Retzlaff's research and recent articles gaining recognition

Rebecca Retzlaff

Rebecca Retzlaff, associate professor in the Community Planning Program, recently published three articles that are receiving attention. One article, "Connecting Public School Segregation with Urban Renewal and Interstate Highway Planning: The Case of Birmingham, Alabama," analyzes the routes of the Interstate Highways, the locations of Urban Renewal areas, and their impact on segregated schools and school zones. This article argues that Interstate Highways and Urban Renewal were used to preserve segregated schools. It also argues that activists for White schools were able to affect Interstate Highway design while activists for African American schools were not. Also, Urban Renewal funds were used to build new segregated schools and neighborhoods in order to reinforce patterns of segregation. This research has been recognized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine - Transportation Research Board (TRB). The TRB is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which provides independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The TRB highlighted her article here

Two other recent articles, “Catholics v. the Interstates: the fight to protect Catholic institutions from Interstate Highways in Birmingham, Alabama” and “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Racial Basis for Interstate Highways and Urban Renewal” analyze how Interstate highways were used in Alabama to maintain racial and religious hierarchies during the civil rights movement. The articles are available here: and .

Retzlaff teaches classes in planning history, historic preservation planning, land use law, and land use planning. Her classes typically include a significant outreach and field work component. Her classes have worked with small towns in Alabama such as Opelika, Lochapoka, and Tallassee, as well as larger cities such as Mobile and Montgomery. Class projects include historic preservation plans, healthy community plans, zoning reform reports, and neighborhood plans. Through the fieldwork component of classes, students get firsthand experience in community engagement.

Last Updated: October 13, 2020