Q&A: Victoria Wolcott on Race, Riots, and Rollercoasters

The SCA is building a list of academic works focused on the intersection of American culture and the American roadside. To kick things off, we invited Victoria W. Wolcott, Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, to answer a few questions about her book, Race, Riots, and Rollercoasters.

From the Q&A: Contradicting the nostalgic image of urban leisure venues as democratic spaces, in Race, Riots, and Rollercoasters, author Victoria Wolcott reveals that racial segregation played a crucial part in their appeal. Wolcott shows how black activists and ordinary people fought such infringements on their right to access public leisure. When African Americans demanded inclusive public recreational facilities, white consumers abandoned those places. Many parks closed or privatized within a decade of desegregation. Wolcott’s book tracks the decline of the urban amusement park and the simultaneous rise of the suburban theme park, reframing these shifts within the civil rights context.