Borchert, James. Alley Life in Washington: Family, Community, Religion, and Folklife in the City, 1850-1970. Blacks in the New World. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980.
In this impressive study, Borchert traces the formation and re-formation of alleys populated mostly by African-Americans who migrated from rural areas to Washington, DC between the Civil War era and 1970. Borchert argues that they created strategies to survive the often harsh and difficult urban experience by remaking the urban environment physically and cognitively to fit their physical, social and spiritual needs--essentially adapting their rural folk culture to the urban landscape. Borchert challenges earlier studies that assumed the breakdown of the primary groups and the destruction of folk society as a result of urban migration. He shows that divergence from mainstream values suggests a different order, rather than mere disorder, as earlier observers noted. Although he admits that there are shortcomings to the study, his argument is supported by many instructive maps, charts, and photographs. The book also includes an important essay in the appendices that argues for the usefulness of photo analysis in historical research. [ S. Vegh]