At least twenty-nine black children and young adults were murdered by an Atlanta serial killer between the summer of 1979 and the spring of 1981. Drawing national media attention, the “Atlanta tragedy,” as it became known, was immediately labeled a hate crime. However, when a young black man was arrested and convicted for the killings, public attention quickly shifted. Noted criminologist Bernard Headley was in Atlanta as the tragedy unfolded and provides here a thoughtful exploration of the social and political implications of the case both locally and nationally. Focusing on a singular historical event, Headley exposes broader tensions of race and class in contemporary America.
Black Picket Fences is a stark, moving, and candid look at a section of America that is too often ignored by both scholars and the media: the black middle class. The result of living for three years in "Groveland," a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, sociologist Mary Pattillo-McCoy has written a book that explores both the advantages and the boundaries that exist for members of the black middle class. Despite arguments that race no longer matters, Pattillo-McCoy shows a different reality, one where black and white middle classes remain separate and unequal.
"An insightful look at the socio-economic experiences of the black middle class. . . . Through the prism of a South Side Chicago neighborhood, the author shows the distinctly different reality middle-class blacks face as opposed to middle-class whites." —Ebony
"A detailed and well-written account of one neighborhood's struggle to remain a haven of stability and prosperity in the midst of the cyclone that is the American economy." —Emerge
First published in 1999, Mary Pattillo’s Black Picket Fences explores an American demographic group too often ignored by both scholars and the media: the black middle class. Nearly fifteen years later, this book remains a groundbreaking study of a group still underrepresented in the academic and public spheres. The result of living for three years in “Groveland,” a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Black Picket Fences explored both the advantages the black middle class has and the boundaries they still face. Despite arguments that race no longer matters, Pattillo showed a different reality, one where black and white middle classes remain separate and unequal.
Stark, moving, and still timely, the book is updated for this edition with a new epilogue by the author that details how the neighborhood and its residents fared in the recession of 2008, as well as new interviews with many of the same neighborhood residents featured in the original. Also included is a new foreword by acclaimed University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau.
The Black Youth Employment Crisis
Edited by Richard B. Freeman and Harry J. Holzer University of Chicago Press, 1986 Library of Congress HD6273.B57 1986 | Dewey Decimal 331.346396073
In recent years, the earnings of young blacks have risen substantially relative to those of young whites, but their rates of joblessness have also risen to crisis levels. The papers in this volume, drawing on the results of a groundbreaking survey conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, analyze the history, causes, and features of this crisis. The findings they report and conclusions they reach revise accepted explanations of black youth unemployment.
The contributors identify primary determinants on both the demand and supply sides of the market and provide new information on important aspects of the problem, such as drug use, crime, economic incentives, and attitudes among the unemployed. Their studies reveal that, contrary to popular assumptions, no single factor is the predominant cause of black youth employment problems. They show, among other significant factors, that where female employment is high, black youth employment is low; that even in areas where there are many jobs, black youths get relatively few of them; that the perceived risks and rewards of crime affect decisions to work or to engage in illegal activity; and that churchgoing and aspirations affect the success of black youths in finding employment.
Altogether, these papers illuminate a broad range of economic and social factors which must be understood by policymakers before the black youth employment crisis can be successfully addressed.
James Youniss and Miranda Yates present a sophisticated analysis of community service's beneficial effects on adolescents' political and moral identity.
Using a case study from a predominantly Black, urban high school in Washington, D.C., Youniss and Yates build on the insights of Erik Erikson on the social and historical nature of identity development. They show that service at a soup kitchen as part of a course on social justice gives youth the opportunity to reflect on their status in society, on how society is organized, on how government should use its power, and on moral principles related to homelessness and poverty. Developing a sense of social responsibility and a civic commitment, youth come to see themselves as active agents in society.
The most authoritative work to date on the subject, this book challenges negative stereotypes of contemporary adolescents and illustrates how youth, when given the opportunity, can use their talents for social good. It will interest readers concerned with the development of today's youth and tomorrow's society.
As an undergraduate at Brown University, Tyler Denmead founded New Urban Arts, a nationally recognized arts and humanities program primarily for young people of color in Providence, Rhode Island. Along with its positive impact, New Urban Arts, under his leadership, became entangled in Providence's urban renewal efforts that harmed the very youth it served. As in many deindustrialized cities, Providence's leaders viewed arts, culture, and creativity as a means to drive property development and attract young, educated, and affluent white people, such as Denmead, to economically and culturally kick-start the city. In The Creative Underclass, Denmead critically examines how New Urban Arts and similar organizations can become enmeshed in circumstances where young people, including himself, become visible once the city can leverage their creativity to benefit economic revitalization and gentrification. He points to the creative cultural practices that young people of color from low-income communities use to resist their subjectification as members of an underclass, which, along with redistributive economic policies, can be deployed as an effective means with which to both oppose gentrification and better serve the youth who have become emblematic of urban creativity.
