“Is a Negro district, in the midst of our fairest cities, to become connotative of the ghetto … ?”
Using corpus analysis to trace the “ghetto” in the black press, 1900–1930 1
ByAvigail S. Oren
Pages 17

This chapter reviews the scholarly literature that explains how the term "ghetto" came to describe African American urban neighborhoods after World War II. It traces the development of a corpus analysis project from beginning to conclusion in order to model how the methodology can be used to answer historical questions, and shows how the findings of corpus analysis qualify the argument that the concept of the "black ghetto" arose in the post-World War II era. The chapter argues that "ghetto" was used in black discourse in the 1920s, before the Nazi ghetto injected the term into popular discourse. The black press captured and published incidences of speechmakers, interviewees, and journalists using the term "ghetto" to pointedly describe segregated urban areas. The Yiddish press brought "ghetto" as a descriptor of black conditions into not only Jewish popular discourse, but also the discourse of a multiracial and multiethnic group of socialists, workers, and unionists.