Invisible Houston: The Black Experience in Boom & Bust, by Robert D. Bullard

My Copy: 9780890963579

DISCLAIMER: This is expanded on from my original review in Goodreads from a few months back, in case anybody saw it and it seems familiar.

As a Houstonian, this book was an interesting find. I found it a few years ago when I was gathering research materials on Houston in the 20th century. There really aren’t many books about the Houston area, fiction OR nonfiction, and I was hoping to write something of either someday.


A street in “Freedmen’s Town,” Houston, (from

As this copy was published in 1987, it is nearly 30 years out of date regarding statistics and socio-economics. However, that makes it worth picking up anyway! The text is a socio-economic study of Houston, Texas from the 1960s to the 1980s, and is a good base of information to work from.

It may not be the most riveting read, in that it is essentially a thesis or economic textbook, but I find it has its interesting moments. It’s a time capsule of its own, full of useful information regarding vocabulary usage, statistics gathering, and a few maps of wards and neighborhoods I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

Some of the neighborhoods described I don’t recall hearing about (granted, I’m a suburbs girl), and there are many references to old Houston infrastructures and city offices. Some of the neighborhood names still exist, and others just have a passing mention on old maps. Mr. Bullard makes quick work of setting up Houston for the reader, and drops names of ethnically segregated neighborhoods. The book is also a great window into how gentrification and freeway development changed the neighborhoods I’ve heard about and passed over.

The author’s voice shines through in the way he (angrily) mentions the forced movement and splitting of old neighborhoods for the sake of new infrastructure. There’s a touch of the urban activist in this work, and you can tell the book is a labor of love and perhaps a bit of struggle.

220px-project_row_house_studiosRegardless of its age, Invisible Houston is a fantastic start for anyone wanting to understand changes in urban development, applied basic statistics, and some useful maps. I would recommend anyone studying or reading about the “South” in the late 20th century to pick this one up.

And if some Texas History, Economics, or Urban Studies student out there is looking for a research topic for a thesis–wink wink, nudge nudge–you have a helluva premise to build on.

And I, for one, would love to read it.

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