Controversy erupted in spring 2001 when Chicago’s mostly white Southside Catholic Conference youth sports league rejected the application of the predominantly black St. Sabina grade school. Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, interracialism seemed stubbornly unattainable, and the national spotlight once again turned to the history of racial conflict in Catholic parishes. It’s widely understood that midcentury, working class, white ethnic Catholics were among the most virulent racists, but, as Crossing Parish Boundaries shows, that’s not the whole story.
In this book, Timothy B. Neary reveals the history of Bishop Bernard Sheil’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), which brought together thousands of young people of all races and religions from Chicago’s racially segregated neighborhoods to take part in sports and educational programming. Tens of thousands of boys and girls participated in basketball, track and field, and the most popular sport of all, boxing, which regularly filled Chicago Stadium with roaring crowds. The history of Bishop Sheil and the CYO shows a cosmopolitan version of American Catholicism, one that is usually overshadowed by accounts of white ethnic Catholics aggressively resisting the racial integration of their working-class neighborhoods. By telling the story of Catholic-sponsored interracial cooperation within Chicago, Crossing Parish Boundaries complicates our understanding of northern urban race relations in the mid-twentieth century.
The Cultural Matrix seeks to unravel a uniquely American paradox: the socioeconomic crisis, segregation, and social isolation of disadvantaged black youth, on the one hand, and their extraordinary integration and prominence in popular culture on the other. Despite school dropout rates over 40 percent, a third spending time in prison, chronic unemployment, and endemic violence, black youth are among the most vibrant creators of popular culture in the world. They also espouse several deeply-held American values. To understand this conundrum, the authors bring culture back to the forefront of explanation, while avoiding the theoretical errors of earlier culture-of-poverty approaches and the causal timidity and special pleading of more recent ones.
There is no single black youth culture, but a complex matrix of cultures—adapted mainstream, African-American vernacular, street culture, and hip-hop—that support and undermine, enrich and impoverish young lives. Hip-hop, for example, has had an enormous influence, not always to the advantage of its creators. However, its muscular message of primal honor and sensual indulgence is not motivated by a desire for separatism but by an insistence on sharing in the mainstream culture of consumption, power, and wealth.
This interdisciplinary work draws on all the social sciences, as well as social philosophy and ethnomusicology, in a concerted effort to explain how culture, interacting with structural and environmental forces, influences the performance and control of violence, aesthetic productions, educational and work outcomes, familial, gender, and sexual relations, and the complex moral life of black youth.
The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape is a collection of poems, rap lyrics, short stories, essays, interviews, and artwork about Chicago, the city that came to be known as "Chiraq" ("Chicago" + "Iraq"), and the people who live in its vibrant and occasionally violent neighborhoods. Tuned to the work of Chicago’s youth, especially the emerging artists and activists surrounding Young Chicago Authors, this literary mixtape unpacks the meanings of “Chiraq” as both a vexed term and a space of possibility.
"Chiraq" has come to connote the violence—interpersonal and structural—that many Chicago youth regularly experience. But the contributors to The End of Chiraq show that Chicago is much more than Chiraq. Instead, they demonstrate how young people are thinking and mobilizing, engaged in a process of creating a new and safer world for themselves, their communities, and their city.
In true mixtape fashion, the book is an exercise in "low end theory" that does not just include so-called underground and marginal voices, but foregrounds them. Edited by award-winning poets, writers, and teachers Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval, The End of Chiraq addresses head-on the troublesome relationship between Chicago and Chiraq and envisions a future in which both might be transformed.
This volume examines how Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths, or SOLHOT, a radical youth intervention, provides a space for the creative performance and expression of Black girlhood and how this creativity informs other realizations about Black girlhood and womanhood. Founded in 2006 and co-organized by the author, SOLHOT is an intergenerational collective organizing effort that celebrates and recognizes Black girls as producers of culture and knowledge. Girls discuss diverse expressions of Black girlhood, critique the issues that are important to them, and create art that keeps their lived experiences at its center.
