"A meticulously researched and fascinating examination of almost 200 years of African American life in Geneva, New York, a small Northern city. Based upon sources ranging from newspapers to interviews to census data, this work depicts a richly varied black community. The title reveals the central theme: faced with an essentially racist and hostile white majority, black Genevans applied a variety of strategies to 'make a way'—ranging from accommodation to mild protest. . . . Highly recommended."—Library Journal
"Grover's prose is lively, but what makes this work significant is her ability to connect primary source material to theoretical discussions of community building, migration, segregation, integration, religion, politics, and African American culture."—Choice
In a groundbreaking book, Kathryn Grover reconstructs from their own writings the lives of African Americans in Geneva, New York, virtually from its beginning in the 1790s, to the time of the community’s first civil rights march in 1965.
She weaves together demographic evidence and narratives by black Americans to recount their lives within a white-controlled society. Make a Way Somehow, which reflects the tenor of the gospel song whence it came, is a complete and meaningful history of black Genevans, with a moving focus on the individual experience. The author traces five principal migrations of African Americans to northern cities: the forced migration of slaves from the East and South before 1820; the antebellum fugitive slave farm-to-town movement; the postwar migration of emancipated people; the so-called Great Migration between the two World Wars; and the last movement that began around 1938 and ended in 1960, which was precipitated by the need for workers in large-scale commercial agriculture and the war-mobilization effort.
Grover pieces together the lives of generations of African Americans in Geneva and delineates the local system of race relations from the city’s social and economic standpoint. Black Genevans were kept at the fringes of society and worked in jobs that were temporary and scarce. While antislavery and suffrage work was common, it represented but a small portion of reform in towns whose broader sentiments opposed racial equality. In a work that spans more than a hundred years, the author establishes a context for understanding both the persistence of a small group of blacks and the transience of a great many others.
Kathryn Grover is an independent researcher, writer, and editor in American history based in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She is the author of Geneva's Changing Waterfront.
6 x 9, 336 pages, 61 black and white illustrations