24 August 2023
Demy paperback with flaps, 135mm x 216mm
Cover image © Universal Images Group North America LLC / Alamy
Cover design © Luke Bird
Author photograph © Harvard University
An unflinching look at Charleston, a beautiful, endangered port city, founded by English settlers in 1669 as a hub of the sugar and slave trades, which now, as the waters rise, stands at the intersection of climate and race.
Unbeknownst to the tourists who visit the charming streets of the Charleston peninsula, rapidly rising sea levels and increasingly devastating storms are mere years away from rendering the city uninhabitable. Weaving science, narrative history, and the family stories of Black Charlestonians, Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm chronicles the tumultuous recent past in the life of the city – from protests to hurricanes – while illuminating the escalating riskiness of its future. Charleston’s vulnerability is emblematic of vast portions of global coastlines that are likely to be chronically inundated in just a few decades. In Charleston, as in other global cities, little planning is underway to ensure a thriving future for all residents.
Charleston, by Harvard Law School professor and author Susan Crawford, tells the story of a city that has played a central role in America’s painful racial history for centuries.
Foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize winning author of On Juneteenth.
‘All true climate-change stories are about the abuse of power. Knowing this, Susan Crawford makes a plea for climate justice in Charleston, her sweeping case study of the South Carolina city. Crawford’s book stands apart from its predecessors because of its sustained focus on one threatened city. Charleston is a fascinating and haunted locale, and Crawford is gifted at sketching its grossness and grace.’
—The New York Times Book Review
‘It’s a book that I wish every community could have for facing economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change. In a blend of history, policy, science and journalism, Crawford brings Charleston to life and reveals why the city is a harbinger for the United States and the world.’
— Laura Trethewey, author of Imperiled Ocean: Human Stories from a Changing Sea
‘Charleston is a ghost story for the climate age, a sweeping and unflinching analysis of how a history of racism, greed, and political cowardice is creating a wet dystopian future for an iconic American city. Read this book and you’ll understand the enormity of the challenges that coastal cities face in a rapidly warming world, and why people are fighting for change before it’s too late.’
— Jeff Goodell, bestselling author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
‘The precarious situation in which this low-lying city finds itself is a microcosm of many other cities by a rising sea. But this is a story of people and not just policy . . . A powerful portrait of the cost of climate denial coming due.’
— David Goodrich, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Observations and Monitoring Program, former Director of the UN Global Climate Observing System, and author of On Freedom Road
‘Crawford persuasively links the precarious position of the city’s Black neighbourhoods to other ‘legacies of slavery and racism,’ including segregated schools and a lack of affordable housing for low- and middle-income families. By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, this is an eye-opening look behind Charleston’s genteel facade.’
— Publishers Weekly
‘One of the nation’s finest public interest technologists, Susan Crawford has used her pen and position to shed light on the rural, low-income communities left out of the story of America’s digital future. In Charleston, Crawford once again asks us not to look away, detailing the inner life of a city’s legacy of racism, and calling into question whether that history will drown Black and low-income residents in the present tense, as waters rise and levees break across Charleston and America’s coastal cities. This is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned its final page.’
— Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, author of From Generosity to Justice
‘Crawford’s book about Charleston’s imminent coastal climate crisis, intertwined with the city’s racial issues, is truly an eye-opener. Crawford’s writing style is clear and engaging, and she deftly involves the reader in the problems she addresses. An engaging book on the important national intersection of racism and the natural environment. Ideal for book discussion groups or citywide reading.’
— Library Journal, starred review