Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Ehrkamp


Black churches have been playing an important, stabilizing and supportive role for their members, their neighborhoods, and their communities more broadly. However, these churches’ memberships, community functions, and abilities to support their members have been threatened by the accelerating displacement of African Americans due to the ongoing effects of gentrification, defined by massive economic investment in low-income areas leading to the displacement of low-income residents. At the same time, COVID-19 has also changed the ways churches are able to deliver their support and outreach, with some moving their services to be completely virtual, and many outreach programs having to be canceled completely due to social distancing measures.

Given this rapidly shifting context of the role of the Black church in (sub)urban Black communities, this thesis asks how members of primarily Black churches in Alexandria, Virginia, an influential D.C. suburb, experience the effects of gentrification, the subsequent removal of public housing, and more recently, the economic uncertainty experienced by their congregants due to the recession caused by the current pandemic. This thesis draws upon literature from Black geographies, urban geographies, and critical geographies of religion to argue that through their outreach programs, Black churches attempt to mitigate intentional harm induced by the state, and that a de/postcolonial urban critique is necessary to understand the process of, and communal responses to, racial exclusion. In examining the complexities of Black suburban geographies, this thesis disrupts essentialist notions of suburbs as white spaces, and reveals the differing ways in which Black residents experience and respond to neoliberal suburban housing policies.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the University of Kentucky Department of Geography's Barnhardt-Withington Research Award in 2020.