Black Studies

Press Release: Heap, Slumming

May 14, 2009
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Press Release: Heap, Slumming

Greenwich Village. Harlem. Bronzeville. Even in this freewheeling, globalized age, the names of these iconic neighborhoods still conjure up an atmosphere of glamour, excitement, and illicit thrills. But long before today’s teens or even yesterday’s beatniks wandered their streets, these neighborhoods exercised a powerful attraction for upright members of the middle class looking for dissipation and disreputable fun. With Slumming, Chad Heap brings these early havens of hip to life, recreating the long-lost nightlife of early twentieth-century New York and Chicago. From jazz clubs and speakeasies to black-and-tan parties and cabarets, Heap packs Slumming with vivid scenes, fascinating characters, and wild anecdotes of a late-night life on the borders of the forbidden. And while he doesn’t ignore the role of exploitation and voyeurism in slumming—or the resistance it often provoked—he argues that the relatively uninhibited mingling it promoted across bounds of race and class helped to dramatically recast the racial and sexual landscape of burgeoning U.S. cities. The unforgettable tale of an urban past that continues to resonate in our day, Slumming is a late-night treat for all urbanites and fans of the demi-monde. Read the press release or read the introduction. . . .

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Press Release: Pager, Marked

April 15, 2009
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Press Release: Pager, Marked

New in paperback!—Marked gives us our first real glimpse into the tremendous difficulties facing ex-offenders in the job market. Devah Pager matched up pairs of young men, randomly assigned them criminal records, then sent them on hundreds of real job searches throughout the city of Milwaukee. Her applicants were attractive, articulate, and capable—yet ex-offenders received less than half the callbacks of the equally qualified applicants without criminal backgrounds. Young black men, meanwhile, paid a particularly high price: those with clean records fared no better in their job searches than white men just out of prison. Such shocking barriers to legitimate work, Pager contends, are an important reason that many ex-prisoners soon find themselves back in the realm of poverty, underground employment, and crime that led them to prison in the first place. “Pager shows that ex-offenders, white or black, stand a very poor chance of getting a legitimate job.… Both informative and convincing.” —Library Journal Read the press release or read an excerpt. . . .

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Rehabilitating intellectualism

March 31, 2009
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Rehabilitating intellectualism

For the past eight years the term “intellectual” has been frequently interpreted by the media as a piece of anti-populist or elitist rhetoric. But in a recent article for the New Republic Ross Posnock notes that Obama’s presidency has rehabilitated the term as one of praise rather than opprobrium, and with it interest in the history of black intellectualism in America. Tapping into this renewed interest, Posnock cites Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth’s new book, Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher for its revealing look at the life and thought of its highly influential, yet often neglected subject. Inheriting the role of the leading spokesperson for black intellectualism from such figures as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Boise, the authors show how Alain L. Locke both continued their legacy of leadership but also vitally updated the role. Posnock writes: Harris and Molesworth’s book “brings alive distinctive fashioning of the role of black intellectual” demonstrating his unique ability to operate as “a race man,” but also as “an apolitical aesthete,” keeping “up the pressure on both roles, as his thought continually refined itself and deepened.” Thus, expanding the influence of black intellectuals in American culture Harris and . . .

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Hyra and Pritchett on the Future of Public Housing

January 28, 2009
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Hyra and Pritchett on the Future of Public Housing

This morning at the Urban Institute Derek Hyra, author of The New Urban Renewal, and Wendell Pritchett, author of Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City joined a forum with other experts on urban affairs to discuss the question: Can public housing overcome its history of racial discrimination and segregation? The discussion addressed such issues as whether public housing policies can simultaneously address the problems of poverty and race. And, if so, how? You can listen to a webcast of the panel and, for historical perspective, read an excerpt of Pritchett’s book. . . .

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A modern music missed by modern scholarship

November 13, 2008
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A modern music missed by modern scholarship

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Peter Monaghan has written several interesting articles recently about the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, “a celebrated avant-garde collective that began in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1960s,” and the subject of George E. Lewis’s recent A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. In both articles Monaghan notes the significance of Lewis’s book as the first academic treatment of the AACM and the highly influential experimental music it produced, and ponders the question, put forth in Lewis’s book, of why such a groundbreaking group of artists hasn’t received more attention by mainstream academics: In his book, both social history and critical study, Lewis makes a claim that devotees of the AACM have long embraced but that is discomforting some composers and critics: The jazz-related collective, which emerged from black, working-class areas of Chicago in the 1960s, became one of the most significant artistic forces of the 20th century—yet histories of American musical experimentalism almost never say so.… Lewis cites the historian Jon D. Cruz’s observation that criticism of the new music as “just noise” recalled many slave owners’ earlier obliviousness to the significations of slave songs. “Similarly,” . . .

