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Along the Streets of Bronzeville

Black Chicago's Literary Landscape

Elizabeth Schlabach

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The New Black Studies Series


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pp. 1-3


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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface, Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Gwendolyn Brooks, a lifelong resident and Bronzeville native, once wrote, “If you wanted a poem, you had only to look out of a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing.”1 Brooks did an interview much later in life where she was asked if she were disturbed by this environment ...

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Chapter 1. From Black Belt to Bronzeville

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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. ...

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Chapter 2. The South Side Community Art Center and South Side Writers Group

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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. ...

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Chapter 3. Policy, Creativity, and Bronzeville's Dreams

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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 ...

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Chapter 4. Two Bronzeville Autobiographies

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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. ...

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Chapter 5. Kitchenettes

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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 ...

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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. ...


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pp. 127-148


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pp. 149-158


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pp. 159-167

E-ISBN-13: 9780252095108
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037825

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The New Black Studies Series