The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era

Synopsis

"Through much of the twentieth century, black Seattle was synonymous with the Central District - a four-square-mile section near the geographic center of the city. Quintard Taylor explores the evolution of this community from its first few residents in the 1870s to a population of nearly forty thousand in 1970. With events such as the massive influx of rural African Americans beginning with World War II and the transformation of African American community leadership in the 1960s from an integrationist to a "black power" stance, Seattle both anticipates and mirrors national trends. Thus, the book addresses not only a particular city in the Pacific Northwest but also the process of political change in black America. This book places black urban history in a broader framework than most urban case studies by analyzing racial perceptions, attitudes, and expectations in light of the presence of another people of color, Asian Americans. Asians rather than blacks were Seattle's largest racial minority until World War II. Their presence limited African American employment and housing opportunities by drawing blacks into intense competition with the city's Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino populations. Yet the virulent racism of the 1890-1940 era, usually directed against blacks in urban communities, was diffused among Seattle's four nonwhite groups. Consequently, Asians and blacks, admittedly uneasy neighbors, became partners in coalitions challenging racial restrictions while remaining competitors for housing and jobs. Taylor explores the intersection of race and class in a city with a decidedly liberal and at times radical political culture. He finds that while local blacks operated in a racial environment that allowed relatively open social interaction, at the same time they were subject to restricted employment opportunities, preventing rapid growth of the African American population. Taylor argues that black Seattle was poised between two worlds, attempting to meld the values and traditions of its rural past with the requisites of modern urban-industrial society. Thus the community ethos was forged by the process in which the values of the rural, predominantly southern migrants - kinship networks, religious and folk beliefs, and sense of shared community - were transformed in the urban environment. This volume will be of special interest to those studying African American history, urban history and social relations, regional history, and ethnic group relations as well as to scholars of Pacific Northwest and western history." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The Forging of a Black Community by Quintard Taylor is a powerful chronicle of the African American presence in Seattle over the last century. The result of years of painstaking research and dozens of interviews, it is a fascinating account of the social, political, and economic transformation of black Seattle through the city's formative frontier years, through two global wars and more limited military engagements, and through numerous cycles of depression and prosperity.

Professor Taylor's rich tapestry of the African American past in Seattle has captured the beauty, hope, aspirations, disappointments, and ongoing challenges of African Americans and other people of color in this diverse city. Furthermore, The Forging of a Black Community details the spirit and conviction of a people determined to defeat the legacy of racism, ethnocentrism, and discrimination that is, unfortunately, so much a part of our past as a nation. Taylor reminds us that African Americans who first came to Seattle in the nineteenth century found themselves in "a city deeply ambivalent about its commitment to racial equality." Drawing inspiration from their heritage, their faith, and their families, they fashioned a strong sense of identity that allowed these intelligent, gifted, hard-working newcomers to master the adversity they faced. From the arrival of the Massachusetts sailor, Manuel Lopes, in 1858, just six years after the founding of Seattle, to the African American newcomers joining our city today, African Americans continue to bring with them a variety of experiences. Yet those of us who, like myself, arrived from other cities and states, as well as those born here, continue to adhere to a common goal. We seek the freedom and opportunity that were, and remain, the promise of Seattle, that inspired prior generations of black newcomers to cross a continent or sail oceans to reach this small narrow isthmus of verdant land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Like them, we remain committed to join forces with all of the city's diverse peoples to ensure that freedom and opportunity will be available for all residents of our city.

As the first African American mayor of Seattle, I am proud to have a place in Professor Taylor's book. My 1989 election, as he notes, coincided with a number of other significant milestones in . . .

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