From City to Suburb: Associations, Ethnic Enclaves, and Public Spaces in Early Twentieth-Century America

AHA Session 221
Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Chicago Ballroom IX (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Heidi Ardizzone, Saint Louis University
Heidi Ardizzone, Saint Louis University

Session Abstract

This panel seeks to historicize the various meanings of “community” for people of color in early twentieth century American cities and suburbs. The papers in the panel explore not only the importance of communities in urban and suburban spaces, but also the myriad ways in which people of color created, defined, transformed, and used these physical, social, and cultural spaces. These papers also illustrate the varying degrees of “community” formations ranging from public institutions in urban and suburban settings to the more intimate spaces of social clubs in family homes. By looking at how racial minorities moved through these spaces and negotiated identities the panel expands upon understandings of race and the meanings of creating public space. This panel is designed to appeal to scholars of American cities and suburbs, immigration, race, and culture.  

Joseph Bernardo’s paper examines the appearance and the disappearance of an ethnic enclave at the heart of downtown Los Angeles. His work uses the “Little Manila” neighborhood in Los Angeles as a central site in which to study the social experiences of its Filipino American residents beginning in the 1930s.  In this space Bernardo explores the ways in which Filipino Americans transitioned from visibility to invisibility in an emerging “multicultural global city.”

In an early suburb outside of Philadelphia, Trecia Pottinger’s paper examines African American-owned public spaces. In particular, her paper looks at club halls and churches in Philadelphia’s Main Line and considers the use of these physical spaces as sites of political and social networking. Pottinger’s focus on these African American institutions explores formations of race, networks, and public spaces and reveals the “internal diversity” of Philadelphia’s Main Line.   

With a focus on more intimate spaces in urban America, Maria Paz Esguerra’s paper looks at miscegenation clubs that gained popularity between the 1930s and 1940s. In cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles these local clubs became important points of connections for mixed-race couples and families who found networks of support within its confines. This paper examines the history of these oft-forgotten clubs and its role in identity making and community formation for multiracial families and their children.

Chair and commentator Heidi Ardizzone brings her knowledge and expertise regarding topics on communities of color and interracial networks in the early twentieth century. She will provide paper comments and help to guide the discussion with the audience.

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