Not Just a World Problem: Segregation, Police Brutality, and New Negro Politics in New York City

Shannon King

in Escape from New York

Published by University of Minnesota Press

Published in print September 2013 | ISBN: 9780816677382
Published online August 2015 | e-ISBN: 9781452947877 | DOI:
Not Just a World Problem: Segregation, Police Brutality, and New Negro Politics in New York City

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This chapter examines racism, segregation, and police brutality that engulfed New York City at the height of the New Negro era. It argues that black self-protection activity in Harlem operated as a rejection of “white definitions of black rights, opportunities, and sociability” in residential and public places during the period, with New Negroes actively asserting their “claims to citizenship and equal civil and political rights with whites.” It juxtaposes the trope of Harlem as the “Negro mecca” with the lived experiences of Harlemites waging physical battle over urban space in the first three decades of the twentieth century. By analyzing the combined forces of racial violence and black self-protection practices, the chapter highlights the still prevalent conceptualization of interwar Harlem as primarily a site of New Negro cultural and intellectual production and even as a model of racial comity. It insists that the political radicalism of New Negro politics persisted throughout the 1920s and 1930s, as opposed to most scholars’ claim that the New Negro of Harlem marked a moment of black political decline, with an increased focus on culture.

Keywords: racism; segregation; police brutality; New York City; New Negro; self-protection; Harlem; racial violence; political radicalism; politics

Chapter.  7750 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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