A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn 1636-1990 / Edition 1

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Overview

Spanning three centuries of Brooklyn history from the colonial period to the present, A Covenant with Color exposes the intricate relations of dominance and subordination that have long characterized the relative social positions of white and black Brooklynites. Craig Steven Wilder — examining both quantitative and qualitative evidence and utilizing cutting-edge literature on race theory — demonstrates how ideas of race were born, how they evolved, and how they were carried forth into contemporary society.

In charting the social history of one of the nation's oldest urban locales, Wilder contends that power relations — in all their complexity — are the starting point for understanding Brooklyn's turbulent racial dynamics. He spells out the workings of power — its manipulation of resources, whether in the form of unfree labor, privileges of citizenship, better jobs, housing, government aid, or access to skilled trades. Wilder deploys an extraordinary spectrum of evidence to illustrate the mechanics of power that have kept African American Brooklynites in subordinate positions: from letters and diaries to family papers of Kings County's slaveholders, from tax records to the public archives of the Home Owners Loan Corporation.

Wilder illustrates his points through a variety of cases, including banking interests, the rise of Kings County's colonial elite, industrialization and slavery, race-based distribution of federal money in jobs, and mortgage loans during and after the Depression. He delves into the evolution of the Brooklyn ghetto, tracing how housing segregation corralled African Americans in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The book explores colonial enslavement, the rise of Jim Crow, labor discrimination and union exclusion, and educational inequality. Throughout, Wilder uses Brooklyn as a lens through which to view larger issues of race and power on a national level.

One of the few recent attempts to provide a comprehensive history of race relations in an American city, A Covenant with Color is a major contribution to urban history and the history of race and class in America.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Readers, casual students and scholars alike will surely benefit from his compilation of sources and his well-articulated interpretation of the power of race in shaping social and economic conditions in Brooklyn over three centuries.
Journal of American History - Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua
Powerfully demonstrates the persistence and pervasiveness of race.
Journal of Social History
Fills a real gap in the social history of American cities.... Appealing for its deft interweaving of personal with broadly demographic data and for Wilder's unusually compelling narrative style.
American Historical Review
A major contribution to the history of race... Wilder's stylish and inventive book stands out.
Journal of American History
Powerfully demonstrates the persistence and pervasiveness of race.

— Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua

Choice

Readers, casual students and scholars alike will surely benefit from his compilation of sources and his well-articulated interpretation of the power of race in shaping social and economic conditions in Brooklyn over three centuries.

Clarence Taylor
Craig Steven Wilder's A Covenant of Color is one of the best books to date examining the relationship between race and class and their evolution over time in New York City. Its major theme of how racism and white privilege were used to subordinate and keep blacks in the lowest political, social and economic position over time is persuasively argued from the first to the last chapter.
Choice
Readers, casual students and scholars alike will surely benefit from his compilation of sources and his well-articulated interpretation of the power of race in shaping social and economic conditions in Brooklyn over three centuries.
American Historical Review
A major contribution to the history of race . . . Wilder's stylish and inventive book stands out.
Journal of Social History
While a few scholars have tackled elements of Brooklyn's demographic tensions, none has attempted to survey four centuries of urban history with the depth accomplished by Wilder. . . . Fills a real gap in the social history of American cities. . . Appealing for its deft interweaving of personal with broadly demographic data and for Wilder's unusually compelling narrative style.
Booknews
A social history, from the 1630s to the present, of Brooklyn, contending that power relations are the best starting point for reaching an understanding of the area's turbulent racial dynamics. Wilder (history, Williams College) draws on letters, diaries, records of black-owned businesses, and public archives of the Home Owners Loan Corporation to show how slavery rooted the system which still effects the conditions in the Brooklyn Ghettos today. Specifics include looks at relations with the Irish, Jim Crow, the Bourgeois, labor segmentation and exclusion, and the effects of the New Deal. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231119078
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/19/2001
  • Series: Columbia History of Urban Life Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 961,242
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Steven Wilder is assistant professor of history and chair of African American Studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he continues to reside during part of the year.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Trial of Race

Chapter 1. Race and Social Power: Slavery and the Evolution of an Idea, 1636-1827Chapter 2. Little Masters: Slavery and the Evolution of a City, 1636-1827Chapter 3. "Rugged Industries": The Commercial Revolution in Kings County, 1797-1876Chapter 4. Irish over Black: The Advent of Bourgeois Democracy in Kings County, 1800-1865Chapter 5. Hope, Hate, and the Class Struggle: The End of Slavery's Dominion in the City of Churches, 1827-1865Chapter 6. The Legacy of Mastery: The Rise and Prestige of Jim Crow in Brooklyn, 1865-1930Chapter 7. Fruit of the Class Struggle: Labor Segmentation and Exclusion in Brooklyn, 1865-1950Chapter 8: The Covenant of Color: Race, Gender, and Defense Work in Brooklyn, 1930-1945Chapter 9: Vulnerable People, Undesirable Places: The New Deal and the Making of the Brooklyn Ghetto, 1920-1990Chapter 10. "A Society suc as our Own": Education and Labor in the Brooklyn Ghetto, 1950-1990

Epilogue - A Fair InterpretationNotes Bibliography IndexPhoto Insert

Columbia University Press

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