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Chicago: City of Destruction and Crucible of Black Power

(p.1) Introduction
Crucibles of Black Empowerment
Jeffrey Helgeson
University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the book by opening with the story of Reverend Addie Wyatt. Wyatt was a migrant who made it in Chicago by engaging in a long career of labor, community, and church-based activism. Her story points to the importance of Chicago as a city of destruction and a crucible for black power. The rest of the chapter describes the book’s structure and explains the historiographical implications of the history of the long tradition of black liberalism in Chicago. In particular, the chapter argues that black liberalism must be seen as complementing the more familiar narratives of black radical politics, and providing a way to recover the history of black Chicagoans’ efforts to improve their quality of life in the face of segregation, while placing those efforts in the context of both the limits of liberal politics and the overlapping systems of race, class, and gender inequality black liberals worked to overcome.

Keywords:   Addie Wyatt, Black Power, Liberalism, Segregation, Chicago, Labor, Community, Church-based activism, Black liberalism

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