Freedom from want: Blacks and the struggle against inequality in Buffalo, New York, 1930--1960
Esworthy, Barrett David
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This dissertation is a documentation of the various means used by blacks in Buffalo, New York to resist unequal treatment by whites in the city during the three decades between 1930 and 1960. Previous historiography depicting the black experience in the urban North during the mid-twentieth century has tended to portray blacks as passive bystanders and helpless victims in the face of actions by whites that led to discriminatory treatment of blacks. This was not the case. Rather, blacks in northern, urban, industrial centers like Buffalo aggressively sought to have their voices heard and to resist acts of discriminatory treatment that threatened to harm their community, even if they were not always successful in these endeavors. They demonstrated significant levels of what can be called "black agency" in their struggle against inequality in the urban North, and were indeed not the passive bystanders or helpless victims that they have so often been described as in the literature of this subject. In order to demonstrate that this was the case, I have chosen to document in this dissertation attempts by blacks in Buffalo to resist public housing segregation, the efforts of black civil rights groups in Buffalo such as the Urban League and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to combat unequal treatment that blacks faced in the city, blacks' involvement in the electoral process in Buffalo, and the initiatives of black grassroots groups and prominent individuals from black neighborhoods in the city who worked to alleviate instances of inequality. The evidence base for the dissertation includes government documents, papers of civil rights groups in Buffalo located at the Buffalo State College Special Collections and the Library of Congress, newspapers, vertical files, and manuscript collections and personal papers of prominent black groups and individuals in Buffalo's history located at the Erie County Historical Society and the main branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.