cover image Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm

Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm

Susan Crawford. Pegasus, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-63936-357-5

New Orleans is not the only beautiful and historic Southern city loved by tourists, but plagued by racial tensions and at risk from rising waters, according to this impassioned cri de coeur. While Charleston, S.C., has not experienced as devastating an environmental disaster as Hurricane Katrina, Harvard Law School professor Crawford (Captive Audience) contends that Charleston’s recent expansion across marshes and sea islands renders it exceptionally vulnerable to climate change. The danger is not evenly distributed among the city’s inhabitants, however; the poorest Charlestonians, many of whom are African American, occupy parts of the city most at risk of destruction. But that outcome is not inevitable, according to Crawford, who profiles local activists including minister Joseph Darby; entrepreneur David White, whose nonprofit provides laundry services to people without homes on the city’s flood-prone East Side; and community development advocate Michelle Mapp, who works to “help prevent eviction and displacement of low-income and Black households.” Crawford persuasively links the precarious position of the city’s Black neighborhoods to other “legacies of slavery and racism,” including segregated schools and a lack of affordable housing for low- and middle-income families. By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, this is an eye-opening look behind Charleston’s genteel facade. (Apr.)