Soul City, North Carolina: Black Power, Utopia, and the African American Dream

By Strain, Christopher | The Journal of African American History, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Soul City, North Carolina: Black Power, Utopia, and the African American Dream


Strain, Christopher, The Journal of African American History


      Imagine,
      A city without prejudice.
      A city without poverty.
      A city without slums.
      A city tailor-made for industry.
      A city with a booming economy.
      A brand new shining city.
      With open spaces. Trees and grass. Rolling hills. Soft winds.
      Fresh air. Clear skies. Where stars and moon are visible. Clean
      water. Lakes. Creeks. Ponds. Springtime weather. Hardly any snow.
      Yet distant mountains. Ample schools, hospitals, parking,
      recreation. Well built, stylish housing. A master plan. But not
      sterile and cold. For a city conceived with just an eye for bricks
      and mortar is a city without a soul. Call the bold alternative
      SOUL CITY.
      --Excerpt from an undated promotional brochure, Soul City: The
      Bold Alternative, published by The Soul City Company

On 13 January 1969, in the office of the Secretary of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Floyd McKissick announced his intention to build a city in Warren County, North Carolina. Soul City was to be a multiracial, multicultural development for underprivileged and disadvantaged persons which newspapermen quickly referred to as a "black-built" town. As McKissick, former national director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) explained, "White men have built other cities. We want this city to reflect the many cultures, the many nations that exist in American society.... Soul City will be an attempt to move into the future, a future where black people welcome white people as equals." (1) Area newspapers told the tale, reflecting the rise and fall of McKissick's idea. Early headlines during the period 1969-1973 used words such as "hopeful," "dream," and "praiseworthy" to describe the project, but headlines after 1975 used adjectives, such as "tangled" and "insurmountable," to convey the town's problems. The headiness of Soul City's early years gave way to critics, circling like buzzards in the air of optimism that enveloped the experimental town. When Soul City's pioneers stumbled and fell, political heavies, such as North Carolina Representative L. H. Fountain and Senator Jesse Helms, were ready to swoop in and pick them apart, claiming that the project was doomed from the start. McKissick was a man of relentless vision, but forces would conspire to prevent that vision from becoming the harmonious community he imagined.

He sought to create a model community. McKissick's version of the American dream incorporated a communitarian vision, far different from the traditional American pursuit of individual success and material gain. "Soul City is going to be .... a city, [a] place of truth which ought to have a high tower with a beacon of light to let the world know it's there and a place where man can develop himself to what he wants to be." (2) This echo of John Winthrop's "City upon a Hill" was set not in 17th century Massachusetts, but in the piedmont region of 20th century North Carolina. It was utopian in the sense that it was visionary: as the city took shape, rising from the Carolina mud, it carried with it all of the tensions and fears of the nation's torrid racial past--even as it set the stage for a brighter future. Born out of the tumult and hope of the 1960s, Soul City prefigured the "New Urbanist" trend of the 1980s and 1990s; furthermore, it represented the first sustainable black community built from the ground up in the 20th century with assistance from the federal government. It was unique among 20th century alternative communities with regard to its idealistic initiative, its detailed planning, its massive funding, and its ultimate failure. The scope of Soul City as a 1970s-era utopia is without parallel, and the story of how McKissick's dream city materialized--and failed to materialize--represents a dramatic combination of Black Power and utopian, design, set against the backdrop of African Americans' quest for their version of the American dream. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Soul City, North Carolina: Black Power, Utopia, and the African American Dream
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.