Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 256–272 | Cite as

Southern Black Metropolis: Position, Place, and Population Below the Mason-Dixon Line

  • Robert L. BoydEmail author


Which black communities in cities beneath the Mason-Dixon Line (demarcating the US South and North) enhanced blacks’ entry into occupations of the early twentieth-century Black Metropolis? (that is, professional, entrepreneurial, public service, and cultural production occupations). An answer to this question informs theory and research on the urban South’s black communities. Census data analyses address the question, testing hypotheses about position, place, and population effects. Washington, DC’s border position and place-related advantages enhanced blacks’ entry into all Black Metropolis occupations, net of the city’s sizable black population. These advantages, stemming from the city’s unique role as the nation’s capital and its venerable black elite class, made Washington, DC’s black community a prime location for the southern Black Metropolis, contrary to arguments that Black Metropolises could not exist below the Mason-Dixon Line in the early twentieth century.


US South Black communities Urban locations Early twentieth century 



  1. Aldrich, H., Cater, J., Jones, T., McEvoy, D., & Vellman, P. (1985). Ethnic residential concentration and the protected market hypothesis. Social Forces, 63(4), 996–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blalock, H. M., Jr. (1967). Toward a theory of minority-group relations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  3. Borjas, G. J. (1995). Ethnicity, neighborhoods, and human-capital externalities. American Economic Review, 85(3), 365–390.Google Scholar
  4. Boyd, R. L. (1996). The great migration to the north and the rise of ethnic niches for African American women in beauty culture and hairdressing, 1910-1920. Sociological Focus, 29(1), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd, R. L. (2007). Historically black colleges and universities and the black business elite. Sociological Perspectives, 50(4), 545–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyd, R. L. (2009a). Depletion of the south’s human capital: the case of eminent black entrepreneurs. Southeastern Geographer, 49(3), 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyd, R. L. (2009b). Urban locations of eminent black entrepreneurs in the United States. Urban Studies, 46(10), 2061–2078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyd, R. L. (2015). The ‘black metropolis’ in the American urban system of the early twentieth century: Harlem, Bronzeville, and beyond. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(1), 129–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Breton, R. (1964). Institutional completeness of ethnic communities and the personal relations of immigrants. American Journal of Sociology, 70(2), 193–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Butler, J. S. (2005). Entrepreneurship and self-help among black Americans: a reconsideration of race and economics. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fischer, C. S. (1975). Toward a subcultural theory of urbanism. American Journal of Sociology, 80(6), 1319–1341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Florida, R. (2002). The economic geography of talent. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 92(4), 743–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frazier, E. F. (1957). The Negro in America. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Gatewood, W. B. (1990). Aristocrats of color: the black elite, 1880–1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gregory, J. N. (2005). The southern diaspora: how the great migrations of black and white southerners transformed America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  16. Grigoryeva, A., & Ruef, M. (2015). The historical demography of racial segregation. American Sociological Review, 80(4), 814–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hawley, A. H. (1972). Population density and the city. Demography, 9(4), 521–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Higgs, R. (1976). Participation of blacks and immigrants in the American merchant class, 1890–1910: some demographic relations. Explorations in Economic History, 13(2), 153–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ingham, J. N. (2003). Building businesses, creating communities: residential segregation and the growth of African American business in southern cities, 1880-1915. The Business History Review, 77(4), 639–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson, C. S. (1943). Patterns of Negro segregation. New York: Harper and Brothers.Google Scholar
  21. Lieberson, S. (1980). A piece of the pie: blacks and white immigrants since 1880. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Meier, A. (1963). Negro thought in America, 1880-1915: racial ideologies in the age of Booker T. Washington. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  24. Meier, A., & Rudwick, E. (1976). From plantation to ghetto. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  25. Myrdal, G. (1944). An American dilemma. New York: Harper and Brothers.Google Scholar
  26. Ogburn, W. F., & Duncan, O. D. (1964). City size as a sociological variable. In E. W. Burgess & D. J. Bogue (Eds.), Contributions to urban sociology (pp. 129–147). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Pearce, D. W. (1986). The MIT dictionary of modern economics. Cambridge: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rabinowitz, H. N. (1980). Race relations in the urban south, 1865-1890. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  29. Reed, C. R. (2011). The rise of Chicago’s black metropolis, 1920–1929. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sowell, T. (1981). Ethnic America: a history. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  31. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1933a). Census of population: 1930. Volume 2. General report: Statistics by subjects. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  32. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1933b). Census of population: 1930. Volume 4. Occupations by states. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  33. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1933c). Census of population: 1930. Volume 5. General report on occupations. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  34. Waldinger, R. (1996). Ethnicity and opportunity in the plural city. In R. Waldinger & M. Bozorgmehr (Eds.), Ethnic Los Angeles (pp. 445–470). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

Personalised recommendations