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[History] ILLINOIS- America's First Black Town
America's First Black Town: Brooklyn, Illinois, 1830-1915
Brooklyn, Illinois, was founded in 1830 by a group of free blacks and escaped slaves. Cha-Jua, an associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University, traces the development of the town over 85 years, with particular emphasis on the struggle of the citizens to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Cha-Jua is a black nationalist with Marxist leanings. As a result, much of his analysis seems unfairly skewed against the "white capitalist power structure." He seems locked into a dualistic, zero-sum mindset in which anything that benefits capitalists in nearby white communities must hurt blacks in Brooklyn.
Still, if one looks past the author's biases, this is a valuable and often inspiring saga of determined African Americans striving and sometimes succeeding in their efforts to build a viable, independent community in the face of blatant, virulent racism and, later, more subtle forms of discrimination. Jay Freeman