Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Nell Gabiam


Michigan's emergency manager law raises many questions about the nature of American democracy. The law specifically targets financially troubled municipal governments for state take over. The demographics of the cities where an emergency manager has been installed have been overwhelmingly poor and overwhelmingly African American. Using a qualitative approach to analyze scholarly books and articles, local media accounts, legal rulings, and personal interviews, this thesis seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of what democracy looks like in the United States by focusing on one particular city that has been subjected to the emergency manager law. By analyzing and comparing events that occurred over a ten-year period in Benton Harbor, this study can provide a glimpse into what democracy looks like in an extremely poor and nearly all black community. This thesis specifically examines three episodes of democratic import that occurred between 2003-2013: a riot, the construction of a luxury golf course and resort, and two years under the emergency manager. These episodes reveal the tenuous nature of the democracy in Benton Harbor, Michigan.


Copyright Owner

Tyler C. Reedy



File Format


File Size

121 pages