In Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland
(Cornell University Press, $28.45), University of Cincinnati historian David Stradling and Raleigh News & Observer editor Richard Stradling recount how Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city, worked to transform Cleveland in the early 1970s (where pollution set the Cuyahoga River on fire) from a symbol of urban blight to a model for municipal planning.
“Although concerned primarily with addressing poverty and inequality, Stokes understood that the transition from industrial city to service city required massive investments in the urban landscape,” the authors relate. “Stokes adopted ecological thinking that emphasized the connectedness of social and environmental problems and the need for regional solutions.”
Stradling and Stradling conclude that Stokes, while acutely aware of the persistent racial and political boundaries holding back his city, was in many ways ahead of his time in his vision for Cleveland and a more livable urban America. Anyone interested in urban planning, sustainable development or the history of America’s cities shouldn’t miss Where the River Burned.