James Wolfinger, "If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress: Black Politics in Twentieth-Century Philadelphia" (Temple UP, 2022)


If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress: Black Politics in Twentieth-Century Philadelphia (Temple UP, 2022) provides an in-depth historical analysis of Philadelphia politics from the days of the Great Migration to the present. Philadelphia has long been a crucial site for the development of Black politics across the nation and this volume emphasizes 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 Progress demonstrates that “Philadelphia must be central to any analysis of African American political history.”

But politics means more than elected office and the book highlights 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. The book highlights 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 (white) Mayor Frank Rizzo and helped elect (Black) Mayors Wilson Goode, John Street, and Michael Nutter.

Dean James Wolfinger (he/him/his) serves as dean of the School of Education at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. In addition to editing If There Is No Struggle There Is No Progress, Dr. Wolfinger wrote Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love (University of North Carolina Press, 2011) and Running the Rails: Capital and Labor in the Philadelphia Transit Industry (Cornell University Press, 2016). Dr. Wolfinger edited the volume and authored the introduction.

Dr. Stanley Arnold (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor of American History at Northern Illinois University. His scholarship focuses on the civil rights movement outside the South and the intersection of race and sports in the United States. He wrote Building the Beloved Community: Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Movement and the Origins of Multiculturalism, 1930-1970 (University Press of Mississippi, 2014) and his forthcoming book, Beacons of their Race: African Americans and the Olympic Movement, 1896-1948, explores the impact of African American athletes on the early Olympic Games. Dr. Arnold’s chapter “The Great Depression and World War II” analyzes the gradual realignment of Black voters to the Democratic party between 1932 and 1945, the centrality of employment as the crucial issue for Black voters, the role of women in politics, and the complex interaction of activists, community leaders, and elected officials.

Dr. Alyssa Ribeiro (she/her/hers) is the Henry A Logan, Sr, Professor of American History at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She is currently finishing a book on multiracial activism in late 20th-century Philadelphia which is under contract with University of Chicago Press. Dr. Ribeiro’s chapter “Taking Political Power,” highlights the complex coalitions that elected Black mayors, the role of labor politics, the shadow of the carceral state, and the manner in which Philadelphia cannot be understood outside the wider national landscape of austerity politics. 

Ms. Daniela Lavergne at Saint Joseph’s University served as the editorial assistant for this podcast.

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Susan Liebell

Susan Liebell is a Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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