Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Integration is often characterized as an effective means of fixing the problems associated with segregation. Whether with respect to residential segregation, education, or to public spaces in general, integration is seen as a way to undo the perils of racial segregation. Yet often times, integration takes a certain reified form with a large white majority and non-white minority. How do lived experiences of Black residents in integrated spaces affect their perceptions of integration? Drawing on data collected from arcHIVal research, participant observation, and in-depth interviews with long-term African American residents, this dissertation examines the ways in which race, space, and historical moment intersect with one another and shape the meaning of integration in the city of Evanston, Illinois.

Evanston is an ideal case for understanding how the lived experiences of Black residents in statistically diverse cities affect how they make sense of integration because Evanston has had Black and White residents since its inception in the 1800s. In its early history, Evanston was integrated but went through a period of acute and intentional segregation as the Black population began to increase in the early twentieth century. In the 1960s, Evanston was the first northern city to voluntarily integrate its public-school system, leading to integrated public schools across the district despite persistent residential segregation. After nearly fifty years of city-sanctioned integration, however, many long-term Black residents struggle from "integration fatigue" because they are a minority in all institutions after having had their own thriving, albeit segregated, institutions. This integration fatigue, which many interviewees described as the result of "integration being done on the backs of our children", has led to the push to build a new school in the majority minority district of Evanston called the Fifth Ward. I argue that the lived experiences of Black residents in the city of Evanston shape their views on integration in the 21st century.

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