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and the Coming Storm
in conversation with RANDALL KENNEDY
Harvard Book Store Welcomes SUSAN CRAWFORD—John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School—for a discussion of her new book Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm. She will be joined in conversation by RANDALL KENNEDY—Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
At least thirteen million Americans will have to move away from American coasts in the coming decades, as rising sea levels and increasingly severe storms put lives at risk and cause billions of dollars in damages. In Charleston, South Carolina, denial, boosterism, widespread development, and public complacency about racial issues compound; the city, like our country, has no plan to protect its most vulnerable. In these pages, Susan Crawford tells the story of a city that has played a central role in America’s painful racial history for centuries and now, as the waters rise, stands at the intersection of climate and race.
Unbeknownst to the seven million mostly white tourists who visit the charming streets of the lower peninsula each year, the Holy City is in a deeply precarious position. Weaving science, narrative history, and the family stories of Black Charlestonians, Charleston chronicles the tumultuous recent past in the life of the city—from protests to hurricanes—while revealing the escalating risk in its future. A bellwether for other towns and cities, Charleston is emblematic of vast portions of the American coast, with a future of inundation juxtaposed against little planning to ensure a thriving future for all residents.
In Charleston, we meet Rev. Joseph Darby, a well-regarded Black minister with a powerful voice across the city and region who has an acute sense of the city’s shortcomings when it comes to matters of race and water. We also hear from Michelle Mapp, one of the city’s most promising Black leaders, and Quinetha Frasier, a charismatic young Black entrepreneur with Gullah-Geechee roots who fears her people’s displacement. And there is Jacob Lindsey, a young white city planner charged with running the city’s ten-year “comprehensive plan” efforts who ends up working for a private developer. These and others give voice to the extraordinary risks the city is facing.
The city of Charleston, with its explosive gentrification over the last thirty years, crystallizes a human tendency to value development above all else. At the same time, Charleston stands for our need to change our ways—and the need to build higher, drier, more densely-connected places where all citizens can live safely.
Illuminating and vividly rendered, Charleston is a clarion call and filled with characters who will stay in the reader’s mind long after the final page.
Praise for Charleston
“Days after reading Susan Crawford’s masterful Charleston: Race, Water and the Coming Storm, I found myself telling strangers impromptu anecdotes about the South Carolina coastal city. This is a fascinating, in-depth, soul-searching look at a beautiful city with a dark past and an uncertain future. It’s a book that I wish every community could have for facing economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change. In a blend of history, policy, science and journalism, Crawford brings Charleston to life and reveals why the city is a harbinger for the United States and the world.” —Laura Trethewey, author of Imperiled Ocean
“One of the nation’s finest public interest technologists, Susan Crawford has used her pen and position to shed light on the rural, low-income communities left out of the story of America’s digital future. In Charleston, Crawford once again asks us not to look away, detailing the inner life of a city’s legacy of racism, and calling into question whether that history will drown Black and low-income residents in the present tense, as waters rise and levees break across Charleston and America’s coastal cities. This is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned its final page.” —Darren Walker, Prsident of the Ford Founation, author of From Generosity to Justice
“Charleston is a ghost story for the climate age, a sweeping and unflinching analysis of how a history of racism, greed, and political cowardice is creating a wet dystopian future for an iconic American city. Read this book and you’ll understand the enormity of the challenges that coastal cities face in a rapidly warming world, and why people are fighting for change before it’s too late.” —Jeff Goodell, bestselling author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World