The semester is coming to an end and I'm hoping to build together some themes linked to the black experience around race and class with readings from Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century by Robert Weems Jr.
The examination of the black consumer culture is worth your time. As I examine the postwar experience for African-Americans, this well-researched work makes it clear how the evolution of white views about the black market changed. Rather than see integration as a net positive, Weems analysis demonstrates how the end of segregation created as many problems and it solves. His work helps to contextualize a narrative that I've heard for years from African-American in Hannibal Square. They talk about the economic stability of the segregation era with a consistency that is difficult to managed with students. Without context, my students easily fall into the trap that "segregation was not that bad." Of course, a work like Weems allows us to understand how black economic opportunity within a segregated system functioned and how exploitative commercial practice undermined those communities after segregation. He is especially good talking about the marketing targeting black communities. The racial assumption built into the ads aimed at the black community are worth considering as we talk about what black economic efforts have and have not accomplished.