Benjamin Heber Johnson

Jun 8, 2017

Escaping the Dark, Gray City

Fear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation

Yale University Press 2017

purchase at The turn of the twentieth century caught America at a crossroads, shaking the dust from a bygone era and hurtling toward the promises of modernity. Factories, railroads, banks, and oil fields all reshaped the American landscape and people. In the gulf between growing wealth and the ills of an urbanizing nation, the spirit of Progressivism emerged. Promising a return to democracy and a check on concentrated wealth, Progressives confronted this changing relationship to the environment--not only in the countryside but also in dense industrial cities and leafy suburbs. Drawing on extensive work in urban history and Progressive politics, Benjamin Heber Johnson's Escaping the Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation (Yale University Press, 2017) weaves together environmental history, material culture, and politics to reveal the successes and failures of the conservation movement and its lasting legacy. By following the efforts of a broad range of people and groups--women's clubs, labor advocates, architects, and politicians--Escaping the Dark, Gray City shows how conservation embodied the ideals of Progressivism, ultimately becoming one of its most important legacies. Benjamin Heber Johnson is Associate Professor of History at Loyola University, Chicago, and author of Revolution in Texas and Bordertown. He lives in Chicago.
Lori A. Flores is Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and the author of Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale, 2016). You can find her at or hanging around Brooklyn.

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