Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphis

Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphis

Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphis

Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphis


Race, Power, and Political Emergence in Memphisexamines black political behavior and empowerment strategies in the city of Memphis. Each chapter of the text focuses on three themes-mobilization, emergence, and incorporation. By analyzing the effects of race on black political development in Memphis, scholars will be able to examine broader questions about its effects in other cities. How do political machines use substantial black electorates to their advantage? What forms of protest do black communities conduct to rebel against machine rule? What primary mobilization tactics have black citizens used during the different periods of their political development? Why do blacks mobilize more quickly in some cities? In cities with large and predominantly black populations, what elements prevent black candidates from winning citywide races? What constraints do newly elected black mayors face? What benefits do black citizens gain from their representation? After a predominantly black governingcoalition is elected, what obstacles remain? Can black citizens translate proportional representation into strong political incorporation? How much power can African Americans realistically expect to gain in cities? This book is the most comprehensive case study of the city's political scene written to date. The text primarily shows that white racism is not the only obstacle to black political development. Black citizens can have population majorities, but lose elections for other reasons. Their ability to win elections and gain full incorporation depends heavily on whether they minimize internal conflict and establish coalitions with middle-class citizens and the business establishment.


Professor James B. Jennings, Ph.D.
Director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute
The University of Massachusetts at Boston

Several demographic and economic developments in the United States point to a continuing preoccupation with issues related to race in this country. the state of race relations will be discussed and debated for a long time to come, based on the fact that racial and ethnic diversity is increasing in this nation, and also due to a situation where blacks in many places have yet to enjoy the fruits of economic opportunity available to other groups. Dr. Sharon Wright’s study of black struggles for social and economic influence in a Southern city represents an important break-through for understanding historical antecedents to contemporary situation, as well as insight for possible future directions in urban politics.

The author’s utilization of descriptive data and statistical analysis highlights relationships between institutions, culture, and political behavior. Her review of journalistic accounts of Memphis politics gives the reader insight into the racial thinking that is prevalent in some sectors of this city. Dr. Wright’s command of urban affairs theory and literature provide a framework for placing events related to black politics in Memphis in a conceptual framework that is coherent and comprehensive.

Dr. Wright shows a keen understanding and scholarly involvement with key political developments in Memphis which allow her to provide important insights with the reader about the successes and failures of black political mobilization. This study shows that the struggle for black political influence at the local level continues despite significant progress—and, retrogression—in the area of civil rights in the national arena. Thus, while this study focuses on one city, its lessons are applicable to

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