Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

By Adolph Reed Jr.; Kenneth W. Warren et al. | Go to book overview

6
The Chicago School of Human
Ecology and the Ideology
of Black Civic Elites

Preston H. Smith II

The purpose of this chapter is to trace the influence of the University of Chicago’s human ecology school of thought on ideas about urban growth, race relations, and social disorganization on the ideology of black civic elites in Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s. I am particularly interested in how these ideas influenced black elites’ conceptions and positions on relevant issues such as public housing, fair housing, and urban renewal affecting black citizens in Chicago. These black civic elites included intellectuals and race relations professionals who shared a discourse1 on housing issues both locally and nationally. This group included individuals such as Horace R. Cayton, executive director of Parkway Community House (located in Chicago’s so-called Black Belt) and coauthor of the classic Black Metropolis; Robert C. Weaver, economist, former New Deal federal housing and labor official, and, in 1944, chairman of the mayor of Chicago’s Committee on Race Relations; Earl B. Dickerson, former city alderman, president of the Chicago Urban League, and legal counsel for Supreme Liberty Life, a black-owned insurance company; Archibald Carey, alderman, lawyer, and minister; Sidney R. Williams, executive director of the Chicago Urban League (1947–1955); and Robert Taylor, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority board and manager of Julius Rosenwald Michigan Boulevard Apartments. These men are tied together by a practical and policy interest in housing; in addition, all of them worked in Chicago at some point and were active in debates and actions that shaped the representation of black housing interests and attempted to influence housing policymaking.

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