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 nearly 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, the book addresses not only a particular city in the Pacific Northwest but also the process of political change in black America.
The book is an excellent historical survey of the black community in Seattle covering the social, civic and economic activities of its inhabitants. It offers many insights to the origins and particular strains of institutional racism found here along with a survey of black/asian relations in the city.
The book falls short in that it acknowledges the many local civil rights organizations of the day and their commitment to equality, but doesnt acknowledge that the quelling of the left, by liberal institutions, hindered efforts to keep, improve and ultimately realize Seattle's black neighborhood as truely equal with the rest of the city. The book was written in 1994 so maybe it was a sign of the times in academia 🤷♂️.
That being said, this is an important work and definitley worth the read.
Excellent and enlightening case history of the Central District: "Racial toleration is meaningless if people are excluded from the vital economic center and relegated to the margins of the urban economy. Seattle, whether in the 1870s or the 1960s, provided substantive evidence of the limits of a racial liberalism incompatible with economic inclusion. Indeed Seattle's apparent success, and its underlying failure, in its race relations paradigm has been its meticulously crafted image which promoted the illusion of inclusion."
Since this book places more focus on interactions between Seattle's Black & Asian communities (as opposed to other histories that only report on black-white relations), I expected more discussion about the famed Gang of Four (Larry Gossett, Bob Santos, Roberto Maestas, and Bernie Whitebear). But maybe that developed after the Civil Rights Era, so it wasn't quite within the boundaries of his study.
The best thing about this text was the angle of the scholarship. Meaning, it explored a relatively un-researched population. I found the account too sterile and academic. I guess I prefer my scholarship in the narrative and I was spoiled because I read this right after Leon Litwack's Trouble in Mind.