On November 7, 1967, the voters of Cleveland, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, elected the nation's first African-American mayors to govern their cities. Ten years later more than two hundred black mayors held office, and by 1993 sixty-seven major urban centers, most with majority-white populations, were headed by African Americans.
Once in office, African-American mayors faced vexing challenges. In large and small cities from the Sunbelt to the Rustbelt, black mayors assumed office during economic downturns and confronted the intractable problems of decaying inner cities, white flight, a dwindling tax base, violent crime, and diminishing federal support for social programs. Many encountered hostility from their own parties, city councils, and police departments; others worked against long-established power structures dominated by local business owners or politicians. Still others, while trying to respond to multiple demands from a diverse constituency, were viewed as traitors by blacks expecting special attention from a leader of their own race. All struggled with the contradictory mandate of meeting the increasing needs of poor inner-city residents while keeping white businesses from fleeing to the suburbs.
This is the first comprehensive treatment of the complex phenomenon of African-American mayors in the nation's major urban centers. Offering a diverse portrait of leadership, conflict, and almost insurmountable obstacles, this volume assesses the political alliances that brought black mayors to office as well as their accomplishments--notably, increased minority hiring and funding for minority businesses--and the challenges that marked their careers. Mayors profiled include Carl B. Stokes (Cleveland), Richard G. Hatcher (Gary), "Dutch" Morial (New Orleans), Harold Washington (Chicago), Tom Bradley (Los Angeles), Marion Barry (Washington, D.C.), David Dinkins (New York City), Coleman Young (Detroit), and a succession of black mayors in Atlanta (Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, and Bill Campbell).
Probing the elusive economic dimension of black power, African-American Mayors demonstrates how the same circumstances that set the stage for the victories of black mayors exaggerated the obstacles they faced.
Between 1875 and 1920, Chicago's homicide rate more than quadrupled, making it the most violent major urban center in the United States--or, in the words of Lincoln Steffens, "first in violence, deepest in dirt." In many ways, however, Chicago became more orderly as it grew. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers poured into the city, yet levels of disorder fell and rates of drunkenness, brawling, and accidental death dropped. But if Chicagoans became less volatile and less impulsive, they also became more homicidal.
Based on an analysis of nearly six thousand homicide cases, First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt examines the ways in which industrialization, immigration, poverty, ethnic and racial conflict, and powerful cultural forces reshaped city life and generated soaring levels of lethal violence. Drawing on suicide notes, deathbed declarations, courtroom testimony, and commutation petitions, Jeffrey Adler reveals the pressures fueling murders in turn-of-the-century Chicago. During this era Chicagoans confronted social and cultural pressures powerful enough to trigger surging levels of spouse killing and fatal robberies. Homicide shifted from the swaggering rituals of plebeian masculinity into family life and then into street life.
From rage killers to the "Baby Bandit Quartet," Adler offers a dramatic portrait of Chicago during a period in which the characteristic elements of modern homicide in America emerged.
New Orleans in the 1920s and 1930s was a deadly place. In 1925, the city’s homicide rate was six times that of New York City and twelve times that of Boston. Jeffrey S. Adler has explored every homicide recorded in New Orleans between 1925 and 1940—over two thousand in all—scouring police and autopsy reports, old interviews, and crumbling newspapers. More than simply quantifying these cases, Adler places them in larger contexts—legal, political, cultural, and demographic—and emerges with a tale of racism, urban violence, and vicious policing that has startling relevance for today.
Murder in New Orleans shows that whites were convicted of homicide at far higher rates than blacks leading up to the mid-1920s. But by the end of the following decade, this pattern had reversed completely, despite an overall drop in municipal crime rates. The injustice of this sharp rise in arrests was compounded by increasingly brutal treatment of black subjects by the New Orleans police department. Adler explores other counterintuitive trends in violence, particularly how murder soared during the flush times of the Roaring Twenties, how it plummeted during the Great Depression, and how the vicious response to African American crime occurred even as such violence plunged in frequency—revealing that the city’s cycle of racial policing and punishment was connected less to actual patterns of wrongdoing than to the national enshrinement of Jim Crow. Rather than some hyperviolent outlier, this Louisiana city was a harbinger of the endemic racism at the center of today’s criminal justice state. Murder in New Orleans lays bare how decades-old crimes, and the racially motivated cruelty of the official response, have baleful resonance in the age of Black Lives Matter.