The Black Middle Class: The Politics of Race and Class in Cities and Suburbs


Roundtable Sponsored by the Metropolitan History Workshop and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies


Friday, March 21, 2008

2:00-4:00 p.m.

1014 Tisch Hall


Feature presentation by Mary Pattillo, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Northwestern University. Professor Pattillo will speak about her recent book: BLACK ON THE BLOCK: THE POLITICS OF RACE AND CLASS IN THE CITY (University of Chicago Press, 2007). She is also author of BLACK PICKET FENCES: PRIVILEGE AND PERIL AMONG THE BLACK MIDDLE CLASS (University of Chicago Press, 1999).


Responses by Karyn Lacy, Assistant Professor in Sociology and CAAS, University of Michigan. Professor Lacy is the author of BLUE-CHIP BLACK: RACE, CLASS, AND STATUS IN THE NEW BLACK MIDDLE CLASS (University of California Press, 2007).


And by Angela Dillard, Associate Professor in CAAS and the Residential College, University of Michigan. Professor Dillard is the author of GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER NOW? MULTICULTURAL CONSERVATISM IN AMERICA (New York University Press, 2001) and FAITH IN THE CITY: PREACHING RADICAL SOCIAL CHANGE IN DETROIT (University of Michigan Press, 2007).


Additional information about Mary Pattillo:

               In her award-winning and critically acclaimed Black Picket Fences, Mary Pattillo--a Newsweek Woman of the 21st Century--forever changed the way we think of the black middle class in America today. With Black on the Block, Pattillo returns with an equally revealing and soon-to-be influential account of conflict, cooperation, and community building among blacks on Chicago's South Side. Here Pattillo uses the historic rise, alarming fall, and equally dramatic renewal of the city's North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood to explore the politics of race and class in contemporary urban America.

               There was a time when North Kenwood–Oakland was plagued by gangs, drugs, violence, and the font of poverty from which they sprang. But in the late 1980s, a cadre of activists rose up to tackle the social problems that had plagued the area for decades. Black on the Block tells the remarkable story of how these residents laid the groundwork for a revitalized and self-consciously black neighborhood that continues to flourish today. But theirs is not a tale of easy consensus and political unity, and here Pattillo teases out the divergent class interests that have come to define black communities like North Kenwood–Oakland. Black on the Block explores the often heated battles between haves and have-nots, home owners and apartment dwellers, and newcomers and old-timers as they clash over the social implications of gentrification. Along the way, Pattillo highlights the conflicted but crucial role that middle-class blacks play in transforming such districts as they negotiate between established centers of white economic and political power and the needs of their less fortunate black neighbors.

               Ultimately, Black on the Block argues that while these fissures have come to define the black community, the reality is that many African Americans choose participation over abdication and involvement over withdrawal--even when disagreements become bitter and acrimonious. 


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