Sharing Untold Stories: Ph.D. student Amber Santoro highlights community impacts of freeway construction

Ph.D student Amber Santoro.

Today, millions of Angelenos rely on an extensive network of freeways to get around our bustling city. Although many see freeways primarily as a dreaded part of their weekday rush-hour routine, the highways’ histories are rich with untold narratives of communities whose lives were inextricably linked – and changed – because of freeway construction in Los Angeles. Uncovering these stories is the focus of 2024 Wrigley Institute Graduate Fellow and history Ph.D student Amber Santoro’s research, who studies environmental racism, displacement, and transportation in Los Angeles.

Last summer, Santoro dove into USC’s archival collections to learn more about these topics through USC Libraries’ Summer Primary Source Research Fellowship on Sustainability, presented in partnership with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability and the USC Van Hunnick History Department. Working with library faculty and staff, Santoro examined the Libraries’ Century Freeway Collection, consisting of sources such as court documents, newspaper clippings, memorandums, and more, all related to the construction of the Century/105 Freeway, which Santoro describes as “one of the most litigated and controversial highways in U.S. history.”

This spring, Santoro presented her curated digital exhibit, “Driven Apart: Displacement Along the Century/105  Freeway,” at USC’s new Sustainability Hub. Her goal is to uplift the lesser-known stories of communities disproportionately impacted by regional freeway construction. Read more about Santoro’s experience as the USC Libraries’ Inaugural Sustainability Fellow and learn about her exhibit with the Q&A below. 

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