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Sarah Russell

Nestled in the Jones Valley of north central Alabama, the rocky, mineral-rich land of Jefferson County has sustained a city known in its youth for rapid industrialization and later for its hard-fought battles to overcome social, political, and economic inequality. Since its incorporation in 1871, Birmingham, Alabama, pursued the economic development of a southern Magic City. By the 1960s the efforts of the local government to maintain racial Segregation had earned Birmingham a new name, the Tragic City. Efforts to remedy a history of pervasive racial inequality continue today throughout Birmingham, through alliances among citizens that were once thought impossible.



Paul Finkelman

Boston, sometimes called the “Cradle of Liberty,” was the birthplace of the American Revolution. Before the Civil War the city was home to the most radical and vocal opponents of slavery, a (usually safe) haven for fugitive slaves, and the largest city in which blacks had full political and legal equality. For blacks nineteenthcentury Boston was a place of promise and hope, but it was not always a place where promises could be fulfilled or hopes realized. Even in Boston there was racism and segregation.

The first black known in Boston arrived in 1638. Most, but certainly not all, slaves in the Massachusetts colony were urban, living in Boston, Cambridge, and Newberryport. In 1750 slaves constituted 20 percent of the Cambridge population Slave owners tended to be merchants and artisans who used slaves as laborers and skilled workmen The maritime industry was also the destination of many Boston ...


David Killingray

Exhibition to celebrate the achievements of a global empire recently expanded by the inclusion of territories acquired as a result of the First World War, to encourage Imperial trade, to promote pride in the Empire, and ‘the almost illimitable possibilities of the Dominion, Colonies, and Dependencies overseas’. The Exhibition, staged on a 216‐acre site in Wembley, north London, was opened on St George's Day (23 April) 1924 by King George V with a radio broadcast.

Besides the pavilions provided by each Dominion and the exhibits of the different colonies there were also a Pageant of Empire military tattoos an Imperial Boy Scout Jamboree and re enactments of First World War battles Visitors could also see indigenous people or races in residence as they were called demonstrating local crafts and skills Special postage stamps were also issued Of great importance for many people was the construction of the Wembley ...


Erin D. Somerville

Royally commissioned exhibition run between 4 May and 10 November 1886 in South Kensington, London, showcasing India and the colonies of the British Empire. Over 5 million people attended the Exhibition.

The tone of the Exhibition was one of British patriotism, evidenced by a performance of ‘Rule Britannia’ and a commemorative diploma given to participants depicting female figures representing the colonies paying tribute to Britannia on her throne. A map showing the reach of the British Empire was also displayed in the main hall, as were stereotypical colonial landscapes and trading ships.

Although the objective of the Exhibition was industrial development, exhibits celebrating the natural wealth of the colonies were favoured over those highlighting technological advancements. In addition to an explanation of each display, official Exhibition catalogues contained a list of all the races of the Empire.

The Indian and Ceylonese section was the primary focus and consumed a third ...


Eric Bennett

Detroit was founded by French slaveholders, but when Michigan joined the United States in 1837, the state legislature abolished slavery. The city soon earned a reputation as a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and by the Civil War (1861–1865), fugitive slaves constituted the largest group of African Americans in Detroit. The black community founded a reading room, a Young Men's Debating Club, and even an African-American Philharmonic Association, and many abolitionists made Detroit their center of activity.

After the Civil War, the black population in Detroit increased sevenfold as freedpeople arrived in search of work, largely from Virginia and Kentucky. Empowered by growing numbers as well as the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave freedmen the vote, African Americans began to seek and win local political offices.

By the turn of the twentieth century Detroit s liberal reputation combined with worsening conditions in the South to encourage ...


Jim Mendelsohn

In 1869, when Durham incorporated, African Americans were arriving from the neighboring farmlands they had worked as slaves. Although the American Civil War (1861–1865) had ended, the state of North Carolina passed a Black Code in 1866 and later rejected the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed full citizenship to African Americans. Racist vigilante groups repeatedly attacked African Americans in their first years of freedom. By 1867 hostility and resistance to the laws of the nation led to federal military rule of the state for ten years—the beginning of Reconstruction.

