Sherry Lamb Schirmer
“A City Divided is an informative and very readable study of how whites’ racial attitudes evolved and shaped social relations in one modern metropolis. Schirmer is particularly good at revealing why and how white Kansas Citians infused the social meaning of urban space with racial content. Schirmer contributes to the ongoing effort by scholars to show that the system of racial discrimination and the perceptions that bolster it are functional and change throughout time. Indeed, the deeply embedded discriminatory housing practices, both covert and overt, help to explain the persistence of residential segregation even as activists dismantled Jim Crow in other areas.”—Journal of Planning History
Because of rapid changes in land use and difficulty in suppressing crime, the control of urban spaces became an acute concern for the white middle class in Kansas City. As the African American population grew, whites increasingly identified blacks with what deprived a given space of its middle-class character. The white middle class established its own identity by excluding blacks from the urban spaces this group occupied. Although black and white activists successfully laid the foundation for desegregating public accommodations in Kansas City, this effort failed to dismantle the systems of spatial exclusion and inequitable law enforcement, which continue to shape race relations in Kansas City.
“Coulter’s first-rate research, if absorbed fully, ought to open a lot of eyes as today’s Kansas City residents drive, bicycle or walk to the neighborhood grocery, the sports stadium, the suburbs and downtown.”—Kansas City Star
While recognizing that segregation and discrimination shaped their reality, Coulter moves beyond race relations to emphasize the enabling aspects of African Americans’ lives and show how people defined and created their world. As the first extensive treatment of black history in Kansas City, this is an exceptional account of minority achievement in America’s crossroads.
“Provides us both a substantive and theoretical window into understanding the internecine dynamics of black urban mobilization and empowerment. This book will earn great notice among students of black and urban politics.”—Todd Shaw, author of Now Is the Time! Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism Founded in 1962 by African American political activists in Kansas City, Missouri, Freedom, Incorporated was crucial to the desegregation of Kansas City public facilities. As the oldest surviving organization of its kind, Freedom, Inc. has played an essential role in raising the visibility of key concerns among the black community and engineering a string of firsts in elected offices, including the election of many black Missouri state representatives since 1963.
This, the first history of the organization, shows that these feats were achieved only because Freedom, Inc. was institutionalized, corporatist, capable of mobilizing the black community, and engaged in strategic bargaining with other political actors. Kubic asserts that strong local organizations are dynamic organism, and that they, rather than charismatic candidates or interracial alliances, are the crucial players in both determining political outcomes and advancing black interests in urban areas.