Transportation Policy and the Underdevelopment of Black Communities

27 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2021 Last revised: 2 Aug 2021

Date Written: March 4, 2021


Historian Manning Marable posited that “[t]he most striking fact about American economic history and politics is the brutal and systemic underdevelopment of Black people.” According to this theory, Black people “have never been equal partners in the American Social Contract, because [our] system exists not to develop, but to underdevelop Black people.” To effect this underdevelopment, racism is embedded into the core of power, the economy, culture, and society. The result is that Black people have been intentionally sacrificed to feed America’s growth and expansion.

Our transportation system has always been a driver of racial inequality. Using Marable’s theory of underdevelopment, this Article explores the ways transportation policy and infrastructure development have fed inequality and helped make many Black communities inhospitable for health, success, and economic opportunity. The nation’s transportation infrastructure was built at the expense of Black communities and has contributed to and sustained the underdevelopment of Black America, often making it difficult for Black people to take advantage of society’s opportunities. The benefits and burdens of our transportation system – highways, roads, bridges, sidewalks, and public transit – have been planned, developed, and sustained to pull resources from Black communities that are subsequently deployed and invested to the benefit of predominantly white communities and their residents.

Suggested Citation

Archer, Deborah N., Transportation Policy and the Underdevelopment of Black Communities (March 4, 2021). 106 Iowa Law Review 2125 (2021), NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-12, Available at SSRN:

Deborah N. Archer (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States


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