In spite of such difficulties, a black community developed as Durham became the center of tobacco processing in the United States. In 1868Edian Markum organized a school and Union Bethel Church, later St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. By 1870, 698 African Americans lived in Durham.

Between 1870 and the early 1900s black neighborhoods ...


Erin D. Somerville

International industrial exhibition held in London's Hyde Park between 1 May and 15 October 1851. The Great Exhibition was the first gathering of its kind to showcase foreign industry alongside British products. Commissioned by Prince Albert and the Royal Society of the Arts, it was inspired by new theories of free trade and designed to increase peace and understanding between England, her colonies, and the rest of the world.

Britain's colonies played a dominant role in the Exhibition's 15,000 displays. The largest personal contributor was the Indian Ranjit Singh, former ruler of the Sikh kingdom, whose estate was donated to Queen Victoria by the East Indian Company Jewels from the estate were immediately named the Crown Jewels The substantial Indian section also contained displays on the manufacturing of opium embroidered shawls wood and ivory carvings musical instruments agricultural tools armour silks and carpets and was a personal favourite ...


Adam Hochschild

The year is 1897 or 1898. Try to imagine, briskly stepping off a steamer that has just crossed the English Channel, a forceful, burly man in his mid-twenties, with a handlebar mustache. He is confident and well spoken, but his British speech is without the polish of Eton or Oxford. He is well dressed, but the clothes are not from Bond Street. With an ailing mother and a wife and growing family to support he is not the sort of person likely to get caught up in any idealistic cause. His ideas are thoroughly conventional. He looks—and is—every inch the sober, respectable businessman.


Laura Tabili

Indian and Caribbean workers employed in British shipping from the early 19th century.

1.Who were the Lascars?

2.Pay and conditions

3.Black seamen in British ships

4.Racial and gender divisions in maritime labour

5.Lascars, black seamen, and the National Union of Seamen



Fred Lindsey

After giving a speech at the convention of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1840 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Frederick Douglass was asked to join the society and go on the lecture circuit to tell the world about his experiences as a slave. Upon his acceptance of this new position, members of the society made a down payment on a house for Douglass in Lynn, Massachusetts; he moved there with his family in the fall of 1841 to accommodate the society and to indulge William Lloyd Garrison, who was his new employer.

An agricultural community located in eastern Massachusetts on the northern shore of Massachusetts Bay bordered by Saugus and Lynnfield to the west Peabody and Salem to the north Swampscott and the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Nahant and Revere to the south the city of Lynn was an important component in the early formation and subsequent life of ...



Paul Finkelman and Evan Haefeli

African Americans have been a part of Maine's history from its earliest years. As elsewhere in northern New England, the number of African Americans in Maine amounted to roughly 1 percent of the population from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, and even fewer in the seventeenth century. Since Maine was part of Massachusetts from 1658 until 1820, the history of African Americans in Maine is similar to that of Massachusetts, albeit with a few frontier twists.

The first African American known to have been in Maine was a boy named Mingo at York in 1663. He probably was not alone. Evidence indicates that there was a small slave market in York in the mid-seventeenth century. Markets expanded in the eighteenth century, and by 1764 there were an estimated 322 blacks in Maine, most, but not all of them enslaved.

As in most other areas of Massachusetts African ...


Ángel L. Martínez

organizer and leader in the labor movement of Puerto Rico in the early and mid-twentieth century, as well as a politician in pre-Commonwealth island politics, was born in Caguas on 28 April 1887. His life and work mirror both the development of what was at the time Puerto Rico’s labor federation and its political orientation, especially toward the territory’s status as a colony of the United States.

Rivera Martínez grew up as tabaqueros (cigar makers) were organizing for both labor rights and (until 1898, when the United States seized the Spanish colonial possession) independence from Spain. Having left school in order to work in cigar making, Rivera Martínez soon became involved in Puerto Rico’s nascent labor movement as an organizer among sugar and tobacco workers during their strikes in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The labor movement was organized by the Federación Libre de Trabajadores Free ...


