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Along the Streets of Bronzeville

Along the Streets of Bronzeville: Black Chicago's Literary Landscape

Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    Along the Streets of Bronzeville
    Book Description:

    Along the Streets of Bronzeville examines the flowering of African American creativity, activism, and scholarship in the South Side Chicago district known as Bronzeville during the period between the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Poverty stricken, segregated, and bursting at the seams with migrants, Bronzeville was the community that provided inspiration, training, and work for an entire generation of diversely talented African American authors and artists who came of age during the years between the two world wars. In this significant recovery project, Elizabeth Schlabach investigates the institutions and streetscapes of Black Chicago that fueled an entire literary and artistic movement. She argues that African American authors and artists--such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, painter Archibald Motley, and many others--viewed and presented black reality from a specific geographic vantage point: the view along the streets of Bronzeville. Schlabach explores how the particular rhythms and scenes of daily life in Bronzeville locations, such as the State Street Stroll district or the bustling intersection of 47th Street and South Parkway, figured into the creative works and experiences of the artists and writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Providing a virtual tour South Side African American urban life at street level, Along the Streets of Bronzeville charts the complex interplay and intersection of race, geography, and cultural criticism during the Black Chicago Renaissance's rise and fall.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09510-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 From Black Belt to Bronzeville
    (pp. 1-24)

    The South Side of Chicago was dubbed the Black Belt during the late teens. Crowds of people milled about day and night. Popular in the late teens and 1920s, the Stroll—South Parkway Avenue (presently Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard)—was the center of Chicago’s Black Belt. The Stroll served as inspiration for famed African American musicians, artists, and writers, such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks, themselves migrants or the daughters and sons of migrants. This chapter considers these specific sites, even addresses, as geographies of culture production—places where migrants to and residents of Black Chicago...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The South Side Community Art Center and South Side Writers Group
    (pp. 25-49)

    During the Chicago Black Renaissance, there were many community institutions that cultivated the arts, nurtured a budding African American modern consciousness, and carved the way for future generations of migrants, Chicagoans, and African American artists and authors. These institutions included the South Side Community Arts Center (SSCAC),¹ what Anne Meis Knupfer terms “the first black art museum in the United States,”² and the South Side Writers Group (SSWG). These were the intellectual and community centers and arteries of knowledge, culture, and artistry for Bronzeville; these sustained the Chicago Black Renaissance as a whole. Thus informed by these literary and historical...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Policy, Creativity, and Bronzeville’s Dreams
    (pp. 50-74)

    African Americans flocked to Bronzeville, the nation’s most prominent black community, between the wars. Chicago’s labor shortage lured migrants north where work seemed to be the answer to Southern race problems. This belief in the ethics of work helped some capitalize on the migrant experience by joining in the formal economies of the working and middle class, while others overcame formidable odds to gain a rare foothold among the professional classes. But when the Great Depression began and the Great Migration flooded Chicago’s South Side with waves of migrants, once-vital businesses faded as the nation’s economy went sour; migrants, as...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Two Bronzeville Autobiographies
    (pp. 75-93)

    Gwendolyn Brooks, a lifelong Bronzeville resident and the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize, showed an abiding commitment to the people of Bronzeville in this 1969 interview with Contemporary Literature; this commitment made her poetry and fiction so powerful for the duration of her literary career. The people of Bronzeville are her chief inspiration for the works spanning her lifetime from her first publication in 1945, A Street in Bronzeville, to her famed poetry during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. The people of Bronzeville assist her in evoking a great feeling of place in her work;...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Kitchenettes
    (pp. 94-117)

    As Black Chicagoans and the most prominent figures of the Chicago Black Renaissance, Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks stood at the forefront of this vibrant movement in Windy City life. They stand as literary models of the Chicago Black Renaissance, a movement, Adam Green stresses, that engendered a unique cultural consciousness and fostered ideas of racial identity that remain influential today.¹ Brooks and Wright created work that involved complex and compelling debates on the future of their identities—identities paused at the precarious intersection of domestic and transnational politics, modernity, urbanism, segregation, and cosmopolitanism. These intersections contributed to the massive...

    (pp. 118-126)

    Bronzeville’s writers, gamblers, musicians, artists, and businessmen and businesswomen revolutionized their fields. The neighborhood produced the most famous African American male and female writers of that time—Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago’s musicians revolutionized musical performance, dance halls, big-band music, jazz, and bebop. Visual artists made their impact alongside technological developments in radio, newspaper and magazine publishing, and athletics. This book is by no means an exhaustive account of all the remarkable innovators and producers of black culture; never could it be. Lest this study paint too rosy a portrait of Bronzeville, the remarkable cultural output from the Chicago...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 127-148)
    (pp. 149-158)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 159-167)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 168-170)