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Crucibles of Black EmpowermentChicago’s Neighborhood Politics from the New Deal to Harold Washington$
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Jeffrey Helgeson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226130699

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226130729.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 23 July 2021

The Politics of Home in Hard Times

The Politics of Home in Hard Times

(p.25) Chapter One The Politics of Home in Hard Times
Crucibles of Black Empowerment

Jeffrey Helgeson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines black women’s “politics of home” during the Great Depression. The chapter builds upon historian Earl Lewis’s notion of the “home sphere,” in which political actors envision their “homes” as encompassing the household, the neighborhood, the black community as a whole, and more. Drawing upon interviews with black Chicagoans and a block-by-block land use survey – both completed in the late 1930s by the federal Works Progress Administration – the chapter details how women engaged in politics to fight the declining quality of life in the Depression. Some women fought to hold onto the relatively privileged position they had won in the early twentieth century, while others used the resources of the New Deal to strengthen existing community-based activism and expand access to economic relief and political power. Their stories highlight the long-term contributions of black women to Chicago’s politics, the tensions between individual and community interests in neighborhood politics, as well as the ways that the growing federal government changed local politics in the 1930s.

Keywords:   Great Depression, Works Progress Administration, New Deal, Black Women, Chicago, Community, Home Sphere, Urban Politics, Neighborhood

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