Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Patricia Sullivan


This paper analyzes the history of the Save the Audubon Movement – an activist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s protesting Columbia University’s plan to demolish the Audubon Ballroom and replace it with a modern biomedical research complex. The Audubon Ballroom is best known for being the site of Malcolm X’s assassination and was a major landmark to New York Hispanic and African Americans. It takes a cultural history lens, giving special attention on the emerging hip-hop culture that became the primary voice of protest in New York City in the 1970s through the 90s. This paper begins with an analysis of Columbia University’s long practice of buying and bulldozing over land where Black other people of color in New York City lived. It then gives a complete history of the Audubon Ballroom, including a detailed architectural overview, its relationship with Jewish, Latinx, and Black New Yorkers, its use by Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, and its eventual purchase by the city and decay. The paper then details the origins and early history of hip-hop culture and its role as a voice against urban redevelopment. The final chapter is a complete overview of Columbia’s plans for the Audubon, the many voices of resistance against those plans, and the eventual compromise between the two.

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History Commons