If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress

Black Politics in Twentieth-Century Philadelphia

Edited by James Wolfinger, With a Foreword by Heather Ann Thompson
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1927-9
Publication: Jul 22

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1926-2
Publication: Jul 22

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1928-6
Publication: Jul 22

260 pages
6 x 9
1 table, 20 figures

Highlighting the creativity, tenacity, and discipline displayed by Black activists in Philadelphia

Read the Introduction


Philadelphia has long been a crucial site for the development of Black politics across the nation. If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress provides an in-depth historical analysis—from the days of the Great Migration to the present—of the people and movements that made the city a center of political activism. The editor and contributors show how Black activists have long protested against police abuse, pushed for education reform, challenged job and housing discrimination, and put presidents in the White House.

If There Is No Struggle There Is No Protest emphasizes the strength of political strategies such as the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” movement and the Double V campaign. It demonstrates how Black activism helped shift Philadelphia from the Republican machine to Democratic leaders in the 1950s and highlights the election of politicians like Robert N. C. Nix, Sr., the first African American representative from Philadelphia. In addition, it focuses on grassroots movements and the intersection of race, gender, class, and politics in the 1960s, and shows how African Americans from the 1970s to the present challenged Mayor Frank Rizzo and helped elect Mayors Wilson Goode, John Street, and Michael Nutter.

If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress cogently makes the case that Black activism has long been a powerful force in Philadelphia politics.

Contributors: Stanley Keith Arnold, David A. Canton, Clem Harris, Timothy J. Lombardo, Stephen J. McGovern, Abigail Perkiss, Alyssa Ribeiro, Heather Ann Thompson, and the editor


If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress is required reading for all who are interested in Philadelphia’s history and the history of race and politics in the urban North. By providing a decade-by-decade analysis of how Black politics—defined both as social movements and electoral politics—in Philadelphia evolved over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, the essays in this volume make major contributions to historical scholarship on African American and urban politics.”—Matthew J. Countryman, Associate Professor of African American and African Studies and History at the University of Michigan, and author of Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia

“A fascinating account of the complexity of twentieth-century Black political activity, If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress is essential for understanding the roots of today’s racial struggles in Philadelphia and beyond.”Lisa Levenstein, Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and author of A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia

Table of Contents

Maps of Philadelphia
Foreword / Heather Ann Thompson

Introduction / James Wolfinger
1. Old Philadelphians, the Great Migration, and the Irony of Progressive Politics / Clem Harris
2. Building Black Philadelphia / David A. Canton
3. The Great Depression and World War II / Stanley Keith Arnold
4. Postwar Philadelphia / Abigail Perkiss
5. The 1960s and Expanding Ideas of Black Rights / Clem Harris
6. African American Politics in Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia / Timothy J. Lombardo
7. Taking Political Power / Alyssa Ribeiro
8. The Insurgent Nature of Black Politics in Contemporary Philadelphia / Stephen J. McGovern

List of Contributors
Illustration Credits

About the Author(s)

James Wolfinger is Dean of the School of Education and holds a joint appointment as Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Department of History at St. John's University. He is the author of Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love and Running the Rails: Capital and Labor in the Philadelphia Transit Industry.