“Progressive cities” can claim a modern chronology extending from the 1960s to the present. In the 1960s, U.S. cities and neighborhoods experienced and contributed to a set of social movements typically in protest of the effects of many urban programs of the time like urban renewal and the urban parts of the interstate highway program.

By the 1970s, activists were pouring into many of these cities. They had or were affected by recent experience in civil rights, anti-war, and student movements. When some of them found a more permanent base in the neighborhoods and began to run for and then capture political leadership of city halls, there was the potential for a new kind of city government.

What happened after about 1970 was the transformation of social movement energy to the attempt to capture real institutions and operate them in service of similar causes: social justice, equality, and neighborhood “rights” not to have their communities destroyed. One channel was electoral – city council seats, and in some prominent cases mayoralties, amounting to electoral takeovers of city governments by movement activists, now typically calling themselves “progressives.” Parallel to these were the creation of neighborhood-based based initiatives ranging from grassroots protests to community development corporations.

Overall the result was a combination of top-down and bottom-up policy initiatives ranging from redistributive efforts like rent control, inclusionary housing laws, and industrial retention measures, to participatory themes like opening city council meetings and widening the distribution of seats on boards and commissions.

Recent developments in the national policy environment have resulted in new local progressive policy themes: on immigration, LGBTQ inclusion, and climate change activism. Central concerns with redistribution and participation have remained.

This Web site’s collection originated from extensive research on seven U.S. cities: Berkeley, Boston, Burlington, Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford and Santa Monica – all largely from the 1970s and 1980s. These cities’ information was first housed at Cornell University’s eCommons, and will remain there permanently. Over time we learned about, and there occurred, broadly similar experience in other places, and as material came in, we have begun to add these to the collection at eCommons and on this PNCP Web site: from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America; and from other cities in the United States. Our collection being limited in these latter places, we have aggregated them by continent. All these are presented along with a set of introductory texts.

See also related material on neighborhoods within cities; and additional items from organizations that relate to many different cities.

Collection by city: