A Sense of Place: Birmingham's Black Middle-Class Community, 1890-1930by Lynne Feldman
In the early 20th century, city boosters in Birmingham, Alabama, annexed the town of Smithfield as part of a larger effort to enlarge the city and broaden its tax base. Although the area
This portrait of a thriving middle-class African American community showcases the way its citizens overcame racial hostility and developed a sense of place and collective identity.
In the early 20th century, city boosters in Birmingham, Alabama, annexed the town of Smithfield as part of a larger effort to enlarge the city and broaden its tax base. Although the area attracted both whites and blacks seeking to escape the city's cramped living conditions, African Americans, especially, found Smithfield enticing. Here, separated from the city where Jim Crow laws restricted their day-to-day activities, middle-class blacks found they were able to assert considerable influence over their home environments.
Lynne Feldman draws from a wealth of primary sources, including personal interviews, to demonstrate how such a community developed and thrived. She finds that middle-class blacks, guided by a philosophy of self-improvement, racial solidarity, and economic independence, actively shaped the world around them.
Although their lives unfolded against the backdrop of prejudice and discrimination, middle-class African Americans worked to improve an environment over which they had significantly more control. Feldman concludes that a strategy of self-segregation worked for the community as gains were realized in a variety of arenas including business, education, and civic reform.
- University of Alabama Press
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- 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
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