"The facts of urban life presented here are in their starkest form," Richard Wright wrote in the original foreword to this penetrating study of Chicago's South Side, first published in 1945. "To have them presented otherwise would have been to negate the humanity of the American Negro." Nearly 50 years later, sociologist William Julius Wilson wrote that Black Metropolis
"allows us to consider the significance of a segregated community heavily populated with working poor adults in contrast with a segregated community largely populated with nonworking adults." Simply put, sociologist St. Clair Drake and researcher Horace Cayton produced one of the most comprehensive studies of an African American urban enclave ever written. As in W.E.B. Du Bois's groundbreaking treatise The Philadelphia Negro
, the contradictions and complexities of the Afro-American experience are expertly articulated without Eurocentric bias. Using traditional scientific methods of analysis, Cayton and Drake show the existence of a racial color line that keeps blacks segregated in economics, education, and politics, creating a vital cultural city within a city. More importantly, though, Black Metropolis
makes the South Side come to life, with Drake and Cayton's hilarious, idiomatic references to the areas' many social groups--from the clothes-conscious, number-running "Upper Shadies" and the respectable "Race Men" of "Bronzeville" to the hypocritical "jackleg" preachers--and their richly detailed explanations of such phenomena as "passing" and the black Chicago community's interactions with white-led organized crime. --Eugene Holley Jr.
About the Author
John Gibbs St. Clair Drake (1911–90) was a sociologist and anthropologist who founded African American Studies programs at Roosevelt University and Stanford University. His books included Social Work in West Africa, Race Relations in a Time of Rapid Social Change, and Black Religion and the Redemption of Africa.
Horace R. Cayton (1903–70) was an American sociologist known for his studies of working class black Americans, particularly in mid-twentieth-century Chicago. His books included Black Workers and the New Unions and Long Old Road—An Autobiography.