The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Michael Savage

PhD Program Downtown Toronto (St. George)


Savage’s dissertation, "The Metropolitan Moment: Municipal Boundaries, Segregation, and Civil Rights Possibilities in the American North," considers the relationship between urban-suburban conflict and the struggle for racial equality in twentieth-century America. Focusing on the intersection of urban-suburban differences and civil rights struggles in metropolitan Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia, Savage examines how suburban racial and class exclusion shaped efforts to desegregate housing and education in central cities and suburbs alike, closing off some possibilities and opening up others, particularly in terms of interracial coalition-building. Beginning in the 1960s, diverse sources – ranging from self-interested urban segregationists to suburban open housing advocates – similarly articulated grievances about civil rights remedies that exempted the majority-white suburbs, and pushed for metropolitan-wide remedies that reached beyond the boundaries of the central cities. The Supreme Court’s 1974 decision in Milliken v. Bradley significantly diminished, but did not entirely destroy, this metropolitan orientation.

This period, the “metropolitan moment,” was one of tremendous possibility and importance. This is not to say that metropolitanism was a panacea; advocates of this position frequently presented the black population as a problem to be dealt with and frequently sought to reduce the number of African Americans in central cities, which provides clues as to why committed urban segregationists could quickly change course and trumpet the advantages of metropolitan integration. The poles of urban segregation and metropolitan integration were not as far apart as they might seem. Despite this, metropolitanism, by diminishing the possibilities for white flight by including communities of higher socio-economic status, provided a much better chance of combating segregation than did solutions limited to the inner-city alone. Ultimately, the failure of many of these metropolitan approaches is stitched into the fabric of the cities today.


  • B.A., University of Calgary, 2007
  • M.A., University of Calgary, 2009


  • 2012-2013