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River Jordan

River Jordan: African American Urban Life in the Ohio Valley

Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    River Jordan
    Book Description:

    Since the nineteenth century, the Ohio River has represented a great divide for African Americans. It provided a passage to freedom along the underground railroad, and during the industrial age, it was a boundary between the Jim Crow South and the urban North. The Ohio became known as the "River Jordan," symbolizing the path to the promised land. In the urban centers of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Evansville, blacks faced racial hostility from outside their immediate neighborhoods as well as class, color, and cultural fragmentation among themselves. Yet despite these pressures, African Americans were able to create vibrant new communities as former agricultural workers transformed themselves into a new urban working class. Unlike most studies of black urban life, Trotter's work considers several cities and compares their economic conditions, demographic makeup, and political and cultural conditions. Beginning with the arrival of the first blacks in the Ohio Valley, Trotter traces the development of African American urban centers through the civil rights movement and the developments of recent years.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4909-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Series Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Rita Kohn and William Lynwood Montell

    The Ohio River Valley Series, conceived and published by the University Press of Kentucky, is an ongoing series of books that examine and illuminate the Ohio River and its tributaries, the lands drained by these streams, and the peoples who made this fertile and desirable area their place of residence, of refuge, of commerce and industry, of cultural development, and, ultimately, of engagement with American democracy. In doing this, the series builds upon an earlier project, “Always a River: The Ohio River and the American Experience,” which was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the humanities councils...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Part 1: African Americans and the Expansion of Commercial and Early Industrial Capitalism, 1790-1860

    • 1 African Americans, Work, and the “Urban Frontier”
      (pp. 3-23)

      African American life in the Ohio River Valley had its beginnings in the development of commercial and early industrial capitalism. While African Americans arrived with whites during the colonial period, the social changes that stimulated black population growth were unleashed by the American Revolution. Like the larger white population, however, the black population grew slowly until the 1820s, when steamboat, canal, and road-building projects transformed the region from a local distributor of agricultural and forest products to a national center of commerce and industry. While class and ethnic conflicts also punctuated these developments for whites, African Americans faced the added...

    • 2 Disfranchisement, Racial Inequality, and the Rise of Black Urban Communities
      (pp. 24-52)

      Under the impact of commercial and early industrial capitalism, the African American population in the Ohio Valley gradually expanded. Although they had entered the region during the late colonial era, blacks faced numerous difficulties gaining a foothold in the economy and society of the area. From the outset, white political leaders, employers, and workers erected barriers that hampered the migration, employment, and settlement of blacks in Ohio Valley cities. Yet, by the 1850s, African Americans would gain a significant but precarious place in the urban economy, establish all-black institutions, and launch new movements to secure their own freedom as well...

  7. Part 2: Emancipation, Race, and Industrialization, 1861-1914

    • 3 Occupational Change and the Emergence of a Free Black Proletariat
      (pp. 55-72)

      The expansion of industrial capitalism influenced the transformation of African American life in the Ohio Valley region and in the nation. Symbolized by the emergence of the giant U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901, a few large companies gained a growing proportion of the region’s economy, wealth, and power. Under the impact of industrial capitalism, the African American population not only increased, but made up a slightly larger proportion of the total; gained greater access to the industrial sector; and claimed citizenship rights under new amendments to the U.S. and state constitutions. Yet, social injustice would soon gain new expression in...

    • 4 The Persistence of Racial and Class Inequality: The Limits of Citizenship
      (pp. 73-92)

      African Americans not only confronted obstacles in the labor market of postbellum Ohio Valley cities, they also faced new restrictions on their lives as citizens. Although they could now vote, petition the legislature, and demand justice before the law, blacks soon discovered the limits of citizenship. While whites accepted some changes in the old order, they gradually erected new barriers in the social, cultural, and political life of the region. At the same time, residential segregation intensified and reinforced the separation of blacks and whites in other areas of urban life. By 1889, Cincinnati’sCommercial Gazetteconfirmed a regional and...

  8. Part 3: African Americans in the Industrial Age, 1915-1945

    • 5 The Expansion of the Black Urban-Industrial Working Class
      (pp. 95-121)

      World War I disrupted immigration from overseas and stimulated the search for national sources of labor. Along with the rural-to-urban migration of northern and southern whites, blacks entered Ohio Valley cities in growing numbers. Moreover, during the 1920s, the enactment of federal immigration restriction legislation reinforced industrial opportunities for African Americans. For the first time in their history, African Americans moved from domestic and general labor jobs into industrial occupations in large proportions. Yet, compared to American-born whites, immigrants, and their children, African Americans continued to occupy the bottom rungs of the industrial ladder. As earlier, African American life was...

    • 6 African Americans, Depression, and World War II
      (pp. 122-150)

      The Depression and World War II highlighted the tenuous economic foundation of African American communities in the Ohio Valley region. As elsewhere in urban America, black unemployment and suffering increased and greatly exceeded that of whites. The discriminatory lay-off and hiring policies of industrial firms ensured that African Americans would enter the unemployment lines earlier and remain there longer than their white counterparts. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal would usher in greater protection for labor unions, relief for unemployed workers, and housing subsidies, but such programs were insufficient to erase disparities between blacks and whites. In varying degrees, the discriminatory...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 151-160)

    As Ohio Valley African Americans faced the postwar years, they grew increasingly dissatisfied with the persistence of class and racial inequality. Building upon the successes of the March on Washington Movement, they would launch new offensives against racial discrimination and segregation in the social, economic, and political life of the region and nation. Their actions would also help to fuel the rise of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. As in the years between World Wars I and II, however, their efforts were deeply rooted in the continuing transformation of rural southern blacks into new urban workers. Along with the persistence...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 161-179)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 180-193)
  12. Index
    (pp. 194-200)