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Black Metropolis

A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City


With a New Foreword by Mary Pattillo
Ground-breaking when first published in 1945, Black Metropolis remains a landmark study of race and urban life. Few studies since have been able to match its scope and magnitude, offering one of the most comprehensive looks at black life in America. Based on research conducted by Works Progress Administration field workers, it is a sweeping historical and sociological account of the people of Chicago's South Side from the 1840s through the 1930s. Its findings offer a comprehensive analysis of black migration, settlement, community structure, and black-white race relations in the first half of the twentieth century. It offers a dizzying and dynamic world filled with captivating people and startling revelations.

A new foreword from sociologist Mary Pattillo places the study in modern context, updating the story with the current state of black communities in Chicago and the larger United States and exploring what this means for the future. As the country continues to struggle with race and our treatment of black lives, Black Metropolis continues to be a powerful contribution to the conversation.

See additional material for the book.

912 pages | 7 halftones, 1 line drawing, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 1945, 2015

Black Studies

Chicago and Illinois

History: Urban History

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology


Black Metropolis is a rare combination of research and synthesis, a book to be deeply pondered. . . . No one who reads it intelligently can ever believe again that our racial dilemma can be solved by pushing buttons, or by gradual processes which may reach four or five hundred years into the future.”


“This volume makes a great contribution to the building of the future America and the free world.”

New York Times

“By virtue of its range, its labor and its insight, the book seems certain to become a landmark not only in race studies but in the broader field of social anthropology.”

New Republic

"Black Metropolis has long occupied a place of honor on urban studies syllabi. Its authors combine the imaginative, methodical discipline of Chicago School urban sociology with the razor-sharp critical legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois."


Table of Contents

Foreword by Mary Pattillo
Authors’ Acknowledgment
Introduction by Richard Wright
Introduction: Midwest Metropolis


1. Flight to Freedom
2. Land of Promise
3. The Great Migration
4. Race Riot and Aftermath
5. Between Two Wars


6. Along the Color-Line
7. Crossing the Color-Line
8. The Black Ghetto
9. The Job Ceiling
10. The Shifting Line of Color
11. Democracy and Economic Necessity: Breaking the Job Ceiling
12. Democracy and Economic Necessity: Black Workers and the New Unions
13. Democracy and Political Expediency


 14. Bronzeville
 15. The Power of Press and Pulpit
 16. Negro Business: Myth and Fact
 17. Business Under a Cloud
 18. The Measure of the Man
 19. Style of Living—Upper Class
 20. Lower Class: Sex and Family
 21. The World of the Lower Class
 22. The Middle-class Way of Life
 23. Advancing the Race


24. Of Things to Come
A Methodological Note by W. Lloyd Warner
Notes and Documentation
Bronzeville 1961
Appendix: Black Metropolis 1961
Postscript 1969
A List of Selected Books Dealing with the American Negro
Suggestions for Collateral Reading, 1962
Suggestions for Collateral Reading, 1969
Supplemental Bibliography, 2015

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