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.
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.
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.