Cities program. Thus, a neoliberal, marketplace approach was used to sell both activities to the general public rather than appeals to justice, public health, or moral outrage. Most historical accounts of the rise of environmentalism begin with accounts of spectacular national events, yet the story of environmental change in Carbondale contradicts that narrative. Both sides of the struggle were eventually denied success by a combination of generational endemic poverty in Southern Illinois, and lingering racism the War on Poverty programs stoked rather than diffused.




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