This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Asphalt Politics in the Deep South: Race, Housing, and the Interstate Highway System in Atlanta and Birmingham




Robinson, Maurice

Type of Degree





This thesis explores how the Interstate Highway System was partially responsible for the transition of the American South from a rural agrarian-based society into a more urban industrialized society. With this cultural and economic shift, political and social alignments were beginning to change as well. The Interstate Highway System’s development and political dynamics were not the same across the United States of America, and they unfolded in unique ways in the American South given its history of both de jure and de facto segregation. The development of the Interstate Highway System was lauded for the economic benefits that were projected to come. As the Interstate Highway System passed through many southern cities, however, politicians, planners, and business elites in cities like Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, relied upon existing patterns of housing segregation to determine highway routes. Using mostly federal dollars, politicians and community leaders in those cities and across the American South found various ways to reaffirm the strained race and class relations that were a cultural hallmark of the American South.