Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Justin Rogers-Cooper

Subject Categories

American Politics | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Health Law and Policy | Health Policy | Law and Race | Legal Remedies | Liberal Studies | Other Legal Studies | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs | Social Statistics | Social Welfare | Sociology of Culture | Urban Studies


The focus of my thesis is to explore some of the realities that the impoverished urban black poor populations face in America today. The goal of my thesis is to illustrate how poverty is reproduced within impoverished neighborhoods through the idea and mechanism of lead exposure, by recognizing how specific exposure to the element lead and its by-products is both a symbol and a material cause of black urban poor illness and disability. There is no mistake that people living in the U.S. are aware of the social injustices against black populations in the form of racial injustice. However, the same cannot be said for the injustices of black populations exposed to lead poisoning. Researchers have dissected this issue passionately to find fundamental answers regarding the causes, effects, and control of the poisonous metal. Less discussed, however, is the apathetic nature of the government in their urgency actions pertaining to lead exposure eradication when it comes to the black population. Furthermore, although scholars and intellectual experts in the American Studies field successfully utilize methodological and theoretical approaches in striving for an intercultural analysis of the transnational U.S. history within the scope of critical race and ethnic studies, the field’s conversation about the toxicity of lead and its presence in the urban black poor populations is still emergent. This is partly the reason for my thesis, in addition this emergent understanding is potent in part because each of the lead issues is treated locally or in isolation, that of which will be placed in context during the course of this thesis. The literature review in this thesis illustrates how poverty is perpetuated within impoverished neighborhoods through the idea and mechanism of exposure to lead. To establish this position, this thesis explores the current realities of the impecunious urban black poor populations in America as depicted in the Flint Water Crisis in Michigan, massive health violations by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and police shootings in Chicago, as well as Chicago gun violence in general pertaining to urban black poor individuals. In each of these spaces, the element lead is the crucial agent of disability and repression, and a critical common denominator across the board, looking at lead as much materially as symbolically. The literature review confirms a seemingly deliberate inaction effort by authorities to passively allow for lead poisoning in the black population by flaunting environmental protection, safe drinking water, fair housing, and lead abatement laws. Thus manipulated, lead and its by-products are both a symbol and a material cause of black urban poor illness and disability.