Academic journal article Michigan Sociological Review

Gouldtown 1760-1960: A First Primer for Historical and Demographic Reconstitution

Academic journal article Michigan Sociological Review

Gouldtown 1760-1960: A First Primer for Historical and Demographic Reconstitution

Article excerpt

Gouldtown 1760-1960: A First Primer for Historical and Demographic Reconstitution. Sherman L Ricards (Mt. Pleasant, Ml: Central Michigan University Press, 2013).

Editors' Note

At the time of his death in 1995, Professor Sherman L. Ricards, one of the three founders of the Michigan Sociological Association, left behind an unpublished work. It had been typed, via the hunt-and-peck method, on an old manual typewriter with some defective keys. Several of its 28 figures were hand-drawn, while a number of its 29 tables were four pages long.

Fortunately, the manuscript was placed in the capable hands of Larry T. Reynolds, who edited and wrote a foreword for it. The result is a recently published book, Gouldtown 1760-1960: A First Primer for Historical and Demographic Reconstitution. It is a sociological study of the oldest continuously inhabited community of color in the United States. As such, we felt it merited more than a simple, short review. What follows are reviews by two seasoned sociologists - Jerry A Stark and Robert G Newby - plus a response to the book and an assessment of its current relevance penned by a professional educator - Ian Hughes - who spent his adolescence and early adult years in Gouldtown, and who maintains his ties to that community today.

Reviewer: Jerry A. Stark

INTRODUCTION

When I received a copy of Gouldtown 1760-1960 by Dr. Sherman Ricards, I read it at once. I did so not only because I knew both author and editor, but also because the subject was personally and professional interesting. This book is directly relevant to the study of social inequality, race and ethnicity and research methodology - areas of my own study and research over the years. It is these frames of reference that guided both my reading and review of Ricards' Gouldtown.1

Overview

First, it is noteworthy that Professor Ricards' work is unique, as is its subject. Gouldtown is an unincorporated village in a rural area of New Jersey with a continuous history of settlement by what Ricards calls "colored people" from before 1760 to the present. This alone is significant.

While there have been other similar communities in this country, their locations and origins are distinct from those of the Gouldtown population. For example, the Fort Mose, Florida settlement dates well into the early 1700s. It was founded as a community for freed and runaway slaves adjacent to Fort Augustine under Spanish colonial rule and policies. As history unfolded, and as St. Augustine grew, the community blended into the surrounding population. Other communities often referred to as "communities of color" or as "African American towns," emerged in and around New York City: Seneca Village, Five Points, Weeksville, are several examples. All were on the margins of urban areas and all were subsequently incorporated into the metropolis.

In the most general sense, the same is true of Greenwood, Oklahoma in Tulsa and Freedmanstown, Texas in Houston. Each of these communities were ultimately incorporated into larger cities, sometimes after a period of tragic violence and out-migration of non-white residents - the riots in Greenwood, Oklahoma come first to mind. Whatever the reason, these communities lost much, if not all, of their distinct identities as larger cities engulfed them.

Other African American towns were founded after the Civil War by governments, organizations or individuals who wanted to establish freedman communities, sometimes as models to be emulated.

Freedman's Village in Arlington, Virginia, at the current site of Arlington National Cemetery. It was subsequently displaced under changing government policies and priorities by Arlington National Cemetery.

Allensworth, California was established as a Negro township by the California Colony and Home Promoting Association, a group of whites who believed that Negroes would manage best .if they lived apart from whites. The community was shortlived after constitutional amendments abolished slavery. …

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