Culture of opportunity: Obama's Chicago : the people, politics, and ideas of Hyde Park
Rebecca Janowitz's portrait of Hyde Park-the Chicago South Side neighborhood long noted for its progressive politics-offers an expert, insider's social and political perspective on this intriguing community that in many ways nurtured Barack Obama's political career and made possible his run for the presidency. Sixty years ago-due to a major community grassroots organizing effort, followed by a publicly funded urban renewal program-the Hyde Park-Kenwood area of Chicago emerged as a diverse, politically confident community in a key lakefront location within a city noted for its segregated neighborhoods, cultivating a rich and congenial cultural tradition. Before achieving racial balance, Hyde Park had become a center of progressive politics dating from the late nineteenth century. Scholarly reformers-many from the University of Chicago, by then a part of the community-as well as clergy, women, and blacks had sought more influence in the city from a base in Hyde Park. The neighborhood offered a political alternative for people throughout Chicago who were dissatisfied with the city's corrupt patronage politics. Hyde Park was ready for Barack Obama as a political contender before he was ready to assume that role. As early as the 1960s, Hyde Park reformers were looking for strong black leaders to serve a progressive white constituency as well as the black community. The willingness of Hyde Parkers, especially progressive Jews, to rally behind Harold Washington helped him become Chicago's first black mayor and a mayor committed to reform. In the course of Obama's rise to power, Hyde Park proved its usefulness again as a sounding board, support system, and launching pad for political change. Culture of Opportunity will introduce you to one of the most distinctive and unusual neighborhoods in the United States.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) There's definitely a fascinating book to be written about the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, and of all the personality changes it's gone through over the last century and a half; originally developed whole-cloth in the middle of the wilderness in the mid-1800s, it was the location of the hugely influential 1893 World's Fair (which then afterwards was turned into a public-park showcase for Frederick Law Olmsted's experimental theories on landscape design), was envisioned from its outset to be the home of the University of Chicago, to this day one of the American Midwest's only world-class schools, and was literally one of the only urban areas in the entire country to thrive during the "white flight" years of the 1950s and '60s, creating the mixed-class, mixed-race, liberally intellectual environment that produced our current President, Barack Obama. Unfortunately, though, Rebecca Janowitz's Culture of Opportunity is not that book, but instead is the living embodiment of what rural conservatives complain about when discussing places like Hyde Park, an intolerably pollyannish apologia for the New Agey neighborhood and its shiny, happy denizens that is so smugly self-righteous, I could barely even make it through the masturbatory, forever-back-slapping first chapter. The very definition of preaching to the choir, this 250-page bohemian-bourgeoise rah-rah will make those who don't already adore the concept of Hyde Park simply hate it even more, and may in fact end up serving the opposite purpose in many eyes than the neighborhood boosterism Janowitz meant for it to be in the first place. Out of 10: 4.5
Review: Culture of Opportunity: Obama's Chicago: The People, Politics, and Ideas of Hyde ParkUser Review - Goodreads
It's not a bad book, if you take it as a short introduction to the history of the politics of Hyde Park (HP). There's not a lot of detail, but that's the point. There's just enough to get your feet ...
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