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Rain Taxi reviews A Power Stronger than Itself

September 11, 2008
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Rain Taxi reviews A Power Stronger than Itself

The Fall 2008 print edition of the Rain Taxi Review of Books published a positive review of George E. Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. Rain Taxi contributor W. C. Bamberger begins: Founded in 1965, the AACM … seeks to enable black composers and performers of experimental music to take control of its presentation and recording. For more than forty years the name and acronym have been appearing in the liner notes of recordings by The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Muhal Richard Abrams, and many others, but information about the group has always been rather hazy, a frustration that George E. Lewis’s impressive sociological-historical study more than remedies. Lewis, a trombonist and electronic musician, is also an AACM member and past president, and so brings an insider’s perspective to his analysis. He also conducted nearly 100 interviews with musicians and writers and presents their memories and views, some of them clashing, in hopes that “a useful story might be realized out of the many voices heard in this book, the maelstrom of heteroglossia in which we nervously tread water.” There is no picket fencing here: Lewis doesn’t utilize the high point or . . .

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The “coming home” of the black midle class

September 8, 2008
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The “coming home” of the black midle class

Julia Vitullo-Martin has an interesting review of Derek S. Hyra’s new book, The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, in Sunday’s New York Post. In his book Hyra looks at the nation’s two most important historic, urban black neighborhoods—New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville—to explore the shifting dynamics of class and race as these two iconic black communities undergo an unprecedented period of gentrification. From the Post review: Hyra’s most fundamental concern: As these neighborhoods come back economically, what will happen to their poor residents? Hyra notes that both Bronzeville and Harlem are “revitalizing without drastic racial changeover.” In the last 10 years, Central Harlem’s white population increased to 2% from 1.5%, and the white proportion in Bronzeville increased to 4% from 2.5%. Yet while Hyra is very worried about the displacement of the poor, he argues that class antagonism is actually important to the redevelopment of formerly impoverished communities. Black middle-class values translate into effective political activity and organizations, including block clubs, planning boards and religiously affiliated community development corporations. The problem, as he sees it, is that the “coming home” of the black middle class will produce a neighborhood in which poor blacks are . . .

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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

September 2, 2008
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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

Most of us probably think we know how urban gentrification works: rich young whites move into poor, non-white areas and gobble up cheap real estate, eventually forcing longtime residents to move to more affordable but distant locales. Since the late 1990s, however, a surprising new pattern has emerged as a handful of poverty-stricken black neighborhoods have evolved into residential hotspots boasting high-income housing, destination dining, designer boutiques, and even bed-and-breakfasts—all while managing to stay black. No two neighborhoods in the country exemplify this trend better than Harlem in New York City and Bronzeville in Chicago. In this groundbreaking book, Derek S. Hyra—a resident of both of these neighborhoods—moves from the streets to city hall to corporate boardrooms, tracing the web of factors at play in the remarkable revitalization of these two historic enclaves. Read the press release. . . .

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The costs of urban transformation

August 28, 2008
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The costs of urban transformation

In yesterday’s New York Sun Harvard economist Edward Glaeser reviewed Derek Hyra’s new book The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville. Hyra’s book looks at urban gentrification in two neighborhoods—Chicago’s Bronzeville and New York’s Harlem—and its impact on various socio-economic groups, revealing a sharp divide between middle-income and less affluent residents in benefiting from such transformations. As Glaeser explains: A dynamic private sector… has made New York and Chicago increasingly prosperous places over the last 15 years.… As these cities have done well, demand for space has exploded. We see rising demand in the skyrocketing price of space in Manhattan and in the cranes that seem to be a permanent feature of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive skyline. Booming demand has also increased the desire among middle-class people to move to formerly poor areas such as Harlem and Bronzeville: Upwardly mobile urbanites, priced out of more expensive areas, have become urban pioneers “gentrifying” areas that used to be poor. But just as the real pioneers weren’t always such a blessing for the American Indians on the frontier, gentrifiers aren’t always a boon for the established residents of an area.… Continue reading the article on the New York . . .

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Kelan Phil Cohran and Chicago’s mecca of the avant-garde

August 14, 2008
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Kelan Phil Cohran and Chicago’s mecca of the avant-garde

The latest edition of Time Out Chicago is running an article about Kelan Phil Cohran—whose notable work as a jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist once landed him a spot in Sun Ra’s Arkestra and, more recently, a central role in George E. Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. Lewis’s book is the definitive history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an important and influential Chicago jazz collective which Cohran helped to found in 1965. But as Time Out‘s Jake Austen notes, Cohran not only played an important role in organizing the association and establishing Chicago as a mecca for avant-garde jazz, but continues to be a major force in the jazz scene today: After settling in Chicago in the mid-’50s, Cohran became an integral part of the South Side’s cultural fabric during the next half-century, forming the AACM and turning a Bronzeville movie house into the Afro-Arts Theater (home base of Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Oscar Brown Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others). He also became a fixture in public schools, teaching and demonstrating his musical ideas from 1965 until the ’90s.… But Cohran is best known for his stint . . .

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