Frank Towers

The experience of African Americans in Maryland changed over time. In the 1600s most African Americans were slaves but enjoyed some legal and economic privileges. The advent of plantation slavery in the eighteenth century ended those privileges. Between 1790 and 1860, slavery went into decline and free blacks grew in number; slavery ended during the Civil War but full equality remained elusive.


Eric Bennett

A visitor to Memphis today can still discern the mark of cotton brokerage on the fronts of abandoned offices and warehouses. The visitor can see the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated, hear old and new Blues on Beale Street, and eat barbecued pork ribs in the restaurant owned by blues singer Riley B. (“B. B.”) King.

Memphis sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and was probably named for its geographical similarity to Memphis, Egypt, which flanks the Nile River. Memphis's proximity to the Mississippi River has played a key role in the city's 200-year history. In the antebellum period, regional slave trading and cotton commerce centered on the riverside town. Even after the American Civil War (1861–1865), the economy of Memphis depended on the transport and sale of cotton as well as other goods.

The ...


Aaron Myers

Minas Gerais was a densely forested region sparsely inhabited by Tupi and Guarani Indians before the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century. At that time explorers and bandeirantes (slave raiders) moved inland from São Paulo in search of Indian slaves as well as precious stones and metals.


Pearlie Peters

The town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was an enormously wealthy whaling and shipbuilding seaport known for its economic prosperity, cultural diversity, and ardent abolitionism. New Bedford's strategic location and its abundance of skilled tradesmen in the whaling and shipbuilding trades enabled it to become the center and capital of the American whaling and shipbuilding industry from 1838 to 1847, at a time when Douglass had escaped to Coffin's Wharf in search of employment as a caulker on whaling ships—and of a new life of freedom from brutal slavery.

Congenial race relations flourished in New Bedford. Fugitive slaves were welcomed in lectures held at Liberty Hall, and they were made to feel secure in a city designated as a safe haven by ardent antislavery Baptists and Quakers such as William Rotch Jr., Rodney French, and Nathan Johnson who took Douglass and his family into his home The ...


Graham Russell Hodges and Leigh Kimmel

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with African Americans in New York City from the city s establishment through 1895 The first article provides a discussion of the topic during the colonial period until 1830 while the second article continues the discussion of New York through the nineteenth century ...


Jim Mendelsohn

The first Africans arrived in New York City (then known as New Amsterdam) in 1626, as slaves to the Dutch West India Company. As early as 1630 the community had free blacks, and in 1644 a group of slaves were given conditional freedom. They settled in what is now Greenwich Village, which remained a black neighborhood for nearly 200 years.

In 1664 the English took over New Netherland and renamed it New York, instituting a still more severe form of slavery. Africans, however, began to organize and to protest their enslavement in the early eighteenth century. A slave rebellion in 1712 was brutally suppressed, as was another in 1741, when twenty-nine blacks were executed.

Abolitionist sentiment grew in the city, and in 1787 a law was passed to begin to abolish the practice That same year free blacks founded the African Free School which future black ...


Tony Gass

Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, often referred to simply as “The Avenue,” is the main entertainment and business thoroughfare in the African American community of Upton, once known as Old West Baltimore. The home of the famous Royal Theater, one of a number of entertainment venues on the famed “chitlin circuit,” Pennsylvania Avenue featured nightclubs, movie theaters, and entertainment venues that attracted African Americans nationwide. The Avenue was also the community's main shopping district and the center of African American–owned businesses, although a number of racially discriminatory white businesses operated there during the early twentieth century. Pennsylvania Avenue was also the site of a “Buy Where You Can Work” boycott against segregated businesses during the Great Depression.

The Avenue flourished from the 1920s through the 1960s, but declined in the wake of desegregation and damage caused during the April 1968 rebellions after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King ...


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 ...