Chicago's New Negroes

Chicago's New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life

DAVARIAN L. BALDWIN
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807887608_baldwin
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    Chicago's New Negroes
    Book Description:

    As early-twentieth-century Chicago swelled with an influx of at least 250,000 new black urban migrants, the city became a center of consumer capitalism, flourishing with professional sports, beauty shops, film production companies, recording studios, and other black cultural and communal institutions. Davarian Baldwin argues that this mass consumer marketplace generated a vibrant intellectual life and planted seeds of political dissent against the dehumanizing effects of white capitalism. Pushing the traditional boundaries of the Harlem Renaissance to new frontiers, Baldwin identifies a fresh model of urban culture rich with politics, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship.Baldwin explores an abundant archive of cultural formations where an array of white observers, black cultural producers, critics, activists, reformers, and black migrant consumers converged in what he terms a "marketplace intellectual life." Here the thoughts and lives of Madam C. J. Walker, Oscar Micheaux, Andrew "Rube" Foster, Elder Lucy Smith, Jack Johnson, and Thomas Dorsey emerge as individual expressions of a much wider spectrum of black political and intellectual possibilities. By placing consumer-based amusements alongside the more formal arenas of church and academe, Baldwin suggests important new directions for both the historical study and the constructive future of ideas and politics in American life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0463-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction ‘‘Chicago Has No Intelligentsia’’? CONSUMER CULTURE AND INTELLECTUAL LIFE RECONSIDERED
    (pp. 1-20)

    By 6 P.M. on the Fourth of July 1910, black communities all over the country had exploded into an unexpected and seemingly synchronized outburst of race pride and national patriotism. In Philadelphia, ‘‘Lombard Street, the principal street in the negro section, went wild.’’New York Agecolumnist Lester Walton observed, ‘‘I have never seen so many colored people reading newspapers.’’ TheBoston Globereported, ‘‘Youngsters scarcely more than pickanninies, young girls, women and old men, walked up and down the streets with heads erect and chests protruding,’’ and in Hutchinson, Kansas, ‘‘prayers broke loose into street singing and dancing.’’ Along...

  5. Chapter One Mapping the Black Metropolis: A CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE STROLL
    (pp. 21-52)

    Six years before cultural critic Alain Locke made an almost identical (and more famous) claim about the Harlem Renaissance, the impact of the Great Migration encouraged writer Howard Phelps to remark, ‘‘Professional men are leaving the South on the trail of their clients and patients who have settled in Chicago.’’ In the same 1919 essay, Phelps offered an extensive documentation of prominent black church and amusement landmarks complemented by the individual accomplishments of black entrepreneurs and leaders as indications of racial respectability in the city. HisHalf-Century Magazine essay, ‘‘Negro Life in Chicago,’’ was followed by the Progressive Book Company’s...

  6. Chapter Two Making Do: BEAUTY, ENTERPRISE, AND THE ‘‘MAKEOVER’’ OF RACE WOMANHOOD
    (pp. 53-90)

    In 1912, Booker T. Washington presided over the three-day annual convention of his National Negro Business League (NNBL) held that year at the Institutional Church and Social Settlement, founded on Chicago’s South Side just twelve years earlier by black socialist reformer Reverend Reveredy Ransom. The young upstart ‘‘beauty culturist’’ Madam C. J. Walker also came to Chicago, arriving in a chauffeur-driven Model T convertible touring car, with hopes of addressing this distinguished group of race entrepreneurs about her business accomplishments. However, throughout the conference, Washington pointedly denied her any opportunity to speak from the floor and refused to acknowledge those...

  7. Chapter Three Theaters of War: SPECTACLES, AMUSEMENTS, AND THE EMERGENCE OF URBAN FILM CULTURE
    (pp. 91-120)

    In 1915, writer Juli Jones, the pen name for Chicago’s race film pioneer William Foster, made the bold proclamation, ‘‘Moving pictures offer the greatest opportunity to the American Negro in history of race from every point of view.’’ This statement was such a declarative pronouncement that a connection between the film enterprise and race pride seemed a foregone conclusion. But Foster was not simply attracting consumer patrons to his version of an accepted black cultural institution; he was also trying to convince the race that the ‘‘moving picture business . . . is the Negro business man’s only international chance...

  8. Chapter Four The Birth of Two Nations: WHITE FEARS, BLACK JEERS, AND THE RISE OF A ‘‘RACE FILM’’ CONSCIOUSNESS
    (pp. 121-154)

    The 1915 filmThe Birth of a Nationby D. W. Gri¡ffth was pathbreaking in its ability to bring together many of the devices and conventions from older visual arts and early cinema into the form of an epic, melodramatic feature film. Furthermore, this film garnered national legitimacy by press agents and philanthropists and even off¡cial endorsement by President Woodrow Wilson, who had been a professional historian before his political career. Equally important was its 1915 release date positioned at the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Civil War, making it a powerful cinematic and popular revision of Reconstruction...

  9. Chapter Five Sacred Tastes: THE MIGRANT AESTHETICS AND AUTHORITY OF GOSPEL MUSIC
    (pp. 155-192)

    In his landmark 1903 collection of essays,The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois examined the dogged persistence of a color line into the twentieth century. In the most general sense, he argued that this racial demarcation continued to deform the moral and democratic promise of the nation while unintentionally encouraging a ‘‘second sight’’ in the descendants of slaves that could offer America salvation from its sinfully materialistic ‘‘Gospel of Wealth.’’ According to Du Bois, America’s ‘‘brutal dyspeptic blundering’’ and abuse of power was embodied in the nation’s vulgar music, and, to continue the metaphor, he concluded...

  10. Chapter Six The Sporting Life: RECREATION, SELF-RELIANCE, AND COMPETING VISIONS OF RACE MANHOOD
    (pp. 193-232)

    Two years after his historic 1910 defeat of Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson gave an address at a Chicago theater where he seemed to realize the larger significance of the victory. Johnson reflected that he ‘‘used to see white folks celebrating on July 4,’’ but his defeat of Jeffries gave members of the race ‘‘an equal chance to make merry on that day.’’ More than just a general celebration, the nationwide, unprecedented, collective, and excessive black occupation of public space after the fight matched the frustratingly extravagant ways in which this southern migrant from Galveston, Texas, executed lopsided victories and lived...

  11. Epilogue The Crisis of the Black Bourgeoisie, Or, What If Harold Cruse Had Lived in Chicago?
    (pp. 233-242)

    In Alain Locke’s period shaping, landmark anthology,The New Negro: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Chicago sociologist E. Franklin Frazier celebrates, ‘‘No longer can men say that the Negro is lazy and shiftless and aconsumer. . . . He is a producer. He is respectable.’’ Accordingly, the shift from consumer to producer frees the race from ‘‘the Negroes’ native love of leisure and enjoyment of life.’’ At first glance, it seems odd that such a bold endorsement for enterprise over culture appeared in a cultural anthology likeThe New Negro. However, Frazier and members of the cultural elite,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 243-296)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-354)
  14. Index
    (pp. 355-363)