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 There are far too few books from the perspective of poor black women, even

fewer that give them the credit they deserve for pushing local, state, and federal governments to fulfill the promises of the New Deal and the War on Poverty.



The Politics of Public Housing

Black Women's Struggles Against Urban Inequality

By Rhonda Y. Williams

Rhonda Y. Williams appearing at Enoch Pratt Free Library

Central Library/ Wheeler Auditorium / 400 Cathedral Street /  Sunday, February 6, 2005


Part urban history, part collective biography, The Politics of Public Housing weaves nearly 70 years of Baltimore’s public housing past with personal accounts of the war on poverty from those who not only fought it but who lived it daily. It provides an absorbing and intimate portrait of the black women who called the projects their home and fought to keep them that way.

Product Details 320 pages; 21 halftones & line illus.; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4; 0-19-515890-3

Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams is Associate Professor of Women's Studies and History at Case Western Reserve University. A Baltimore native, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Black women have traditionally represented the canvas on which many debates about poverty and welfare have been drawn. For a quarter century after the publication of the notorious Moynihan report, poor black women were tarred with the same brush: "ghetto moms" or "welfare queens" living off the state, with little ambition or hope of an independent future. At the same time, the history of the civil rights movement has all too often succumbed to an idolatry that stresses the centrality of prominent leaders while overlooking those who fought daily for their survival in an often hostile urban landscape.

In this collective biography, Rhonda Y. Williams takes us behind, and beyond, politically expedient labels to provide an incisive and intimate portrait of poor black women in urban America. Drawing on dozens of interviews, Williams challenges the notion that low-income housing was a resounding failure that doomed three consecutive generations of post-war Americans to entrenched poverty. Instead, she recovers a history of grass-roots activism, of political awakening, and of class mobility, all facilitated by the creation of affordable public housing. 


The stereotyping of black women, especially mothers, has obscured a complicated and nuanced reality too often warped by the political agendas of both the left and the right, and has prevented an accurate understanding of the successes and failures of government anti-poverty policy.

At long last giving human form to a community of women who have too often been treated as faceless pawns in policy debates, Rhonda Y. Williams offers an unusually balanced and personal account of the urban war on poverty from the perspective of those who fought, and lived, it daily.— Publisher, Oxford University Press


There are far too few books from the perspective of poor black women, even fewer that give them the credit they deserve for pushing local, state, and federal governments to fulfill the promises of the New Deal and the War on Poverty. Rhonda William’s beautifully written and sweeping narrative makes fresh and important contributions to urban history, African-American women’s history, and the history of poverty policy in this country.—Annelise Orleck, author of Common Sense & a Little Fire

A remarkable piece of work, doing for Baltimore what Making the second Ghetto did for Chicago. Williams brings welcome new light to bear on the struggle of poor black women for respectability and inclusion, inclusion on their terms. Drawing on a rich data set covering forty years, Williams renders vivid portraits of individuals while also conveying a clear conception of the changing societal trends and public policies with which they had to contend.—Charles Payne, author of I’ve Got the Light of Freedom

An innovative study of the history of the activist work of low-income black women. Deeply researched and eloquently rendered, this book provides a new model for understanding urban political history—not from the bottom up, but from the inside out.—Barbara Dianne Savage, author of Broadcasting Freedom


The Politics of Public Housing presents a new face and place of civil rights struggle—poor women in the Baltimore “projects” and their mobilization for adequate housing income, education, and dignity. Rhonda Williams has written an illuminating and provocative study of black women who waged their own war on poverty in the 1950s and 1960s.—Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, author of Righteous Discontent

Moving from the New Deal and World War II through the War on Poverty and the new social movements of the 1970s, The Politics of Public Housing illuminates the grassroots activism of poor black women for decent shelter and adequate income in fresh and surprising ways. After Williams, scholars will have to consider housing as a major domain of the welfare state. Hers is a most important study.—Eileen Boris, editor (with Nupur Chaudhuri) of Voices of Women Historians

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The Black Power Movement
Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era

Edited by Peniel E. Joseph

The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era is a bold new look at the Black Power Movement, a social movement during the 1960s that re-defined black identity.  The essays in this collection argue that the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement grew out of the same postwar political climate that galvanized many types of civil rights activists.  With essays that reconsider the roots of the 1965 Watts uprising, the formation of the Black Panther Party, and the “rainbow radicalism” that inspired ethnic minorities to celebrate their ethnic consciousness, among other topics, these powerful collected works look at the era of the Black Power Movement with fresh eyes.

Contributors: Peniel E. Joseph, Keith Mayes, Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Kimberly Springer, Jeanne Theoharis, Stephen Ward, Simon Wendt, Rhonda Y. Williams, Yohuru Williams, Komozi Woodard

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Panther Baby

A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention

By Jamal Joseph

In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring. Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter. He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling.

He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division. . . . In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement. . . .

His shooting death at a Macon County service station became a rallying point for opponents of racial inequality during the late 1960s. Despite the demonstrations, Segrest was not indicted for Younge's murder until November 1966 and was found innocent by an all-white jury the following month. Younge's death also spurred action from SNCC, which called a press conference on January 6, 1966, to declare its opposition to the war in Vietnam, the first statement of its kind by a civil rights organization. Younge's death was highlighted at the press conference as an example of the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom abroad while rights were denied in the United States and was used as a call for people to refuse the draft and work for freedom at home instead.Encyclopedia of Alabama

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: Exploring  Race, Gender, Class in Public Housing   The Politics of Public Housing  The Political Thought of James Forman  Control, Conflict, and Change   Forty Years of Determined Struggle 

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