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Groping Toward Democracy : African American Social Welfare Reform in St. Louis, 1910-1949 - Priscilla A. Dowden-White

Groping Toward Democracy

African American Social Welfare Reform in St. Louis, 1910-1949

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Decades before the 1960's, social reformers began planting the seeds for the modern civil rights era. During the period spanning World Wars I and II, St. Louis, Missouri, was home to a dynamic group of African American social welfare reformers. The city's history and culture were shaped both by those who would construct it as a southern city and by the heirs of New England abolitionism. Allying with white liberals to promote the era's new emphasis on "the common good," black reformers confronted racial segregation and its consequences of inequality and, in so doing, helped to determine the gradual change in public policy that led to a more inclusive social order.

In Groping toward Democracy: African American Social Welfare Reform in St. Louis, 1910-1949, historian Priscilla A. Dowden-White presents an on-the-ground view of local institution building and community organizing campaigns initiated by African American social welfare reformers. Through extensive research, the author places African American social welfare reform efforts within the vanguard of interwar community and neighborhood organization, reaching beyond the "racial uplift" and "behavior" models of the studies preceding hers. She explores one of the era's chief organizing principles, the "community as a whole" idea, and deliberates on its relationship to segregation and the St. Louis black community's methods of reform. Groping toward Democracy depicts the dilemmas organizers faced in this segregated time, explaining how they pursued the goal of full, uncontested black citizenship while still seeking to maximize the benefits available to African Americans in segregated institutions. The book's nuanced mapping of the terrain of social welfare offers an unparalleled view of the progress brought forth by the early-twentieth-century crusade for democracy and equality.

By delving into interrelated developments in health care, education, labor, and city planning, Dowden-White deftly examines St. Louis's African American interwar history. Her in-depth archival research fills a void in the scholarship of St. Louis's social development, and her compelling arguments will be of great interest to scholars and teachers of American urban studies and social welfare history.

Industry Reviews

"Compellingly illuminates the contributions of social welfare reformers to African American advancement in St. Louis."--Southern Historian
"In this well-researched and carefully argued book, Priscilla A. Dowden-White reveals the hidden history of Black community activism and institution building in St. Louis during the first half of the twentieth century. Groping toward Democracy shows how community leaders steeped in traditions of social welfare progressivism used the idea of 'the community as a whole' and the ideal of a democratic public culture to forge alliances and win victories in struggles against residential segregation and other forms of racial exclusion."--George Lipsitz, author of A Life in the Struggle: Ivory Perry and the Culture of Opposition

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Abbreviationsp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Vice Lords, Rousters, and Public School Men and Women: The Cultural Inheritance of an Organizing Communityp. 23
ôDemocratizing the City, Instead of Just a City Beautifulö: Segregation, City Planning, and the Roots of Interracial Organizingp. 58
ôThat Movement Which Is Active in Making Communities Feel That the Negro Is Part and Parcel of Society as a Wholeö: Social Work, Community Organization, and the Genesis of a Civil Rights Agendap. 93
Teamwork for a Better St. Louis: The Framework of a Social Welfare Organizing Communityp. 115
In the White Light of Critical Public Opinion: Health Care, Education, and the Manipulation of Public Culturep. 156
Not Ice Cream and Cake … Must Be Something Deeper: The Neighborhood Club and Block Unit Movementp. 200
Epilogue: ôNegroes Are … Disturbed These Days and Fighting for Everythingöp. 243
Notesp. 261
Indexp. 293
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780826219008
ISBN-10: 0826219004
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 23rd March 2011
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.13 x 15.88  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.62
Edition Number: 3