Southeastern Michigan Bibliography

A resource guide for students, educators, researchers, Michiganders, and everyone else

Life for us is what we make it : Building Black community in Detroit, 1915-1945

Thomas, Richard Walter. 1992. Life for Us Is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

At the time this book was published, sociology and social history relied on models of social pathology or proletarianization to explain the struggles of Black people in cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago.  To contest this, Thomas sought to focus on what he termed “community building,” in which he emphasized individual agency and the cross-cutting and sometimes directly conflicting class interests of various sectors of Detroit’s Black population.  Contemporary reviews have faulted the study for uneven scholarship and a broad-brush treatment, but it offers useful treatments of middle class organizations such as trade associations and newspapers, and in particular the Detroit Urban League.

Also available electronically (EMU community)




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Supported by a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association.


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