Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
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African American History | African American History in the West (Now available at www.blackpast.org)  

Curriculum Vitae:

The Forging of a Black Community

Book Description
Through much of the twentieth century, black Seattle was synonymous with the Central District--a four square mile section near the geographic center of the city.  Quintard Taylor explores the evolution of this community from its first few residents in the 1870s to a population of early forty thousand in 1970.  With events such as the massive influx of rural African Americans beginning with World War II and the transformation of African American community leadership in the 1960s from an integrationist to a "black power" stance, Seattle both anticipates and mirrors national trends. Thus, this book addresses not only a particular city in the Pacific Northwest but also the process of political change in black America.

This book places black urban history in a broader framework than most urban case studies by analyzing racial perceptions, attitudes, and expectations in light of the presence of another people of color, Asian Americans.  Asians rather than blacks were Seattle's largest racial minority until World War II.  Their presence limited African American employment and housing opportunities by drawing blacks into intense competition with the city's Chinese, Japanese and Filipino populations.  Yet the virulent racism of the 1890-1940 era, usually directed against blacks in urban communities, was diffused among Seattle's four nonwhite groups.  Consequently, Asians and blacks, admittedly uneasy neighbors, became partners in coalitions challenging racial restrictions while remaining competitors for housing and jobs.

Taylor explores the intersection of race and class in a city with a decidedly liberal and at times radical political culture.  He finds that while local blacks operated in a racial environment that allowed relatively open social interactions, at the same time they were subject to restricted employment opportunities, preventing rapid growth of the African American population.  Taylor argues that black Seattle was poised between two worlds, attempting to meld the values and traditions of its rural past with the requisites of modern urban-industrial society.  Thus the community ethos was forged by the process in which the values of the rural, predominately southern migrants--kinship networks, religious and folk beliefs, and sense of shared community--were transformed in the urban environment.

About the Author
Quintard Taylor is Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West,  1528-1990.