A House for the Struggle

The Black Press and the Built Environment in Chicago
Author: E. James West
Black media buildings and why they matter
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 04/26/2022
Cloth: 04/26/2022
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About the Book

Buildings once symbolized Chicago's place as the business capital of Black America and a thriving hub for Black media. In this groundbreaking work, E. James West examines the city's Black press through its relationship with the built environment. As a house for the struggle, the buildings of publications like Ebony and the Chicago Defender embodied narratives of racial uplift and community resistance. As political hubs, gallery spaces, and public squares, they served as key sites in the ongoing Black quest for self-respect, independence, and civic identity. At the same time, factors ranging from discriminatory business practices to editorial and corporate ideology prescribed their location, use, and appearance, positioning Black press buildings as sites of both Black possibility and racial constraint.

Engaging and innovative, A House for the Struggle reconsiders the Black press's place at the crossroads where aspiration collided with life in one of America's most segregated cities.

* This publication is made possible with support from Furthermore grants in publishing, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

About the Author

E. James West is a research associate in American history at Northumbria University. He is the author of Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America.

Also by this author

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr. cover


"A fresh and engaging work that explores how the design of a built environment can often be a destiny. " --Chicago Review of Books

"A House for the Struggle is an eye-opening, compelling read in which West shows that Black press buildings on Chicago’s South Side were symbolic of community pride, unity and success, as well as crucial meeting places in the fight for Black autonomy and civil rights." --NewCity

"A well-conceived, effectively researched, and fascinating book." --Choice

"West's A House for the Struggle is a well-written and thought-provoking chronicle of urban, media, African American, labor, and cultural history. The connections between political, spatial, economic, and cultural institutions were unique and other cities could model a similar investigation on the local built environment of African American industry." --H-Net Reviews


"A House for the Struggle breaks new ground by assessing Chicago's Black newspapers and magazines together, and by connecting them to the buildings and neighborhoods where they operated. E. James West reminds us that journalists with national reach and tremendous ambition still faced the frustrations and indignities of life in a segregated metropolis, and he helps us to understand Chicago as the true capital of the twentieth-century Black press."--Julia Guarneri, author of Newsprint Metropolis: City Papers and the Making of Modern Americans

"A House for the Struggle provides fresh insights into the history of the Black press in Chicago. Through the lens of the built environment, West's compelling narrative takes us inside the newsrooms of the Defender, Ebony, and other rival publications--from their humble origins to the height of their power. But what makes this book extraordinary is how West examines these shifting Black spaces of journalism as crucial sites of intellectual labor, ideological debate, and enterprise that profoundly shaped Chicago urban history, Black identity, and protest politics in twentieth century America."--Erik S. Gellman, author of Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay


•  Winner, Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award, 2022
• Winner, ULCC's Outstanding Book on the History of Chicago 2023 Award, Union League Club of Chicago, 2023
• Honorable Mention, 2021-22 RSAP Book Prize, Research Society for American Periodicals, 2023
• Winner, Superior Achievement, Best of Illinois History, Illinois State Historical Society Awards, 2023
• Winner, Michael Nelson Prize of IAMHIST, International Association for Media and History, 2023
• Winner, Book of the Year, American Journalism Historians Association, 2023
• Winner, BAAS Book Prize, British Association for American Studies, 2023
• Winner of the 2023 The Brinck Book Award and Lecture series, created in honor of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, by the University of New Mexico School of Architecture + Planning, 2023