Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Michael L Blakey

Committee Member

Neil Norman

Committee Member

Jonathan Glasser

Committee Member

Jeremy D Stoddard


This dissertation discusses themes of racial identity, meaning of space, and class through an exploration of the intersection of gentrification and public education in Washington, D.C. Through analysis of middle-class responses to gentrification I argue, 1) that the public education system is a site of gentrification, as it has become a site of capitalistic development and Black displacement; 2) that the American concept of race, including race relations, is not an aberration of typical American society, but a defining cultural feature; and 3) the best way to understand race and class in America is to use theory constructed from the philosophical writings of W.E.B Du Bois. I ultimately conclude that both Black and White middle-class Washingtonians view gentrification as an economic process, however, in discussing ownership of the city, White middle-class Washingtonians feel as though the right to claim ownership of the city is shaped by politician-backed developers who craft the city focusing on consumption and not on community cohesiveness. They thus feel excluded from the city based on being reduced to simply a consumer. The Black middle-class on the other hand, as exemplified by teachers, feels excluded from the city because the consumer options presented in the context of gentrification are “not for them” and in their eyes appeals to an aesthetic that is simultaneously White and middle-class. Moreover, Black Washingtonian educators embrace the discourse of displacement associated with gentrification, defining gentrification ultimately as “White take-over” of Black spaces and marking the public education system of the city as a site of such take over.




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