Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II

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Journal Article

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Journal of Negro Education

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Date Added



Aaron N. Taylor is Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri. His area specialty is education law. Mr. Taylor is a Howard University School of Law alumnus. Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II, by Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day. Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010, 328 pp., $29.95, hardback. Reviewed by John R. Tilghman, Howard University. Historians Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day of Carnegie Mellon University have completed the first book on Black life in postwar Pittsburgh. Trotter, the current director of Carnegie’s Center for African American Urban Studies and Economy (CAUSE), helped redefine interwar African American urban history by challenging the “ghetto paradigm” theory with Black community building. The ghetto paradigm was resurrected by Arnold Hirsch (1983) as the “second ghetto” to Black life in the postwar U.S. In Race and Renaissance, Trotter and Day challenges the second ghetto argument emphasizing Black agency as a response to racial exclusion by creating communities, institutions, and organizations. However, the emergence of a global capitalism helped made life difficult through deindustrialization, underemployment and unemployment, housing shortage, and community neglect. The first chapter emphasizes the First Great Migration and Black community building in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Trotter and Day show how Black self-determination was eminent. During segregation, Black migrants helped create independent churches, mutual aid societies, schools, and fraternal orders. Other migrants established or joined local NAACP and National Urban League chapters to advocate for access to employment and local New Deal social programs, and also participated in electoral politics. The second chapter details the intermingling of the Second Great Migration and Renaissance I, an urban redevelopment scheme promoted by civic leaders of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The restructuring of Pittsburgh’s economy from a steel-manufacturing to a service-technology sector was accompanied with the exclusion of Black workers from jobs in urban redevelopment projects, denial of decent housing, and displacement from neighborhoods seized by eminent domain. Blacks responded to Jim Crow through organizations—Negro American Labor Council, Pittsburgh Interracial Action Council, and the Greater Pittsburgh Improvement League—to campaign for equal access to education, housing, jobs, and labor unions. They also helped their migrant relatives by caring for families while moving from job to job to stay employed. The third chapter reveals how grassroots and Black Power organizations exposed the racial and class limitations within the Renaissance I plan. Neighborhood grassroots organizations such as United Movement for Progress and the United Negro Protest Committee protested against employment discrimination in local neighborhood stores and demanded control over social welfare programs. Operation Dig, another grassroots organization, advocated for affirmative action in building and construction trades. According to Trotter and Day, the emergence of Black Power through the Black Construction Coalition and Democratic Association of Black Brothers forced the city power brokers to shift from urban redevelopment to creating social programs in poor neighborhoods. Such programs only led to some reforms in public school curriculum, police brutality, and social services. But discrimination continued within neglected Black communities, especially after the flight of Black professional and middle class families. The fourth and fifth chapters focus on Black Pittsburghers from the post-Civil Rights/Black Power era to the 21st century. The fourth chapter showcases Black life during Renaissance II, the postindustrial-service sector economy. In Renaissance II, poor workers were trapped in lowpaying service jobs and excluded from better paying positions. Problems intensified in © The Journal of Negro Education, 2013, Vol. 82, No. 1 98 neighborhoods with female-headed households, Black mass incarceration, crime, neglect of city services, and the destruction of public housing. The fifth chapter demonstrates how poor Blacks responded to deindustrialization. Committed to resolving issues within their communities, Blacks took advantage of programs such as the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. However, activists continued to advocate for decent living spaces and city services in public housing, engage in electoral politics via grassroots level while challenging White liberal organizations such as Association of Community Organizations for Reform...


Civil Rights, Education




Journal of Negro Education