Abstract

This essay examines the history of economic citizenship in urban America in the 1990s by focusing on Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (known more commonly by its acronym BUILD). In 1994, this “citizens power organization” of churches and congregations won the first living wage ordinance in the United States. Its response to the urban redevelopment regime of the 1980s and 1990s focused on the needs of the Baltimore poor and working-class service workers. Although BUILD was a self-described “multiracial, ecumenical, city-wide institutionally based organization,” its agenda was attentive to the way differently situated workers experienced urban decline and redevelopment. This was the case in Baltimore where African American citizens—especially African American women—constituted a significant proportion of its service-workers ranks.

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