Date of Award

10-8-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Clifford M. Kuhn - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Ian C. Fletcher

Third Advisor

Dr. Charles G. Steffen

Abstract

History of African American underclass community in northwestern DeKalb County, Georgia, from its settling in the late-1920s to its present displacement through gentrification. Thesis is that black underclass communities are the result of America's historic racism and subordination of blacks, whose members are left little choice but to engage in illegality as survival strategies. The work reveals the hard-work routines of people relegated to the bottom of American society, as well as their fun-loving leisure activities and embracing of vice as pleasurable. Established during Jim Crow segregation, Lynwood Park cultivated a reputation for danger and toughness to keep out outsiders, so that its children could have some semblance of a "normal" upbringing. The community's color line was then patrolled by dangerous men who created somebodiness for themselves as tough protectors, which ensured that they would be emulated as heroes. The work records the social and cultural history of the community as recalled and interpreted by residents in an oral interview project. Covers community organizations and institutions, such as churches and schools, as well as tensions within the community and tensions against both the white and black outside. Records social life of partying, hog killings, barbecues, baseball, drag racing. Includes culture of illegality and vice, school desegregation, racism, and the community's relationship to DeKalb County, its affluent white neighbors, and the various dynamics that eventually led to the displacement of the traditional black residents. The work challenges the golden-age-of-the-ghetto argument and demonstrates that Lynwood Park suffered from intragroup tensions and was not a safe cocoon for all its residents. The interviews also reveal that many children were left behind in the community's school during segregation because institutional caring generally rallied around only those children who demonstrated academic potential and a desire to eschew the negative dynamics of the enclave's street life. The work also demonstrates the ways in which whites were implicated in promoting, and profiting from, the community's illegality, which led to the eventual displacement of the traditional black residents.

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