Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226130699 Published April 2014
E-book $7.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226130729 Published April 2014

Crucibles of Black Empowerment

Chicago's Neighborhood Politics from the New Deal to Harold Washington

Jeffrey Helgeson

Jeffrey Helgeson

368 pages | 16 halftones, 4 line drawings, 8 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226130699 Published April 2014
E-book $7.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226130729 Published April 2014
The term “community organizer” was deployed repeatedly against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a way to paint him as an inexperienced politician unfit for the presidency. The implication was that the job of a community organizer wasn’t a serious one, and that it certainly wasn’t on the list of credentials needed for a presidential résumé. In reality, community organizers have played key roles in the political lives of American cities for decades, perhaps never more so than during the 1970s in Chicago, where African Americans laid the groundwork for further empowerment as they organized against segregation, discrimination, and lack of equal access to schools, housing, and jobs.

In Crucibles of Black Empowerment, Jeffrey Helgeson recounts the rise of African American political power and activism from the 1930s onward, revealing how it was achieved through community building. His book tells stories of the housewives who organized their neighbors, building tradesmen who used connections with federal officials to create opportunities in a deeply discriminatory employment sector, and the social workers, personnel managers, and journalists who carved out positions in the white-collar workforce.  Looking closely at black liberal politics at the neighborhood level in Chicago, Helgeson explains how black Chicagoans built the networks that eventually would overthrow the city’s seemingly invincible political machine.
Christopher Robert Reed | Roosevelt University
Crucibles of Black Empowerment successfully explores the motivations and sources of how community-based protest politics counterbalanced the apathy and connivance of establishment politics and politicians over one half-century in efforts aimed at improving black life in Chicago. The activists who made this reality are both known and unknown, and include Rev. Addie Wyatt, Ida B. Wells, and Lovelyn Evans in labor, social service, and employment, along with Tim Black, Sidney Williams, Ed ‘the Iron Master’ Wright, and Ed Doty in civil rights, politics, and labor.”
Clarence Lang | author of Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75
“Spanning five decades of history, Crucibles of Black Empowerment chronicles the community-based struggles waged by black Chicagoans against an unholy trinity of racial, class, and gender inequalities. Using identities forged by work, family, and community, they pursued individual opportunity and collective welfare through economic initiative, political mobilization, unionization, protest, and patient institution building. More than anything else, Jeffrey Helgeson champions the durability of black Chicago's pragmatic liberal tradition.”
Eric Arnesen | George Washington University
“Jeffrey Helgeson's Crucibles of Black Empowerment is a sweeping, compelling, and original contribution to Chicago's rich African American history that addresses a wide range of subjects: individual and collective aspirations, the Second Great Migration, neighborhood activism, employment and housing discrimination, and political mobilizations in the mid-20th century, among other things.  Grounded in exhaustive research, Helgeson's study meticulously reconstructs the contours of a liberal political culture in black Chicago that highlighted individual opportunity, pursued interracial coalitions, and advocated for governmental action to produce social change.  On many levels this is a model study of black community politics and protest that should be required reading for anyone interested in Chicago’s—and the country's—troubled racial past.”
Contents
List of Figures and Maps

Introduction

1. The Politics of Home in Hard Times

2. Community Development in an Age of Protest, 1935–40

3. “Will ‘Our People’ Be Any Better Off after This War?”

4. A Decent Place to Live: The Postwar Housing Shortage

5. Capitalism without Capital: Postwar Employment Activism

6. Sources of Black Nationalism from the 1950s to the 1970s

7. Harold Washington: Black Power and the Resilience of Liberalism

Postscript: The Obamas and Black Chicago’s Long Liberal Tradition

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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