Mary Pattillo

The Future of Black Neighborhoods

Dr. Mary Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University. 
By Deserae E. del Campo

Dr. Mary Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University. 

The Future of Black Neighborhoods

By Deserae E. del Campo
Esteemed sociologist Dr. Mary Pattillo will present a talk at UM examining the future of Black neighborhoods in the U.S.

For Dr. Mary Pattillo, the city of Chicago is her real-life laboratory and its neighborhoods are her resources.

Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and on April 26, she will share her expertise on Chicago’s history, politics, and social life with a lecture discussing the present and future of Black communities in the U.S.

A native of Milwaukee, Pattillo earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and established an esteemed career in sociological research studying major sectors of the field, from race to ethnicity, the black middle class, policy and inequality, urban sociology and urban housing issues, public education, and the criminal justice system.

“My lecture at the University of Miami is an attempt to intervene in the sociology of Black communities that always focuses on the negatives, such as poverty and violence,” says Pattillo, who is building her lecture from the landmark book Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City written in 1945 by St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton.

“This monumental book recognizes the two sides of Black communities,” she adds. “There are certain themes that sociologists often study that tend to lean toward the negative, but then there are also themes like creativity, productivity, family-life, and celebration that should also be considered. My talk will highlight these themes as a framework and emphasize the importance of why sociologists need to integrate a balanced approach to discussing today’s Black communities.”

Raised in an all-black neighborhood in Milwaukee, Pattillo grew up in a middle-class family. She attended an all-black elementary school and a high school in a wealthy, white suburb through a busing desegregation program. Her childhood experiences presented both racial and class inequalities up close, but it also spawned her drive to study race in American cities.  

Pattillo is the author of Black Picket Fences, which investigates the economic, spatial, and cultural forces that affect child-rearing and youth socialization in a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The book won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association. Her second book, Black on the Block focuses on gentrification and public housing transformation in North Kenwood-Oakland on Chicago's South Side. It won the Robert Park Book Award and a proclamation of the city of Chicago.

Dr. Mary Pattillo’s lecture will be held at the Donna Shalala Student Center, Room 302, on April 26, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. To RSVP, click here.

The lecture is a Colloquium Series Presentation co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Sociology and the Sociology/Criminology Club.