Posted on June 5, 2024

The New ‘White Fortress’ Cities of the American South

Luisa Godinez-Puig and Brian D. Smedley, Bloomberg, June 4, 2024

The Louisiana Supreme Court last month cleared a path for the creation of a new city, St. George, after a prolonged legal battle over the feasibility of the city and its implications for tax revenue.

St. George would take almost 100,000 residents away from East Baton Rouge Parish, and critics say it will deplete the parish of the resources from this wealthier, whiter community.

As researchers on racial equity, we have been studying moves like this to create new cities. What we’ve found is that these secessions perpetuate modern-day segregation and limit opportunity for left-behind communities, a form of opportunity hoarding that we call “white fortressing.”


White fortressing, and other kinds of opportunity hoarding, concentrates resources — such as well-funded public schools, access to local revenue and zoning control — among white communities that are already economically and politically advantaged. Meanwhile, they also constrain access to opportunity among people of color.

When white communities fortress themselves, they siphon away resources from the larger region, including communities of color. In Louisiana, it is estimated that St. George’s secession would take away $48.3 million in annual tax revenue from East Baton Rouge Parish {snip}


Proponents of the new city in Louisiana argue that this is a move towards fairness, rather than isolation. On their website, they state: “St. George’s taxpayers provide two-thirds of the revenue to the East Baton Rouge Parish government with only one-third of that government’s expense in return. Incorporating a city would reverse this unjust circumstance to an extent.” This has been a relatively common argument among similar movements since the post-war era, something Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse documents in his work around white flight in Atlanta. When residents of the Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta were advocating for secession in 2022, they also argued that they were “not getting back in services what they [were] paying in city taxes.”

These movements have persisted for decades, and they are not slowing down. Georgia has added 11 new cities around Metro Atlanta since 2005, most of which are affluent white communities that broke away from majority-Black/nonwhite counties. Last month, residents of a wealthy, majority-white community in Gwinnett County, the northern suburbs just above Atlanta, voted to approve forming the new city of Mulberry, just as the county has become majority-Black.