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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No Place Like Home: A History of Domestic Architecture in Springfield & Clark County, Ohio

Berkhofer, George H. No Place Like Home: A History of Domestic Architecture in Springfield & Clark County, Ohio. Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2007.

I am always looking for titles about Springfield and I was especially eager to get my hands on No Place Like Home because I knew there would be much on South Fountain Street. South Fountain Street Historic District is just off of downtown Springfield and I would say it has one of the best assortment of late Nineteenth Century Victorian homes in Ohio.

Berkhofer has been able to put together a coffee table book that is very readable. The book was not quite what I expected. He goes into more than enough detail about the background and national/international players behind each style up until the early 20th Century. This book would work as an excellent introduction to historic domestic architecture in America, sans a few regional styles outside of Ohio. It is not A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester (the benchmark in the field), but it is also not designed to be a reference guide.

Let me assure you that South Fountain Street is well documented in this book along with other notable districts like East High Street. As you pass through time chronologically you start to see when and how the city took shape. For those familiar with Springfield and environs, Berkhofer has a welcome knack for detailing the history of specific homes and architects. Many of these homes are still standing today. This information is not always easy to come by and it is nice to have it in an indexed book.

The images are in black and white or sepia. While more color would be nice, there is a quiet dignity to photographs of old homes in black and white. And, do not get me wrong, the photographs and graphics are excellent in No Place Like Home. Enough so, that I would have purchased this title without the architectural history included. Though, I should reiterate that I am always looking for books about Springfield.

Now if I could only find a good book on the architecture of downtown Springfield.

South Fountain Historic District

Clark County Historical Society