"This is a theoretically sophisticated and thoroughly documented historical case study of the movements for African American liberation in St. Louis. Through detailed analysis of black working class mobilization from the depression years to the advent of Black Power, award-winning historian Clarence Lang describes how the advances made in earlier decades were undermined by a black middle class agenda that focused on the narrow aims of black capitalists and politicians. The book is a major contribution to our understanding of the black working class insurgency that underpinned the civil rights and Black Power campaigns of the twentieth century."
---V. P. Franklin, University of California, Riverside
"A major work of scholarship that will transform historical understanding of the pivotal role that class politics played in both civil rights and Black Power activism in the United States. Clarence Lang's insightful, engagingly written, and well-researched study will prove indispensable to scholars and students of postwar American history."
---Peniel Joseph, Brandeis University
Breaking new ground in the field of Black Freedom Studies, Grassroots at the Gateway reveals how urban black working-class communities, cultures, and institutions propelled the major African American social movements in the period between the Great Depression and the end of the Great Society. Using the city of St. Louis in the border state of Missouri as a case study, author Clarence Lang undermines the notion that a unified "black community" engaged in the push for equality, justice, and respect. Instead, black social movements of the working class were distinct from---and at times in conflict with---those of the middle class. This richly researched book delves into African American oral histories, records of activist individuals and organizations, archives of the black advocacy press, and even the records of the St. Louis' economic power brokers whom local black freedom fighters challenged. Grassroots at the Gateway charts the development of this race-class divide, offering an uncommon reading of not only the civil rights movement but also the emergence and consolidation of a black working class.
Clarence Lang is Assistant Professor in African American Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Photo courtesy Western Historical Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri, St. Louis
Table of ContentsContents List of Abbreviations Introduction 1. A Black Working-Class Public, 1932–39 2. The St. Louis March on Washington and the Historic Bloc for “Double Victory,” 1942–45 3. Black Working-Class Demobilization and Liberal Interracialism, 1946–54 4. Grassroots Renewal and the “Heroic” Period, 1956–61 Illustrations 5. Black Freedom at the Crossroads of Automation and De Facto Racism, 1962–64 6. The Jefferson Bank Boycott and the “General Strike” against Racism, 1963–64 7. “What Do We Want?”: Black Power and the Growing Contradictions of Class, 1965–71 8. Broken Bloc: “Law and Order,” the New Right, and Racial Uplift Redux, 1968–75 Conclusion Notes Index