History ETDs

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This thesis is the first work focused directly on race relations and education in Chicago before the Great Migration. Proceeding from the dearth of sources covering black Chicago before the First World War era, I argue three main points. First, I disagree with historians who assert that because African-Americans received certain educational opportunities, this period represented a kind of racial golden age. Only when compared to the South and to the post-World War I period in Chicago, I assert, does the era before 1914 seem racially egalitarian. While members of the black community before the Great Migration were able to attend school with whites and thus were not subjected to the targeted and systematic deprivations that legislated segregation mandated, on an individual basis, black Chicagoans faced second-class citizenship each and every day. Second, I argue that despite the lack of extant primary sources recounting the full extent of segregation during this period, there is evidence that national and regional trends formed race relations in Chicago long before the post-Great War migration. In business, housing, and education, strictures were in place by the end of the Gilded Age that would govern social relations to World War II and after. Third, in the absence of official northern court-imposed Jim Crow laws (or de jure segregation), white Chicagoans turned to informal but organized de facto discrimination to usher in a separation of the races before the turn of the century. Running throughout these arguments is the suggestion that black Chicagoans were active in proportions far beyond their numbers in fighting for their rights as United States, Illinois, and Chicago citizens. In this thesis, I chart the increasing incidence of racial violence in the schools as the black community in Chicago expanded, but I also argue that levels of discrimination were not directly tied to the size of the population. Thus, Chicago was a place of opportunity and restriction for black Americans by the early twentieth century, a city where progress did not come without profound struggle.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Yazawa, Melvin

Second Committee Member

Cahill, Cathleen



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