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The Separate City: Black Communities in the Urban South, 1940-1968

by Christopher Silver and John V. Moeser

Availablepaperback$45.00x 978-0-8131-5625-5
Out of Printcloth$35.00s 978-0-8131-1911-3
232 pages  Pubdate: 07/15/2014  6.12 x 9.25  maps, graphs, tables

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A ground-breaking collaborative study merging perspectives from history, political science, and urban planning, The Separate City is a trenchant analysis of the development of the African-American community in the urban South. While similar in some respects to the racially defined ghettos of the North, the districts in which southern blacks lived from the pre-World War II era to the mid-1960s differed markedly from those of their northern counterparts. The African- American community in the South was (and to some extent still is) a physically expansive, distinct, and socially heterogeneous zone within the larger metropolis. It found itself functioning both politically and economically as a "separate city"—a city set apart from its predominantly white counterpart.

Within the separate city itself, internal conflicts reflected a structural divide between an empowered black middle class and a larger group comprising the working class and the disadvantaged. Even with these conflicts, the South's new black leadership gained political control in many cities, but it could not overcome the economic forces shaping the metropolis. The persistence of a separate city admitted to the profound ineffectiveness of decades of struggle to eliminate the racial barriers with which southern urban leaders—indeed all urban America—continue to grapple today.

Christopher Silver is associate dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

John V. Moeser is chairman of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Their book ambitiously weds themes of urban redevelopment, racial change, and emergent black political power. It is a provocative, pioneering effort that will undoubtedly stimulate further inquiry. -- American Historical Review

An ambitious and informative investigation of African American community and political culture in the three distinct urban settings of Richmond, Atlanta, and Memphis. -- Choice

The Separate City is a fine work of comparative urban history valuable especially for its careful documentation of how public policy and community activism make a difference in both creating and solving problems. -- Journal of Southern History