We Shall Independent Be: African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the United States

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With twenty chapters from leading scholars in African American history, urban studies, architecture, women's studies, American studies, and city planning, "We Shall Independent Be " illuminates African Americans' efforts to claim space in American society despite often hostile resistance. As these essays attest, Black self-determination was central to the methods African Americans employed in their quest to establish a sense of permanence and place in the United States.

Contributors define space to include physical, social, and intellectual sites throughout the Northern and Southern regions of the United States, ranging from urban milieus to the suburbs and even to swamps and forests. They explore under-represented locations such as burial grounds, courtrooms, schools, and churches. Moreover, contributors demonstrate how Black consciousness and ideology challenged key concepts of American democracy - such as freedom, justice, citizenship, and equality - establishing African American space in social and intellectual areas.

Ultimately, "We Shall Independent Be " recovers the voices of African American men and women from the antebellum United States through the present and chronicles their quest to assert their right to a place in American society. By identifying, examining, and telling the stories of contested sites, this volume demonstrates the power of African American self-definition and agency in the process of staking a physical and ideological claim to public space

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a splendid collection of scholarly essays. . . . Its thematic rather than straightforward chronological approach enables us to fathom certain recurring continuities as well as discontinuities in the African American struggle for terrain in geographical, social, and spiritual terms."
- Professor Joe William Trotter Jr., History Department Head, Carnegie Mellon University

"Highly recommened." - CHOICE reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870819063
  • Publisher: University Press of Colorado
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Angel David Nieves is an assistant professor in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park. Leslie Alexander is an associate professor of history at the Ohio State University and the author of African or American?

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     xi
Acknowledgments     xiii
Introduction: Cultural Landscapes of Resistance and Self-Definition for the Race: Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Socio-Spatial Race History   Angle David Nieves     1
Community Building
Community and Institution Building in Antebellum New York: The Story of Seneca Village, 1825-1857   Leslie M. Alexander     23
Contesting Space in Antebellum New York: Black Community, City Neighborhoods, and the Draft Riots of 1863   Carla L. Peterson     47
Self-Determination: Race, Space, and Chicago's Woodlawn Organization in the 1960s   Mark Santow     71
Intellectual and Political Space
A Recess from Jim Crow: Luther P. Jackson, the Teachers, and the Movement for Racial Justice   Michael Dennis     103
Claiming the Courtroom: Space, Race, and Law, 1808-1856   Scott Hancock     137
"Liberated Grounds": The Institute of the Black World and Black Intellectual Space   Derrick E. White     167
Segregated Spaces
Subverting Heritage and Memory: Investigating Luray's "Ol' Slave Auction Block"   Ann Denkler     187
"Going Colored": The Struggle over Race and Residence in the Urban South   Kevin M. Kruse     199
The Other Suburbanites: African American Suburbanization in the North Before 1950   Andrew Wiese     223
Hidden Away in the Woods and Swamps: Slavery, Fugitive Slaves, and Swamplands in the Southeastern Borderlands, 1739-1845   Megan Kate Nelson     251
Schools and Educational Spaces
Rosenwald Schools in the Southern Landscape   Mary S. Hoffschwelle     275
"We Are Too Busy Making History ... to Write History": African American Women, Constructions of Nation, and the Built Environment in the New South, 1892-1968   Angel David Nieves     305
Gym Crow Must Go: The 1960s Struggle Between Columbia University and Its New York City Neighbors   Stefan Bradley     325
Urban Space and Leisure
Mapping out Spaces of Race Pride: The Social Geography of Leisure on the South Side of Chicago, 1900-1919   Robin F. Bachin     351
Rights of Passage: The Integration of Philadelphia's Streetcars and Contested Definitions of Public Space, 1857-1867   Michael Kahan     375
The "Sweetest Street in the World": Recreational Life on Chattanooga's Ninth Street   Michelle R. Scott     393
Churches and Sacred Spaces
Putting the Movement in Its Place: The Politics of Public Spaces Dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement   Owen J. Dwyer     415
Sacred Spaces of Faith, Community, and Resistance: Rural African American Churches in Jim Crow Tennessee   Carroll Van West     439
"In Our Image, After Our Likeness": The Meaning of a Black Deity in the African American Protest Tradition, 1880-1970   Patrick Q. Mason     463
Reclaiming Space: The African Burial Ground in New York City   Andrea E. Frohne     489
Contributors     511
Index     517
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