The pied piper of the ghetto: Lyndon Johnson, environmental justice, and the politics of rat control

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When Congress rejected President Lyndon Johnson’s Rat Extermination and Control Bill in the summer of 1967, in a mood of growing conservatism, it inadvertently sparked a heated political controversy that brought the desperate conditions of life in inner-city America into sharp focus. This article focuses on the issue of rat infestation to explore the conditions of “urban blight” that disproportionately afflicted ghetto communities in the United States during the 1960s and that represented a form of environmental inequality linked to racial marginalization and poverty. It is suggested that a growing awareness of environmental aspects of inequality increasingly fueled ghetto discontent, feeding the outbreak of riots during the “long, hot summers,” and spurring liberals to think of new ways to understand the problems of inner-city poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-561
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011

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