Struggles, triumphs of city’s Blacks revealed

Joe William Trotter believes that African-American history cannot be fully understood without knowing the trials and triumphs that Black Pittsburghers endured.

“When we looked across the country at Black history, Pittsburgh wasn’t one of the cities represented. How can we fully understand African-American history without Pittsburgh?” said Trotter, Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice and head of the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. Trotter, a West Virginia native, has authored numerous other books on history including, “The African American Experience and River Jordan: African American Urban Life in the Ohio Valley.”


That’s why Trotter and writer Jared N. Day collaborated to pen, “Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War II.”

“This book was an opportunity for me to write on an area that I live in. We wanted to help discussions on race and inequality. People need to study the African-American experience. People who want to change the conditions they live in would benefit from studying history so they don’t feel so isolated and overwhelmed,” Trotter said.

The first book of its kind, “Race and Renaissance” illuminates how Pittsburgh’s African-Americans came into their present moment in history. It examines the origins of such events as the second Great Migration, Jim Crow during the post war years, the second ghetto, the civil rights and Black Power movements and the Million Man and Million Women marches.

“A lot of the civil rights issues that took place happened right here in Pittsburgh and it altered the landscape in the country,” said Day, an adjunct professor and research associate in Carnegie Mellon’s history department. He is also the author of “Urban Castles: Tenement Housing and Landlord Activism in New York City, 1890-1943.”

The 352-page manuscript, which started out as an accompaniment to an oral history project, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Trotter received a grant from the Falk Fund to help with the book’s publication.

Both Trotter and Day hope readers of “Race and Renaissance” will gain a deeper understanding of what Pittsburgh’s Blacks endured while striving for better working conditions, educational opportunities and living conditions.

“African-American life has changed tremendously. Some things have improved over time. There were great victories during the civil rights movements. There’s a lot that Pittsburgh and the nation can be proud of,” Trotter said.

“But this book also shows how certain forms of inequality have stuck over time. We have to continue to fight this to change these conditions. The fight against inequality in the past provided inspiration from the courage and determination from early African-Americans during that time period,” Trotter added.

(To purchase a copy of “Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War II, visit


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