A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn


In this important social history of one of the nation's oldest urban places, Craig Steven Wilder contends that power relations are the starting point for understanding Brooklyn's turbulent racial dynamics. Wilder unearths an extraordinary spectrum of evidence to illustrate the manipulation of resources that kept black Brooklynites in subordinate positions: from letters and diaries to family papers of Kings County's slaveholders, from records of black-owned businesses to the public archives of the Home Owners Loan Corporation.

Wilder illustrates his points through a variety of cases, including the rise of Kings County's colonial elite, banking interests, industrialization and slavery, race-based distribution of federal money in jobs, and mortgage loans during and after the Depression.

He explores the evolution of the Brooklyn ghetto, tracing how housing segregation corralled African Americans in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Throughout, he uses Brooklyn as a lens through which to view larger issues on a national level.

One of the few recent attempts to provide a comprehensive history of race relations in an American city, this book is a major contribution to urban history and the history of race and class in America.