African Americans and the Rise of Buffalo’s Post-Industrial City, 1940 to the Present (1990)—a State of Black Buffalo Report

Inspired by W.E.B. Dubois’s Philadelphia Negro, this interdisciplinary study launched the UB Center for Urban Studies, then called the Center for Applied Public Affairs Studies.  The study was sponsored by the Buffalo Urban League in partnership with City of Buffalo Common Council.  The study was to be modeled after the Urban League “State of Black Buffalo” model, but given the dynamic changes that were taking place in the city in 1990, we want to produce a bolder and more visionary portrait of the black community than the typical Urban League reports.  This approach gave birth to African Americans and the Rise of Buffalo’s Post-Industrial City.  This is the most comprehensive study ever conducted of Buffalo’s black community.  It brought together scholars from the fields of history, sociology, education, economics, criminology, urban studies, and urban planning. The book grappled with the issues of work, education, housing, crime, and the organizational structure.  One of the most important findings was that an organizational mismatch existed.  We had a set of problems driven by economic hardship and blighted neighborhoods, but or organizations were set up only to deal with the symptoms of those problems.

There were two very unique dimensions to this study. The first is that we rooted the study with a chapter on the history of African Americans in Buffalo.  The second is that concluded the book with a detail set of policy recommendations. While the scholarly community conducted the research, a team of almost 30 practitioners poured over their findings and then developed a comprehensive set of recommendation to attack the problems facing Black Buffalo. The study called for the establishment of a Development Zone that would cover the entire East Side and the launching of a variety of initiatives to solve the problems facing blacks. The Black Buffalo study captured the imagination of a generation of practitioners, but its bold strategy was never implemented.  One reason is that the Urban League never embraced the strategy.  So, without a lead organization to drive the planning and implementation of the strategy, it was never implemented.