In this book, author J.T. Roane shows how working-class Black communities cultivated two interdependent modes of insurgent assembly—dark agoras—in twentieth century Philadelphia. He investigates the ways they transposed rural imaginaries about and practices of place as part of their spatial resistances and efforts to contour industrial neighborhoods. In acts that ranged from the mundane acts of refashioning intimate spaces to expressly confrontational and liberatory efforts to transform the city’s social and ecological arrangement, these communities challenged the imposition of Progressive and post-Progressive visions for urban order seeking to enclose or displace them.
Under the rubric of dark agoras Roane brings together two formulations of collectivity and belonging associated with working-class Black life. While on their surface diametrically opposed, the city’s underground—its illicit markets, taverns, pool halls, unlicensed bars, as well as spaces housing illicit sex and informal sites like corners associated with the economically and socially disreputable--constituted a spatial and experiential continuum with the city’s set apart—its house meetings, storefronts, temples, and masjid, as well as the extensive spiritually appropriated architectures of the interwar mass movements that included rural land experiments as well as urban housing, hotels, and recreational facilities. Together these sites incubated Black queer urbanism, or dissident visions for urban life challenging dominant urban reform efforts and their modes of producing race, gender, and ultimately the city itself. Roane shows how Black communities built a significant if underappreciated terrain of geographic struggle shaping Philadelphia between the Great Migration and Black Power. This fascinating book will help readers appreciate the importance of Black spatial imaginaries and worldmaking in shaping matters of urban place and politics.
"Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, Dark Agoras fundamentally alters our understanding of Black Philadelphia. Documenting how Black migrants cultivated the spiritual, cultural, and social world around them, Roane reveals the city to be an epicenter of insurgent collectivity and unceasing defiance, challenging long held narratives about Black urbanity and pathology. _Dark Agoras _peels back the layers of the City of Brotherly Love to show how Black Philadelphians transgressed and transformed their social-spatial order from slavery to the present. It fundamentally reshapes how we should think about Black urban life, culture, and liberation." ~Ashley Farmer, author of Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era
"J. T. Roane brilliantly theorizes Black sociality, sensibility, and spirituality in historical conjuncture. Roane uses archival and critical resources beautifully, situating this work firmly in the Black studies tradition while simultaneously making exciting new interventions. Most of all, Dark Agoras is a stunning story of insurgent world making that will have a significant impact on the world of ideas." ~Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University
J.T. Roane is assistant professor of Africana Studies and Geography and Andrew W. Mellon chair in the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University.
Jessica Marie Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Department(http://history.jhu.edu/directory/jessica-johnson/)of History at the Johns Hopkins University and a Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is also the Director of LifexCode: Digital Humanities Against Enclosure. Johnson is a historian of Atlantic slavery and the Atlantic African diaspora. She is the author of Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2020).