A Little More Freedom

Blocker, Jack S.  A Little More Freedom: African Americans Enter the Urban Midwest, 1860-1930.  Columbus, Ohio; The Ohio State University Press, 2008.

Though the title refers to 1860 to 1930, the bulk of A Little More Freedom covers the years leading up to the Great Migration (sometimes referred to the First Great Migration from approximately 1915 to the Great Depression.  The Second Great Migration would refer to the years 1940 through 1970) of southern African-Americans to northern cities.  The big question Blocker puts out is why the migration pattern switched from African-Americans moving to small towns and cities predominately prior to 1890 and then almost exclusively to larger urban centers (cities of over 100,000 people in 1900 — in Ohio, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo).

Reading the description of this title reminded me of another read a few years ago, James Loewen’s Sundown Towns.  In fact, just prior to the publication of A Little More Freedom, Sundown Towns was published (which was mentioned in Blocker’s introduction).  Loewen hypothesizes that starting around 1890, European American populations in many small towns and cities throughout America (but particularly in the Midwest) actively blocked and eliminated diversity through intimidation and violence.  This was the era of the end of Reconstruction, Plessy vs. Ferguson, eugenics studies, and European American initiated race riots (included riots in Springfield in 1904 and 1906 and Akron in 1900).  Blocker acknowledges Loewens argument and does not disagree with it, but argues that there are more reasons why migration patterns ended up as they were.  In general, where intimidation was absent (or not as immediate), economics trumped other reasons.  This was especially the case industrial cities in northern Ohio after 1915. Continue reading

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High Stakes

Curry, Timothy Jon, Kent Schwirian, and Rachel A. Woldoff.  High Stakes: Big Time Sports and Downtown Redevelopment.  Columbus, Ohio; The Ohio State University Press, 2004.

One of the recurrent themes spoken by developers and civic officials in Columbus as reported in High Stakes was that getting an NHL team would make the metropolis a Major league city.  I don’t know if there is any way on measuring a Major League city (other than having a major league team), but Columbus landed the Blue Jackets expansion team in 1997 (starting play in 2000-01), adding it to the expanding list of new “Major league” towns.  These cities (such as Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City in Basketball) join the old guard of major league cities which were well established as major metropolis at the turn of the 20th Century (though maybe not so much anymore).

High Stakes tells the story of how Columbus landed a hockey franchise by looking  at one of the most instantly forgotten historic events – the failed referendum.  In 1997, the residents of Franklin County rejected a 50 cent sales tax increase that would go towards paying for an arena (for hockey) and a soccer stadium for the already established Columbus Crew of the MLS.  (The Crew played at OSU stadium at the time).  From the jaws of defeat, within a week, a new franchise owner and arena deal was procured through private (with some public) funding.  Eventually a soccer only stadium was built through mostly private funding on the state fair grounds.  Everyone won, including those consumers who would have needlessly (it seems) paid higher sales taxes to build such stadiums.  A main point throughout High Stakes, is that a strong opposition is healthy for referendum issues.   Continue reading