The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: The New Black Studies Series
Title Page, Copyright
At the end of the twentieth century, I began the daunting task of constructing a one-hundred year history of African America settlement that began during the nineteenth century, along with an exploration of this population’s contributions to the growth and development of Chicago. Along this tortuous path, I was aided by many persons...
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’s Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (1945). This tome’s value to scholarship over the years extended...
1. Demography and Ethos
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...
2. "The Whirl of Life": The Social Structure
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...
3. The Golden Decade of Black Business
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...
4. Labor: Both Fat and Lean Years
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. 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...
5. The Struggle for Control over Black Politics and Protest
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...
6. Transformed Religion and a Proliferation of Churches
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...
7. Cultural and Aesthetic Expressions
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...
Conclusion and Legacy
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...