Drawing directly from her experiences in SOLHOT, Ruth Nicole Brown argues that when Black girls reflect on their own lives, they articulate radically unique ideas about their lived experiences. She documents the creative potential of Black girls and women who are working together to advance original theories, practices, and performances that affirm complexity, interrogate power, and produce humanizing representation of Black girls' lives. Emotionally and intellectually powerful, this book expands on the work of Black feminists and feminists of color and breaks intriguing new ground in Black feminist thought and methodology.
Understanding our cultural heritage and sharing a cultural community's history helps motivate individuals to take agency and create change within their communities. But are today's youth appreciative of their culture, or apathetic towards it?
In her vibrant ethnography My Culture, My Color, My Self, Toby Jenkins provides engrossing, in-depth interviews and poignant snapshots of young adults talking about their lives and culture. She recounts D'Leon's dream to become a positive example for African American men, and Francheska describing how her late mother inspired her appreciation of her Boricua heritage. In these and other portraits, Jenkins considers the role that cultural education and engagement plays in enhancing educational systems, neighborhood programs, and community structures.
My Culture, My Color, My Self also features critical essays that focus on broader themes such as family bonds, education, and religion. Taken together, Jenkins shows how people of color use their culture as both a politic of social survival and a tool for social change.
“This book is very important in the wider context of related scholarship in the modern-day civil rights movement because it will be the first on the youth perspective in the NAACP. . . . I believe that it will be widely used by scholars and the general public.”—Linda Reed, author of Simple Decency and Common Sense: The Southern Conference Movement, 1938-1963
“A recent trend in the historiography of the civil rights movement is the increased understanding of the role that young people played in the right for equality. . . . Bynum has filled a gap in the civil rights literature in this short book.” —Choice
Historical studies of black youth activism have until now focused almost exclusively on the activities of the Congress Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). However, the NAACP youth councils and college chapters predate both of those organizations. Thomas Bynum carefully examines the activism of the NAACP youth and effectively refutes the perception of the NAACP as working strictly through the courts. His research illuminates the many direct-action activities undertaken by the young people of the NAACP—activities that helped precipitate the breakdown of racial discrimination and segregation in America. He also explores the evolution of the youth councils and college chapters, including their sometime rocky relationship with the national office, and captures the successes, failures, and challenges the NAACP youth groups experiences at the national, state, and local levels.
Thomas Bynum is an assistant professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University.
Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives—family, relationships, jobs—into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences.
Alice Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance—some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices. All find the web of presumed criminality, built as it is on the very associations and friendships that make up a life, nearly impossible to escape. We watch as the pleasures of summer-evening stoop-sitting are shattered by the arrival of a carful of cops looking to serve a warrant; we watch—and can’t help but be shocked—as teenagers teach their younger siblings and cousins how to run from the police (and, crucially, to keep away from friends and family so they can stay hidden); and we see, over and over, the relentless toll that the presumption of criminality takes on families—and futures.
While not denying the problems of the drug trade, and the violence that often accompanies it, through her gripping accounts of daily life in the forgotten neighborhoods of America's cities, Goffman makes it impossible for us to ignore the very real human costs of our failed response—the blighting of entire neighborhoods, and the needless sacrifice of whole generations.
Graffiti is as ubiquitous as telephone poles in America's cities; it is as old as the earliest civilizations. The most public medium in the country today, graffiti can signal territory, love, or liberation. Ironically, graffiti is understood by only a fraction of those who encounter it. Usually read as a sign of urban decay and as a loss of control over the physical environment, graffiti has become one of the most potent cultural languages of our age. Wallbangin' is an unprecedented, in-depth look at this phenomenon as it is embodied in the neighborhoods of one of its epicenters, Los Angeles.
Anthropologist Susan Phillips enters the lives of the African-American and Chicano gang members to write a comprehensive guide to their symbolic and visual expression. She not only decodes the graffiti—explaining how, for instance, gang boundaries are visually delimited and how "memorial" graffiti functions—but she also places it in the context of the changing urban landscapes within the city. Graffiti, she argues, is inextricably linked to political change, to race, and to art, and she demonstrates how those connections are played out in contemporary L.A. Wallbangin' is, on this level, an iconography of street imagery. But it is also a very personal narrative about entering the world of L.A. street gangs—a world of pride, enemies, affirmation, and humanity where gang members use graffiti to redefine their social and political position in society.
To many outsiders, graffiti is cryptic, senseless scribbling. But Phillips explains it as an ingenious and creative solution to the disenfranchisement felt by those who produce it. With personal narratives, provocative photography, and contemporary voices, Wallbangin' unlocks the mysteries behind street-level ideologies and their visual manifestations.