Now Is the Time!

Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism

Now Is the Time!

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 2 photos, 18 tables, 2 maps, 11 figures Published: September 2009

Author: Todd C. Shaw

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Politics > Political Science, Sociology > Urban Studies

In Now Is the Time! Todd C. Shaw delves into the political strategies of post–Civil Rights Movement African American activists in Detroit, Michigan, to discover the conditions for effective social activism. Analyzing a wide range of grassroots community-housing initiatives intended to revitalize Detroit’s failing urban center and aid its impoverished population, he investigates why certain collective actions have far-reaching effects while others fail to yield positive results. What emerges is EBAM (Effective Black Activism Model), Shaw’s detailed political model that illuminates crucial elements of successful grassroots activism, such as strong alliances, strategic advantages, and adaptive techniques.

Shaw uses the tools of social movement analysis, including the quantitative analysis of budgets, electoral data, and housing statistics, as well as historical research and personal interviews, to better understand the dilemmas, innovations, and dynamics of grassroots activism. He begins with a history of discriminatory housing practices and racial divisions that deeply affected Detroit following the Second World War and set the stage for the election of the city’s first black mayor, Coleman Young. By emphasizing downtown redevelopment, Mayor Young’s administration often collided with low-income housing advocates. Only through grassroots activism were those advocates able to delay or derail governmental efforts to demolish low-income housing in order to make way for more upscale development. Shaw then looks at present-day public housing activism, assessing the mixed success of the nationally sponsored HOPE VI project aimed at fostering home ownership in low-income areas. Descriptive and prescriptive, Now Is the Time! traces the complicated legacy of community activism to illuminate what is required for grassroots activists to be effective in demanding public accountability to poor and marginalized citizens.


Now is the Time! is . . . a timely book that offers an important corrective to recent works on Detroit, and provides crucial lessons for activists and academics who are committed to developing more equitable and democratic lives for low-income residents.” — David Goldberg, American Studies

“[Shaw’s] study, based on interviews with activists and government officials, contributes to an understanding of the often-overlooked struggles against urban retrenchment in the 1980s and 1990s.” — Karen R. Miller, Journal of American History

“Shaw’s text is significant for anyone interested in grassroots activism, issues of affordable housing, or the relationship between activism and the political sphere. . . . In today’s era of active citizenship and social volunteerism, Shaw’s book leaves a textual legacy of those who actively engaged their communities and political leaders despite economic, gender, and racial divides.” — Stacia Kock, thirdspace

“Students of community activism, black politics, and social movements will find this to be a rich resource. . . . For those eager and willing to explore how and when the boundaries of electoral and black politics can be expanded, or at the very least challenged, by black activism, this book will be an interesting read.” — Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, Political Science Quarterly

“The book is also a well-researched addition to the body of literature that analyses how cleavages in blacks’ collective identity affect black politics and social movements. . . . Now is the Time is recommended for social movements, urban politics and black politics scholars, particularly those interested in predicting and evaluating movement outcomes.” — Glenn Bracey, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Now Is the Time! is a valuable and significant contribution to black and urban politics as well as social movement studies. Todd C. Shaw gives us a deep analysis and rich description of the conditions under which poor and marginalized people may make their voices heard. His interviews yield more than data—the words of the activists make us feel the tenor of the times, and help us understand what motivates activists as well as politicians to fix a problem. Anyone concerned about the conditions of our urban communities needs to read this book.” — Andrea Y. Simpson, author of The Tie That Binds: Identity and Political Attitudes in the Post-Civil Rights Generation

“What makes this book so significant is that it places African-American politics within the context of grassroots organizing and local coalition-building. Using the case of Detroit and focusing on the mayoralty of Coleman A. Young, Todd C. Shaw explores how grassroots groups have organized and mobilized in Detroit around low-income and affordable housing. In particular, it explores how these groups have strategized during Young’s long reign. This book is a must read for those interested in racial politics, urban politics, and urban housing policy.” — Marion Orr, Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Brown University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Todd Shaw is Assistant Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. The Right Tactic, Time, and Place 1

Part I. From Black Politics to Grassroots Protest

1. Making Black Activism Matter 13

Part II. Black Grassroots Activism and Accountability in Detroit, 1933–1993

2. Where are the People? Early Black Housing Poverty and Grassroots Activism 39

3. Trading Activism: The Young Regime and the Context of Black Politics 64

4. Picking Up Spears: The Timing and Utility of Renewed Activism 85

5. Holding Them Responsible: Community Development Activism 106

6. Now Is the Time!: Public Housing and Anti-Homelessness Activism 133

Part III. Black Grassroots Activism after Young and beyond Detroit, 1993–2005

7. A Change is Gonna Come? The Archer Regime and Housing Politics beyond Detroit 163

Epilogue. More than a Drop: The Visions of Black Grassroots Activism 191

Appendix 1 197

Appendix 2 201

Notes 209

Bibliography 245

Index 279
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, W. E. B. Du Bois Distinguished Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4508-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4495-7
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