Kathryn Grover. Make a Way Somehow: African-American Life in a Northern Community, 1790-1965

By Fordham, Monroe | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 31, 1995 | Go to article overview
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Kathryn Grover. Make a Way Somehow: African-American Life in a Northern Community, 1790-1965


Fordham, Monroe, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


Kathryn Grover. Make a Way Somehow: African-American Life in a Northern Community, 1790-1965

In Make a Way Somehow, Kathryn Grover has written an interesting and insightful book about historical aspects about African-American life in a small town in western New York. In framing her major thesis, Grover contends that, "To avoid hostility and to live in some measure of security and comfort in a society controlled by whites, African Americans have had to learn the nature and mechanism of the stereotypes that whites have used to structure, simplify, and limit their knowledge of and contact with them...."(266) Borrowing from the concept put forward by W.E.B. DuBois, Grover argues that African-Americans have had to develop a "double consciousness" that enabled them to avoid hostility and find a measure of security in a white world, and at the same time, remain emotionally healthy. Her well researched history of African- American life in a small northern town suggests that "The vitality of these [accommodating] aspects of African-American life and of their political culture shows that their souls were not always, or perhaps even often, at risk because of the `double-consciousness' that characterized their lives." (268) Her history of African-American life in Geneva, NY, from "its beginning in the 1790s, to the time of the community's first civil rights march in 1965," makes that point and much more.

Grover has written other works on the history of Geneva, New York and she is very knowledgeable of the regional and local history of the western region of New York State. In Make a Way Somehow, Grover shows how regional economic developments and related factors, geography, and conditions in other states, helped to create and shape conditions that attracted and repelled African-Americans, during different time periods. In essence she does an excellent job of integrating the history of Geneva's African-American community into the context of the history of the town and region.

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