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The Depression Comes to the South Side

Protest and Politics in the Black Metropolis, 1930-1933

Christopher Robert Reed

Publication Year: 2011

In the 1920s, the South Side was looked on as the new Black Metropolis, but by the turn of the decade that vision was already in decline -- a victim of the Depression. In this timely book, Christopher Robert Reed explores early Depression-era politics on Chicago's South Side. The economic crisis caused diverse responses from groups in the black community, distinguished by their political ideologies and stated goals. Some favored government intervention, others reform of social services. Some found expression in mass street demonstrations, militant advocacy of expanded civil rights, or revolutionary calls for a complete overhaul of the capitalist economic system. Reed examines the complex interactions among these various groups as they played out within the community as it sought to find common ground to address the economic stresses that threatened to tear the Black Metropolis apart.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora

Cover, Title Page, Copyright, List of other Titles in Series, Epigraph

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The last several decades have witnessed a resurgence of popular interest into the dynamics of life in Chicago’s famed black South Side community during the first half of the twentieth century. This curiosity has, in turn, accelerated academic inquisitiveness about the historic Black Metropolis. For its part, recent scholarship has combined with outstanding past academic...

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pp. 1-8

In Dickensian terms, if the decade of the 1920s, dubbed the Jazz or Aspirin Age, represented the best of times with the emergence of a racially self-contained Black Metropolis of national renown, then the decade of the 1930s certainly illustrated all aspects of the worst of times. Both the black-run political machine and the strength of the political economy...

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1. The Impact of the Depression on Home Life, Institutions, and Organizations [INCLUDES IMAGE PLATES]

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pp. 9-34

Nineteen-thirty brought the first full year of the Great Depression and with it the advent of massive economic deprivation for almost every Chicagoan. Economic conditions in Chicago were quite dismal during the three years of the Depression that preceded the New Deal. Economic indicators show that deprivation was prevalent throughout the...

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2. The Ineffectiveness of Conventional Politics

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pp. 35-65

The severity of the social and economic conditions ravaging the black community demanded a political response to the crisis that was immediate and remedial to the fullest degree possible. The Democratic Party in Chicago had figured out a response by 1931 that consisted of presenting itself as politically able to ameliorate the crisis through jobs, as well...

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3. Protest Activism in the Streets: An Alternative to Conventional Politics

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pp. 66-96

Contrary to the observation of an unidentified, and obviously uninformed, senior gentlemen during this period, when more activist-minded African Americans were dissatisfied with the actions or inactions of the political, protest, community, or civic organizations, they engaged in activities that were initiated by ad hoc and special interest...

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4. Organized Protest Responses—From Militant to Revolutionary

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pp. 96-121

Depression-decade circumstances dictated that the most radical and militant organizations purporting to meet the emergent needs of the economically distressed adopt a dual agenda embracing both economic relief and the protection of civil rights.1 Duality was a necessity, because in order to enlist the racially conscious black population of whatever...

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5. Organized Efforts in Behalf of Civil Rights

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pp. 122-131

From previous discussions, it might appear that the only activities in the Black Metropolis during the early Depression were economic in character. However, not all problems or interests in the faltering Black Metropolis were economic, or even derived from economic root causes. In fact, there were activities that involved campaigns against civil rights violations, police...

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6. Cultural Stirrings and Conclusion

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pp. 132-144

The eclipse of the economic prosperity of the previous decade could not halt the explosion of creative energy radiating from the old Black Metropolis. Despite the formidable pall the Depression cast over other aspects of life, art had the power to overcome economics. There were signs of despair and dislocation, to be sure, caused by the latter’s impact...


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pp. 145-166


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pp. 167-175


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pp. 177-182

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005526
E-ISBN-10: 0253005523
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356529

Page Count: 204
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora
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OCLC Number: 757756362
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Depression Comes to the South Side

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century
  • African Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • South Chicago (Ill.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
  • South Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Depressions -- 1929 -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Social aspects.
  • African Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
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