J. Phillip Thompson, Urban Studies and Planning

I want to use and revive the tradition of black community, not for purposes of keeping it small and narrow, but reminding people how we’ve always viewed our situation in America…We couldn’t even vote in America until I was in junior high school.

J. PHILLIP THOMPSON - Urban planner and Associate Professor of Political Science at an MIT panel in 2012


Credit: Steve McCaw

Credit: Steve McCaw

Visiting Associate Professor 2000-2002
Hosted by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)

J. Phillip Thompson is an urban planner, political scientist, and an associate professor of political science at Columbia University.

Research interests: Urban planning, public policy, race, housing, health, environment, and community/economic development

2015-2016 Scholas

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J. Phillip Thompson is an urban planner and political scientist. His research interests are urban planning, public policy, housing, community and economic development.

He received a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University in 1977, a M.U.P. from Hunter College in 1986, and a PhD. in Political Science from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1990.

Prof. Thompson worked as Deputy General Manager of the New York Housing Authority, and as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Coordination. He is a frequent advisor to trade unions in their efforts to work with immigrant and community groups across the United States.

His most recent academic work includes a 2004 review of public health interventions in poor black communities (written with Arline Geronimus) published in the Du Bois Review, entitled “To Denigrate, Ignore, or Disrupt: The Health Impact of Policy-induced Breakdown of Urban African American Communities of Support,” an article entitled “Judging Mayors” in the June 2005 issue of Perspectives on Politics, and a recent book called Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities and the Struggle for Deep Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Prof. Thompson has taught at Columbia, Barnard, Yale University and CUNY, and is a senior policy advisor to PolicyLink, a think tank that links research and policy development with a network of 150 community organizations.

At MIT, Prof. Thompson was hosted by the Department of Urban Planning (DUSP). He stayed on at the Institute, joining the faculty DUSP in 2002 as associate professor of urban politics and community development.

Prof. Thompson's important intellectual contributions on the themes of social capital, health and racial ideology was recognized with a 2004 MLK Leadership Award.

Prof. Lawrence Vale, head of DUSP, and Carolyn Makinson, executive director of the Center for International Studies, wrote in their nomination letter: "He addressed the issues of race, class and power in ways that have energized and galvanized the diverse student body in DUSP."

Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy

double-trouble-jp-thompsonPublisher Comments

J. Phillip Thompson III, an insider in the Dinkins administration, provides the first in-depth look at how the black mayors of America's major cities achieve social change. Black constituents naturally look to black mayors to effect great change for the poor, but the reality of the situation is complicated. Thompson argues that African-American mayors, legislators, and political activists need to more effectively challenge opinions and public policies supported by the white public and encourage greater political inclusion and open political discourse within black communities. Only by unveiling painful internal oppresssions and exclusions within black politics will the black community's power increase, and compel similar unveilings in the broader interracial conversation about the problems of the urban poor. Tracing the historical development and contemporary practice of black mayoral politics, this is a fascinating study of the motivations of black politicians, competing ideologies in the black community and the inner dynamics of urban social change.

Boston Review articles

Response to Finance and Manufacturing

Unfinished Revolution: Dr. King’s Goal Was Full Employment and Universal Health Care

Whose Betrayal?

Beyond Moralizing


[BOOK] Social capital and poor communities
S Saegert, JP Thompson, MR Warren, 2002

[PDF] The role of social capital in combating poverty
MR Warren, JP Thompson, S Saegert, 2001

To denigrate, ignore, or disrupt: racial inequality in health and the impact of a policy-induced breakdown of African American communities
AT Geronimus, JP Thompson - Du Bois Review, 2004 - Cambridge Univ Press

Inner-city business development and entrepreneurship: New frontiers for policy and research
R Gittell, JP Thompson, 1999

Making social capital work: Social capital and community economic development
R Gittell, JP Thompson, 2001



In MIT News

Institute honors Martin Luther King, Jr. at annual breakfast celebration
February 5, 2010

Race, Politics and American Media
Juan Williams and J. Phillip Thompson discuss how the collapse of print and other traditional news and the rise of celebrity culture have contributed to the sharp decline of in-depth stories involving race and society.
November 9, 2009

Of note: Race, Politics and American Media
October 6, 2009

Helping build cities through anchor institutions
Leveraging nonprofit resources to improve local economies
September 27, 2013

Panel to discuss future of the Occupy movement
December 5, 2012

If the people will lead …
At an MIT panel on the future of black politics, scholars discuss the need for civic engagement at a time of economic stress.
March 9, 2012

Environmental Research Council issues report
Council is asked to develop plan to establish MIT Environmental Initiative
May 20, 2010

The long road for Haiti
Haitian leaders speak at MIT about reconstruction
April 21, 2010

New faculty task force to examine tenure issues
February 18, 2009

Diversity Leadership Congress to meet next month
October 28, 2008

MIT creates Environmental Research Council
Sets stage for Institute environment initiative
October 3, 2008

Race and diversity committee formed
November 7, 2007

23 faculty members awarded tenure
October 25, 2006

Freshmen to learn New Orleans' lessons
New architecture and planning course explores 'cities at risk'
September 8, 2006

Inspired by 9/11, DUSP student aids New Orleans rebuilding
August 23, 2006

MIT joins New Orleans recovery team
August 23, 2006

MIT assists $1.2 billion New Orleans project
June 14, 2006

Corporation OKs faculty promotions
May 24, 2006

Speakers explore resilience of cities post-disaster
October 18, 2005

Malveaux hits discrimination targets
Economic and political inequities 'dismantling the dream,' MLK speaker says
February 11, 2004

Malveaux takes aims at political, economic sources of discrimination
February 9, 2004

MLK Awards to be served at breakfast
January 28, 2004

Four honored with MLK Leadership Awards

MLK professors and scholars named
October 17, 2001

MLK Visiting Professors welcomed
December 13, 2000