Black Gotham by Carla L. Peterson
A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City

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Part detective tale, part social and cultural narrative, Black Gotham is Carla Petersons riveting account of her quest to reconstruct the lives of her nineteenth-century ancestors. As she shares their stories and those of their friends, neighbors, and business associates, she illuminates the greater history of African-American elites in New York City. Black Gotham challenges many of the accepted "truths" about African-American history, including the assumption that the phrase "nineteenth-century black Americans" means enslaved people, that "New York state before the Civil War" refers to a place of freedom, and that a black elite did not exist until the twentieth century. Beginning her story in the 1820s, Peterson focuses on the pupils of the Mulberry Street School, the graduates of which went on to become eminent African-American leaders. She traces their political activities as well as their many achievements in trade, business, and the professions against the backdrop of the expansion of scientific racism, the trauma of the Civil War draft riots, and the rise of Jim Crow. Told in a vivid, fast-paced style, Black Gotham is an important account of the rarely acknowledged achievements of nineteenth-century African Americans and brings to the forefront a vital yet forgotten part of American history and culture.

About Carla L. Peterson

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A professor of English at the University of Maryland.
Published February 22, 2011 by Yale University Press. 446 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

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The Wall Street Journal

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Hardly four square miles, Harlem has been on New York's mind for four centuries

Feb 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Black Gotham: A Family Histor...

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