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The Negro in Illinois

The WPA Papers

Brian Dolinar

Publication Year: 2013

A major document of African American participation in the struggles of the Depression, The Negro in Illinois was produced by a special division of the Illinois Writers' Project, one of President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration programs. Headed by Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps and white proletarian writer Jack Conroy, The Negro in Illinois employed major black writers living in Chicago during the 1930s, including Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Katherine Dunham, Fenton Johnson, Frank Yerby, and Richard Durham. The authors chronicled the African American experience in Illinois from the beginnings of slavery to Lincoln's emancipation and the Great Migration, with individual chapters discussing various aspects of public and domestic life, recreation, politics, religion, literature, and performing arts. After the project was canceled in 1942, most of the writings went unpublished for more than half a century--until now. Editor Brian Dolinar provides an informative introduction and epilogue which explain the origins of the project and place it in the context of the Black Chicago Renaissance.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

This book is dedicated to those who, over the years, have been the caretakers of the Illinois Writers’ Project papers. Foremost is the role played by librarian Vivian G. Harsh, who in 1943 first agreed to house the IWP papers in her Special Negro Collection at the Hall Branch Library. ...

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. ix-xliv

When the first editions of the American Guide Series were published by the Federal Writers’ Project, one of President Roosevelt’s innovative New Deal programs, they depicted a lily-white image of America. In the 1930s, blacks still remained largely invisible in the textbook accounts of American history. ...

Editor’s Note

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pp. xlv-xlviii

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1. First, the French

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pp. 1-5

There are three drafts of this chapter. Two early versions are located in the Illinois Writers’ Project papers housed at the Harsh Research Collection. The earliest version was written by Robert Lucas. A third draft, the one used here, was written by Arna Bontemps and found in the Bontemps papers at Syracuse University with minor editorial changes in Bontemps’s handwriting, ...

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2. Slavery

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pp. 6-13

Three drafts of this chapter, as well as chapter fragments, are located at the Harsh Research Collection. The more recent version that appears below was written by Arna Bontemps and found at Syracuse University. The editor has incorporated minor corrections made in Bontemps’s handwriting. ...

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3. Abolition

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pp. 14-21

There are three drafts of this chapter at the Harsh Research Collection, all written by Joseph Bougere. Editorial comments made in Bontemps’s handwriting, including the omission of two paragraphs, from a draft found at Syracuse University were incorporated by the editor in the version that appears below. ...

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4. The Underground Railroad

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pp. 22-33

Citizens of Bond County, Illinois, had been harboring runaway slaves as early as 1819. The first known case of dispatching a fugitive from Chicago to Canada occurred in 1839, and in 1844, the decade which saw the rise of the Underground Railroad generally, the Illinois System was bold enough and well enough organized to insert advertisements in local newspapers. ...

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5. Lincoln and the Negro

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pp. 34-40

There are five versions of the first draft of this chapter and one version of the second draft, both with Robert Lucas’s name on them. What appears below is the second draft with significant corrections in Arna Bontemps’s handwriting that have been incorporated by the editor. ...

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6. John Brown’s Friend

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pp. 41-50

One night in March 1856, a band of men moved furtively through the unlighted streets of Chicago. They stopped before a darkened house. The leader went to the door and rapped sharply, while the others waited in the shadows. Presently the door was opened, and a shaft of yellow lamplight fell on the man outside. ...

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7. Leave a Summer Land Behind

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pp. 51-60

There are two drafts of this chapter, both written by Jack Conroy, which can be found in the IWP papers at the Harsh Research Collection. The version that appears here is a significantly shorter draft with comments made in Conroy’s handwriting that have been incorporated by the editor. ...

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8. Rising

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pp. 61-68

The most recent draft of this chapter was found in the Jack Conroy papers at the Newberry Library. It was written by Arna Bontemps. There is an earlier draft at Syracuse University. In the IWP papers, there is also an important thirteen-page essay titled “Americanization” by Fenton Johnson dated April 15, 1940, that was used as source material. ...

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9. Churches

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pp. 69-77

This chapter draft was found at the Newberry Library. It was written by an IWP worker who was only ever listed as “E. Diehl.” It was condensed and significantly rewritten from a much longer seventy-nine-page essay titled “Churches” by George Coleman Moore, also located at Newberry. ...

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10. Soldiers

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pp. 78-97

There are two drafts of this chapter, one at the Harsh Research Collection and the most recent at the Newberry Library. The more recent version that appears here was written by Arna Bontemps. Corrections made in Jack Conroy’s handwriting have been incorporated by the editor. ...

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11. Business

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pp. 98-103

There are several drafts of this chapter. The most recent that appears here was written by Jack Conroy and found at Newberry Library. There is a twenty-page essay and a four-page chapter fragment in the IWP papers with corrections made in Conroy’s handwriting. There is also an earlier version labeled “Business 2nd draft” ...

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12. Work

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pp. 104-109

There are two drafts of this chapter written by Jack Conroy. An earlier draft with footnotes is located in Conroy’s papers at the Newberry Library. The version used here is a draft found at Syracuse University in which Conroy has integrated the footnotes, eliminated sections, and included additional material. ...

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13. Iola

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pp. 110-118

The chapter that appears below was written by Jack Conroy and found in his papers at the Newberry Library. Corrections in Conroy’s handwriting have been incorporated by the editor. An earlier draft is located in the IWP papers. ...

