American Babylon By Robert O. Self Summary

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If one wished to study and examine the post-World War II urban and suburban life of American cities, then look no further than American Babylon by Robert O. Self. Blending political, urban, and social histories of California, specifically Oakland and East Bay, Self attempts to demonstrate how “black power” and “white flight” are two generalized, yet overused, terms used to describe the “centrality of metropolitan history” in postwar America. (2) Rather than relying on the same, retold stories of the South’s historic Civil Rights Movement, Self chooses to focus on separate issues. While African Americans of Oakland and East Bay did not escape prejudice, racism, and Jim Crow, their story isn’t as much as a struggle for personal liberty but rather the struggle for assets, wealth, equal distribution, and political affluence. Ironically, just as it seemed African Americans were on the brink of their biggest political triumph, a tax revolt effectively limited their power. As Self demonstrates throughout the book, Oakland and East Bay exemplified two of America’s “most important postwar political traditions: a broad liberal one that ought expansions of the social wage and racial equality; and an equally broad…show more content…
In part one, Self describes the optimistic visions of postwar America and the growth liberalism. However, this optimism quickly fades, as citizens of Oakland watch their property values decline in rapid fashion, leading to a rapid decline of white citizens in the inner city. Famously known by historians as ‘white flight’, this is the migration of most white citizens from cities to the newly built suburbs that surrounded the city. While many historians claim this was an effect of the mass black exodus from the volatile South, Self sees it differently. Rather than fleeing the city and the new black residents, Self argues that the idea of a better life and powerful economic reasons spurred the

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