Roundtable Multi-racial, Multi-ethnic Chicago: Social Relations in the Twentieth-Century City

AHA Session 75
Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Michigan Room B (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Dominic A. Pacyga, Columbia College
James R. Barrett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lilia Fernandez, Ohio State University
Michael D. Innis-Jiménez, University of Alabama
Lionel Kimble, Chicago State University

Session Abstract

Made up of junior and senior scholars that focus on African American, Latino, and Irish Chicago, this panel highlights new cutting-edge work on the racial and ethnic history of Chicago.  Each scholar brings a new dimension to the study of race and ethnicity in the Windy City. Drawing on research from early twentieth century Chicago, Jim Barrett focuses on Irish Chicago. As thousands of new immigrants, Black and Mexican migrants, and others poured into American cities in the early twentieth century, they met the Irish who were already entrenched in city neighborhoods, workplaces, unions, and political organizations.  Barrett argues for and explains the key position of the Irish in twentieth century Chicago, for good or ill, in the formation of a new multi-ethnic city.  Michael Innis-Jimenez examines how racialized hiring practices, race riots, and an ongoing revolution in Mexico not only contributed to Mexican migration to the Chicago area, but played a significant role in creating a vibrant Mexican immigrant and Mexican American communities before World War II.  Complicating our understanding of race relations in postwar Chicago, Lilia Fernandez examines Chicago’s racial dynamics as large numbers of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans entered ethnic “white” neighborhoods.  These new Latino/a residents tested the racial and ethnic boundaries of those communities and their presence in such neighborhoods often precipitated racial hostility, conflict with local police, and urban unrest that can not be explained through a black and white lens.  Lionel Kimble uses the life and career of “Two-Gun Pete,” a famous African-American Chicago police officer who “was so bad he made thugs go to jail on their own”, to explore the connections of race, power, and limits of black masculinity as they played out on the streets of Chicago’s segregated South Side during the 1940s and 1950s.

Although we expect an audience with a wide-spectrum of interests, scholars who focus on African American, Latino, ethnic, immigration, urban, and Chicago histories will be particularly interested in this session.

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