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The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929

The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929
    Book Description:

    During the Roaring '20s, African Americans rapidly transformed their Chicago into a "black metropolis." In this book, Christopher Robert Reed describes the rise of African Americans in Chicago's political economy, bringing to life the fleeting vibrancy of this dynamic period of racial consciousness and solidarity._x000B__x000B_Reed shows how African Americans rapidly transformed Chicago and achieved political and economic recognition by building on the massive population growth after the Great Migration from the South, the entry of a significant working class into the city's industrial work force, and the proliferation of black churches. Mapping out the labor issues and the struggle for control of black politics and black business, Reed offers an unromanticized view of the entrepreneurial efforts of black migrants, reassessing previous accounts such as St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton's 1945 study Black Metropolis._x000B__x000B_Utilizing a wide range of historical data, The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929 delineates a web of dynamic social forces to shed light on black businesses and the establishment of a black professional class. The exquisitely researched volume draws on fictional and nonfictional accounts of the era, black community guides, mainstream and community newspapers, contemporary scholars and activists, and personal interviews.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09317-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    For over a half century, perhaps the best scholarly work exploring African American life in large, industrialized, northern cities with expanding populations has been St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton’sBlack Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City(1945). This tome’s value to scholarship over the years extended beyond its use as a sociological tool to become a reference and model in related fields. Moreover, its appearance as a major reference in historical studies has been just as widespread, and many of its assumptions have become pervasive in historical interpretation. The study, in particular, examined the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Demography and Ethos
    (pp. 9-33)

    The Jazz Age was a national period filled with anxieties resulting from the unsettling pursuit of world peace, labor and racial unrest, anticipated economic recession, and a besieged value system. Within the South Side black community, a new sentiment prevailed so it was also the age of the “New Negro.” Prohibition challenged the imagination of those who wished to imbibe in violation of the law, leading to highly organized criminal efforts and the creation of an underworld government of sorts. The whirl of life to which Frazier referred could well have been the sound of arriving migrants, whose movement was...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “The Whirl of Life”: The Social Structure
    (pp. 34-70)

    The whirl of life that E.Franklin Frazier observed contemporarily might have been the synergy generated by the various social classes in their collective pursuit of racial progress and the enjoyment of living, the latter quality well noted in a group that learned to laugh and smile despite adversities. For the first time in the history of Chicago, African Americans separated into noticeably distinct groups based on the amount of wealth they possessed and how closely they associated with others with the same level of material resources and interests. St. Clair Drake inChurches and Voluntary Associationsrecognized it a decade...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER 3 The Golden Decade of Black Business
    (pp. 71-117)

    The complementary wing to politics within the Chicago political economy—the business sector—claimed as its leadership the triumvirate of black Chicago commercial enterprise: Robert S. Abbott, Jesse Binga, and Anthony Overton. These men dominated the business activities of the Black Metropolis with their control over finance and information like no others in their community and very much like the business titans found throughout other major Chicago economic enclaves. Business was national king at this time and their collective presence provided a significant part of the foundation of making the Black Metropolis a reality. The economic influence of the 1920s...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Labor: Both Fat and Lean Years
    (pp. 118-145)

    Whatever halcyon days were seen in the business sphere failed to materialize into a comparable experience for the bulk of the black laboring class during the 1920s.¹ Although the war years had brought something positive into the lives of old and new black Chicago residents, the end of war brought a series of negative experiences and ones all too familiar to the black worker in America. Demobilization of the armed forces and the servicemen’s return into the labor force produced a glut of workers. With the Chicago Urban League reporting that unemployment had reached serious proportions, the decade of the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Struggle for Control over Black Politics and Protest
    (pp. 146-185)

    Maintaining the stability of the Black Metropolis within the dynamics of the city’s political economy meant more than promoting growth and development in the business arena and expanding employment and housing opportunities. Politics was to be utilized to meet communal needs in employment and housing, offering the most direct means of improving the collective quality of life in black Chicago. These necessities, rather than signs of racial equality, remained as the primary measurements of progress at a time when civil rights attainment still appeared theoretical and its movement forward seemed stymied. The national office of the NAACP noticed this sentiment...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Transformed Religion and a Proliferation of Churches
    (pp. 186-200)

    Granted that political and economic forces and influences greatly affected the whirl of life in the Black Metropolis, they did not preclude the dynamic power of religion from exerting its sway. African American religious belief and practices were indeed unfettered in their scope. The case was so much so that E. Franklin Frazier in his analysis of religious practices could have added that they manifested themselves among Christians in the increase in independent, Spiritualist religious bodies housed in storefronts along major thoroughfares, along with the breakaway community churches that were founded in 1920 as part of the nationwide Community Church...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Cultural and Aesthetic Expressions
    (pp. 201-208)

    The whirl of life in black Chicago appeared dramatically in many cultural and aesthetic expressions. In its ability to overwhelm most other aspects of life, along with the heightened sentiment during the decade toward materialism and consumption, this composite spirit of creativity, rebelliousness, and celebration submerged reform and civil rights advocacy and challenged religion. Once again, the NAACP memorandum that analyzed the temper of the times and cited the “many diversified interests” that attracted the attention of the mass of the people bears interrogation as to the confluence of time, place, and character.

    As a venue, Chicago historically was a...

  13. Conclusion and Legacy
    (pp. 209-212)

    Perhaps there is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the declarative pronouncement on the meanings and achievements of this single decade of historical significance emanated from the perceptive mind of Joseph D. Bibb. The Alabama native, who attended and graduated from Yale University before beginning his sterling career climb in Chicago politics, had experiences across the ideological spectrum that ranged from conservative to liberal to militant to establishmentarian. He, along with A. C. MacNeal, had excoriated the Pullman porters as they organized independently against the railroad establishment under A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, denounced...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 213-252)
    (pp. 253-264)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 265-271)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-274)