Strangers in the Land of Paradise
Creation of an African American Community in Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940
Published by: Indiana University Press
Now in paperback!
Strangers in the Land of Paradise
The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, NY, 1900–1940
Lillian Serece Williams
Examines the settlement of African Americans in Buffalo during the Great Migration.
"A splendid contribution to the fields of African-American and American urban, social and family history. . . . expanding the tradition that is now well underway of refuting the pathological emphasis of the prevailing ghetto studies of the 1960s and '70s." —Joe W. Trotter
Strangers in the Land of Paradise discusses the creation of an African American community as a distinct cultural entity. It describes values and institutions that Black migrants from the South brought with them, as well as those that evolved as a result of their interaction with Blacks native to the city and the city itself. Through an examination of work, family, community organizations, and political actions, Lillian Williams explores the process by which the migrants adapted to their new environment.
The lives of African Americans in Buffalo from 1900 to 1940 reveal much about race, class, and gender in the development of urban communities. Black migrant workers transformed the landscape by their mere presence, but for the most part they could not rise beyond the lowest entry-level positions. For African American women, the occupational structure was even more restricted; eventually, however, both men and women increased their earning power, and that—over time—improved life for both them and their loved ones.
Lillian Serece Williams is Associate Professor of History in the Women's Studies Department and Director of the Institute for Research on Women at Albany, the State University of New York. She is editor of Records of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1895–1992, associate editor of Black Women in United States History, and author of A Bridge to the Future: The History of Diversity in Girl Scouting.
352 pages, 14 b&w illus., 15 maps, notes, bibl., index, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Blacks in the Diaspora—Darlene Clark Hine, John McCluskey, Jr., and David Barry Gaspar, general editors
The small but long-lived African American community of Buffalo, New York, grew from free blacks and runaway slaves in the years before the Civil War and then increased in number with migrants from the rural South with the coming of WW I. This standard background serves as the basis for Williams's solid and scholarly exploration of how newer migrants coming to benefit from industrialization collided with the earlier settlers. There was at once a sense of responsibility to look after and yet also keep a distance from uncultured and rustic kinsmen. This finely nuanced study evokes class and status divisions within the African American neighborhoods while presenting readers with the omnipresent role of the black church as a cohesive force among the divisive elements tearing at the community. Black clergy and the social elite served an important leadership role in preserving a sense of dignity and fighting for civil rights, despite the fact that the same leadership might split on whether or not to endorse Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Williams brings a fine balance to her work, revealing a group composed of people whose lives, institutions, and struggle for acceptance, achievement, and advancement mirrored the struggles of so many others. Upper-division undergraduates and above.~J. Kleiman, University of Wisconsin Colleges , 2000jan CHOICE.
[A] fine book, and one that significantly enhances our understanding of the processes of gender, community building and the struggle for equality and dignity that African Americans in Buffalo waged between 1900 and 1940.August 2002~Urban History