A view of the civil rights movement in the crucible of the North
A City within a City
The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan
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Todd E. Robinson
A City within a City examines the civil rights movement in the North by concentrating on the struggles for equality in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Historian Todd Robinson studies the issues surrounding school integration and bureaucratic reforms as well as the role of black youth activism to detail the diversity of black resistance. He focuses on respectability within the African American community as a way of understanding how the movement was formed and held together. And he elucidates the oppositional role of northern conservatives regarding racial progress.
A City within a City cogently argues that the post-war political reform championed by local Republicans transformed the city's racial geography, creating a racialized "city within a city," featuring a system of "managerial racism" designed to keep blacks in declining inner-city areas. As Robinson indicates, this bold, provocative framework for understanding race relations in Grand Rapids has broader implications for illuminating the twentieth-century African American urban experience in secondary cities.
"A City within a City is well-written and coherent, and its focus on Grand Rapids fits well within the larger recent historiographical interest in the civil rights and black power era beyond the South. This engaging and insightful book will be of considerable interest to scholars focused on movement history, the African American experience in the Midwest, and the history of Michigan, as well as anyone interested in race relations and the struggle for racial justice."
Todd E. Robinson is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.