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About Blackbottom

Based in Philadelphia, Blackbottom is a collaborative project which documents the struggle and displacement of communities by institutions and development, honors the memory of those who worked to stop gentrification and raises awareness of community empowerment methods for counteracting eminent domain and urban renewal issues.


Since the beginning of time, man has had an insatiable desire to surround himself, family and community with those things that would enhance and improve the quality of life, for the individual, family and community.

Over time as populations increased and land, material and human resources decreased, there became a territorial imperative to move in search for new and improved surroundings to advance the impaired conditions that these humans faced.

In addition, as some cultures and humans clashed over perceived scarce resources. Some individuals and groups saw the opportunity to profit from the needs and struggles over land.

Since 1950 in Philadelphia, this process has emerged under the guise of urban, suburban and rural renewal, removal or development.

In some areas it is called gentrification, corporate, university or institutional expansion; all of which are government sponsored or supported.

The net effect is that over the last 50-60 years, thousands of American citizens have been displaced for “a better good” to serve “the larger community” or “state interest” and this has been done with little or no relief for the tens of thousands of people who were too powerless to prevent this calamity

Because of Dr. Walter Palmer’s fight against the University of Pennsylvania for expanding into his neighborhood, Black Bottom, he has been called upon by several community leaders and organizations to help them fight against institutional expansion (i.e. Temple University in North Philadelphia and Drexel University in Mantua West Philadelphia).

This led to a long history of Dr. Palmer helping to organize communities, churches, students and other stakeholders in collaboration, to fight against this egregious form of human displacement.

This website is a testament to Dr. Palmer’s work and can be used as an instrument against community displacement.

Black Bottom Residents

Black Bottom Residents

Mission of blackbottom.org

The mission of blackbottom.org is to make the general public (locally, nationally, and internationally) aware of the destructive history of displaced populations through disempowerment by the politically and financially powerful.

Goals of blackbottom.org

The goal of blackbottom.org is to preserve the history, culture and values of these displaced populations so we can record the lessons learned from the institutional driving forces and community resistance.

Objectives of blackbottom.org

The objective of blackbottom.org is to unite communities, institutions, corporations, universities, and government to collaborate on community development through grassroots organizing and education

The Vision

In 1990, while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Social Work, I envisioned the possibility of having an collaboration between the School of Social Work and Africanna Studies to document the displacement of Philadelphia communities by government, corporate, university and institutional expansion.

In 1995, I was able to create a course that looked at this form of displacement, with a focus on the University of Pennsylvania’s expansion into the Black Bottom of West Philadelphia.

In 2000, the website, blackbottom.org, was created and eventually I was invited to teach a similar course in the Urban Studies department at the University of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, we (community and students) elected to look at all the displaced populations in Philadelphia from 1950-2000.

Dr. Walter Palmer

Dr. Walter PalmerDr. Walter Palmer

Dr. Walter Palmer

Dr. Walter Palmer is the instructor of the course whose students have created this website. Dr. Palmer is the driving force behind BlackBottom.org. His guidance and inspiration has encouraged many and empowered many more. Dr. Palmer always states in class, “There is not anything I have done that any of you can’t. It is truly up to you.” These uplifting words are the basis of this website and the reason his students work diligently to bring the story of Black Bottom and other communities in Philadelphia to the world.

“Dr. Palmer has been called upon over the years to consult, create, design and implement many successful political campaigns for presidential, senatorial, congressional, governor, state representative, mayoral, councilmatic to precinct elections. Many communities around the country have benefited from his community organizing skills and techniques, as well as his ability to passionately provide inspirational and motivational speeches and lectures.”
Black Men at Penn School of Social Work

URBS 448-University of Pennsylvania

“This course uses the history of black displacement to examine community power and advocacy. It examines the methods of advocacy (e.g. case, class, and legislative) and political action through which community activists can influence social policy development and community and institutional change. The course also analyzes selected strategies and tactics of change and seeks to develop alternative roles in the group advocacy, lobbying, public education and public relations, electoral politics, coalition building, and legal and ethical dilemmas in political action. Case studies of neighborhood displacement serve as central means of examining course topics.”

Course Syllabus in Word Format

Course Syllabus in PDF Format

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Original BlackBottom logo

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