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Serial Forced Displacement in American Cities, 1916–2010

This paper describes the recurrent upheaval that has undermined stability of African American communities over a 100 year period.

AUTHOR: Mindy Thompson Fullilove; Rodrick Wallace.

PUBLISHED: Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. 2011.



Serial forced displacement has been defined as the repetitive, coercive upheaval of groups. In this essay, we examine the history of serial forced displacement in American cities due to federal, state, and local government policies. We propose that serial forced displacement sets up a dynamic process that includes an increase in interpersonal and structural violence, an inability to react in a timely fashion to patterns of threat or opportunity, and a cycle of fragmentation as a result of the first two. We present the history of the policies as they affected one urban neighborhood, Pittsburgh’s Hill District. We conclude by examining ways in which this problematic process might be addressed.


Serial forced displacement, Segregation, Redlining, Urban renewal, Planned shrinkage, HOPE VI, Gentrification, Foreclosure, Community disintegration.

serial forced displacement
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