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Title:The Discourse of Racial Violence: Chicago, 1914--1923
Author(s):Coit, Jonathan S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Oberdeck, Kathryn J.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Black
Abstract:My dissertation argues that African-American leaders, and many sympathetic white elites, initially responded to the 1919 Chicago race riot by mobilizing elements of dominant discourses of race, gender, and class. Middle-class and elites whites, who largely did not participate in the violence, drew on these discourses because these narratives reinforced their own claims to power---their standing as the sole possessors of restraint and reason, in contrast to the "hoodlums of both races" responsible for riot violence. A racism (ideological and institutional) that white elites felt needed little justification, however, lay immediately behind such arguments. By identifying racial violence with unreason, though, these elites suggested that a similarly restrained and rational black elite could work with respectable whites to maintain order. African-American leaders had also identified "hoodlums" as responsible for the riot, yet also wanted to critique the false equality the "hoodlum" narrative suggested. Initially the opening some white elites provided for preventing further violence to blacks---in the form of racist criminal prosecutions---motivated black leaders to forgo their larger aims, refrain from critiquing the notion of race difference itself, and instead argue that it race differences and race prejudice ought not to influence the law. These arguments were successful. But they left unchallenged elite racism among whites---which suggested in many forums that Southern-style racial segregation was the only possible means to avoid future outbreaks. The Chicago Commission on Race Relations both embodied this consensus and challenged it. A full account of the Commission's manifest failures in influencing public policy is another study. Here I want to suggest that, in part, the reason the Commission's frontal assault on biological race produced little substantive change is precisely because it challenged the dominant discourse in ways which had little support. Ultimately, its work was more influential among academics than among ordinary Chicagoans.
Issue Date:2004
Description:237 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3160877
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2004

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