The 20th-century history of African-American migration to the urban North is often told as a tale of declension. Leaving the repressive South, blacks soon found that life was little better in Northern cities, where discrimination, bitter poverty and unmitigated segregation continued to inform the African-American experience. Acts of resistance are often noted in this narrative, and attention is paid to the legal and political gains that African-Americans made in the face of such severe oppression, including 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet the story almost always ends with African Americans falling victim to the city, the field of play for the modern condition. Deindustrialization, white flight and the rise of the black “underclass” all serve to underscore the high price that modernity has exacted on the black community. Within this narrative, African . . .