Was Tulsa’s Brady Street really renamed? Racial (in)justice, memory-work and the neoliberal politics of practicality

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Social and Cultural Geography



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memory-work, Neoliberalism, racial (in)justice, street naming, Tulsa, white supremacy


© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. In 2013, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma ‘renamed’ Brady Street in its downtown arts district to M.B. Brady Street and designated the road as Reconciliation Way to rid itself of ties to Wyatt ‘Tate’ Brady, the original namesake. Tate Brady, a Ku Klux Klan leader, participated in a 1921 massacre that killed, injured, and displaced many black Tulsans. Honoring M.B. Brady, a Civil War photographer with the same last name but no ties to Tulsa, was part of a neoliberal compromise to ensure the name change would have the least disruptive impact on the financial interests of white business owners on the road. The Tulsa case demonstrates how convenience and practicality—although represented as a matter of neoliberal ‘nonpolitics’—is nonetheless a political technology used to justify sanitizing controversial histories and prioritizing capital accumulation over social justice. The faux renaming of Brady prompts a critical consideration of how neoliberalism weakens cities’ ability to engage in the restorative ‘memory-work’ of recovering (from) past racial violence. Our study contributes to the study of neoliberal place naming, struggles over urban space and memory, and the possibilities and limits of street naming as a vehicle for (re)claiming a black sense of place.

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