Arson and Residential Segregation in New Orleans, 1895-1915

Wright Kennedy, University of South Carolina

This study uncovers patterns of previously unknown arson incidents by analyzing fire records for New Orleans from 1900-1910. Patterns of fire incidents in New Orleans reveal hotspots of arson activities and a correlation between arson and the efforts of white residents to enforce residential segregation. Spatial analysis reveals that arson was used as a tool to enact segregation in certain neighborhoods. Specifically, residents who were opposed to the presence of African Americans in their neighborhoods used arson to destroy Black churches and schools along with homes of Black families or to deter them from moving into the area. The findings shed light on a previously overlooked aspect of the history of residential segregation in the United States. The mapping of fire records provides a new lens through which to understand how arson was used to reinforce racial boundaries in urban areas. This study contributes to discussions about the legacy of segregation and the ongoing struggle for housing equity in the United States.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 32. Presidential Session: Environmental Justice and Public Health