Chapter One argues that history is a central way that Black towns are identified and narrated. The chapter discusses various narratives about Black towns that focus on particular aspects of the towns’ history and show a complicated appeal of the communities, including racial trauma, loss, and social and economic mobility. Highlighted topics include state narratives about Black towns as emblems of economic success and black social mobility in the past; town elders’ narratives about their family members’ traumatic experiences fleeing the Jim Crow South to seek freedom in a Black town; Black town residents’ narratives of Black businesses and land acquisition as a hallmark of Black town success and history; and community narratives of losing celebrated Black town schools to integration mixed with racism.
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