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Kate Tuttle

Although residential segregation is often considered one of the more harmful effects of racism in the United States, some African Americans in the nineteenth century chose to form their own racially separate communities. Unlike the ghettos and rural enclaves where many blacks were forced to live at the time, black towns were established to promote economic independence, self-government, and social equality for African Americans. More than eighty such towns were settled in the fifty years following the Civil War.

A few, such as New Philadelphia, Illinois, were formed even before the Civil War, but it was not until after Emancipation in the United States that the population of free blacks was large enough to supply settlers for the new towns. The first great wave of black migration began as Reconstruction ended in 1877 When federal troops withdrew from the South many blacks feared that the civil and political ...


Eric Bennett

The historian Roy Lubove describes early industrial Pittsburgh as “the ‘Smokey City,’ America's classic coketown … frequently compared to hell … an economic rather than civic entity.” Indeed, by the turn of the twentieth century, belching smokestacks and polluted waterways encroached on Pittsburgh's river-valley beauty. African Americans, however, had little hand in the desecration. From Pittsburgh's settlement, around 1760, until World War II blacks found few opportunities in the town's industries.

Despite the poverty that plagued African Americans in Pittsburgh until the American Civil War, their numbers grew from 1,000 to 20,000 during Reconstruction Flocks of migrants arrived from Virginia to work in Pittsburgh s factories but few newcomers found well paying jobs White employers excluded blacks from Pittsburgh s thriving iron and glass industries and most of the blacks settled for unskilled domestic work Even when World War I occasioned a large demand for industrial labor ...