Joshua Guild

Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, Princeton University


Spring 2012: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow

Shadows of the Metropolis: Urban Space and the Making of Black Communities in Postwar New York and London

Project Description

Shadows of the Metropolis: Urban Space and the Making of Black Communities in Postwar New York and London

Shadows of the Metropolis is a comparative and transnational examination of black community formation in central Brooklyn and west London between World War II and the early 1980s. It joins together the stories of African-American and British Caribbean migrants into a common narrative of race, citizenship, and neighborhood change in two of the world’s great cities over the course of four decades. Shadows of the Metropolis imaginatively links histories of migration and settlement that, to date, have typically been considered separately but which are, I contend, best understood as part of a shared analytical framework. I argue that the dramatic postwar expansion of Brooklyn’s black community and the contemporaneous emergence of a vital Caribbean migrant enclave in west London can be fruitfully understood as constituting complementary segments of a larger whole, helping to illuminate the postwar reshaping of the African diaspora.

The book asks how the experiences of U.S. black southerners moving to the urban North relate to those of their Anglophone Caribbean migrant counterparts in the same period. It interrogates the construction of urban black identities and the dynamics of community against the backdrop of fading and ascendant empires, colonial independence, and civil rights and black power insurgencies. Through critical examinations of anti-black violence and police abuse, the rise and evolution of Caribbean-style Carnivals, and the circulation and performance of various black popular musical forms, the book uses urban space – particularly public space – as an analytical lens through which to view these interlocking narratives of settlement and community formation. Shadows of the Metropolis argues that claims to public space were central to black migrants’ efforts to develop the bonds of community, express feelings of belonging and affiliation, and exercise citizenship rights in both New York and London.

You are here