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14. The Migrants Keep Coming

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pp. 119-129

This chapter was written by Jack Conroy, who first planned to conduct a study of the black migration when he joined the Illinois Writers’ Project. The most recent version that appears here was found at Syracuse University. There is an earlier draft in the IWP papers titled “The Great Migration,” with the name of E. Diehl on the front page. ...

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15. The Exodus Train

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pp. 130-143

The most recent draft of this chapter was written by Joseph Bougere and dated May 22, 1942. It was found at the Newberry Library with minor comments in the handwriting of Jack Conroy that have been incorporated by the editor. A copy of the same draft was also found in the IWP papers without Conroy’s corrections. ...

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16. Slave Market

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pp. 144-149

This chapter was reconstructed from two drafts at the Newberry Library. The first draft is a twenty-two-page essay written by E. Diehl, as determined from a footnote with the initials “E. D.” Jack Conroy rewrote the chapter, eliminating the footnotes and shortening it to nine pages, although the first page is missing. ...

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17. Professions

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pp. 150-151

There is a nineteen-page version of this chapter in the IWP papers with Mathilde Bunton’s name on it, but it is choppily written and has several errors. It includes a note in Arna Bontemps’s handwriting, “Reduce to about 6 pages.” A later four-page chapter draft was found in both the IWP papers and in Bontemps’s papers, although it appears unfinished. ...

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18. Health

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pp. 152-155

There are two early drafts of this chapter in the IWP papers, the earlier of the two with Mathilde Bunton’s name on it. The version used here is a third draft that was re-written by Arna Bontemps, copies of which are located at both Newberry Library and Syracuse University. ...

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19. Houses

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pp. 156-164

There are three drafts of this chapter in the IWP papers, one thirty-two pages long, another forty-nine pages, and a twenty-page version that appears here. All drafts were written by Joseph Bougere, with significant comments by Arna Bontemps which included grammatical changes as well as suggestions for cutting sections. ...

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20. Social Life and Social Uplift

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pp. 165-176

There exists one draft of this chapter, copies of which are held at both Newberry Library and Syracuse University. The copy at Newberry includes one small correction. Both copies have footnotes, but only the draft at Syracuse includes a final page with the list of references. ...

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21. Recreation and Sports

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pp. 177-182

Several drafts of this chapter exist. There are three early drafts in the IWP papers at the Harsh Research Collection, a slightly modified draft at the Newberry Library, and the most recent draft at Syracuse University, which appears here. Like much of the project, authorship was shared, as the IWP drafts indicate they were written by Robert Lucas, ...

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22. Defender

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pp. 183-188

The black press was to play a central role in the history of African Americans in Illinois. Before the establishment of The Negro in Illinois, Horace Cayton supervised a study of the black press, plans for which included a ten-chapter book. Much of the work was carried out by black journalist Henry N. Bacon. ...

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23. Politics

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pp. 189-193

There are two drafts of this chapter, one an early draft by Mathilde Bunton, and the other a more recent version that appears here, written by Jack Conroy. Both drafts were found in the IWP papers at the Harsh Research Collection and in Jack Conroy’s papers at the Newberry Library. ...

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24. What is Africa To Me?

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pp. 194-208

This chapter draft, discovered at Syracuse University in the papers of Arna Bontemps, is the only copy known to exist. The title was taken from Countee Cullen’s well-known Harlem Renaissance poem, “Heritage.” More than any other, this chapter was collectively written, but the version that appears here was written by Bontemps. ...

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25. And Churches

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pp. 209-216

This chapter is to be distinguished from chapter nine, “Churches,” this one differing in that it covers storefront churches and “cults.” In the IWP papers, there is a chapter fragment labeled first draft. There is also a longer twenty-one-page draft written by Arna Bontemps at both the Harsh Research Collection and Newberry Library, which is the one that appears below. ...

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26. Literature

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pp. 217-222

There are three drafts of this chapter in the IWP papers at the Harsh Research Collection, including the most recent version which appears here. One labeled “2nd Draft” has Jack Conroy’s name on the first page, indicating he was the author of the chapter. There is a fifty-three-page draft with corrections in Conroy’s handwriting. ...

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27. Music

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pp. 223-230

There were originally plans for an entire book project to be called “History of Negro Music and Musicians in Chicago” that began in late 1939 and continued to July 1940. When Bontemps was first hired on the Illinois Writers’ Project, he supervised this study. ...

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28. The Theater

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pp. 231-239

Copies of the draft that appears here can be found in the IWP papers and in the papers of Arna Bontemps, both of which are identical. It was written by Joseph Bougere. There is an earlier forty-page draft written by Robert Lucas in the microfilm of the IWP papers. ...

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29. Rhythm

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pp. 240-244

There are two drafts of this chapter, both written by Joseph Bougere. One is an early draft in the IWP papers with extensive corrections by Arna Bontemps. There are also two copies of a second draft, one at Syracuse University, which has “office file” written on it with a few additions. ...

Bibliography

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pp. 245-252

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Editor’s Afterword

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pp. 253-256

When The Negro in Illinois was closed down, the editors Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy did not leave behind a conclusion to the twenty-nine chapters they had compiled. As a result, the narrative drops off precipitously at the end of the chapter on “Rhythm.” ...

Editor’s Notes

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pp. 257-274

Editor’s Works Cited

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pp. 275-278

Index

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pp. 279-286

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes

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pp. 336-337


E-ISBN-13: 9780252094958
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037696

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The New Black Studies Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Illinois -- History.
  • African Americans -- Illinois -- Social conditions.
  • Illinois -- History.
  • Illinois -- Social conditions.
  • African Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History.
  • African Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Social conditions.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- History.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions.
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