University of Illinois Press

The New Black Studies Series

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The Negro in Illinois

The WPA Papers

Edited by Brian Dolinar

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 After the project was canceled in 1942, most of the writings went unpublished for more than half a century--until now.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.

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The Pekin

The Rise and Fall of Chicago's First Black-Owned Theater

Thomas Bauman

In 1904, political operator and gambling boss Robert T. Motts opened the Pekin Theater in Chicago. Dubbed the "Temple of Music," the Pekin became one of the country's most prestigious African American cultural institutions, renowned for its all-black stock company and school for actors, an orchestra able to play ragtime and opera with equal brilliance, and a repertoire of original musical comedies.A missing chapter in African American theatrical history, Bauman's saga presents how Motts used his entrepreneurial acumen to create a successful black-owned enterprise. Concentrating on institutional history, Bauman explores the Pekin's philosophy of hiring only African American staff, its embrace of multi-racial upper class audiences, and its ready assumption of roles as diverse as community center, social club, and fundraising instrument.The Pekin's prestige and profitability faltered after Motts' death in 1911 as his heirs lacked his savvy, and African American elites turned away from pure entertainment in favor of spiritual uplift. But, as Bauman shows, the theater had already opened the door to a new dynamic of both intra- and inter-racial theater-going and showed the ways a success, like the Pekin, had a positive economic and social impact on the surrounding community.

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Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity

Lindon W. Barrett

The unfinished manuscript of literary and cultural theorist Lindon Barrett, this study offers a genealogy of how the development of racial blackness within the mercantile capitalist system of Euro-American colonial imperialism was constitutive of Western modernity. Masterfully connecting historical systems of racial slavery to post-Enlightenment modernity, this pathbreaking publication shows how Western modernity depended on a particular conception of racism contested by African American writers and intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the Harlem Renaissance.

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Rebels and Runaways

Slave Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Florida

Larry Eugene Rivers

This gripping study examines slave resistance and protest in antebellum Florida and its local and national impact from 1821 to 1865. Using a variety of sources such as slaveholders' wills and probate records, ledgers, account books, court records, oral histories, and numerous newspaper accounts, Larry Eugene Rivers discusses Florida's unique historical significance as a runaway slave haven dating back to the seventeenth century. In moving detail, Rivers illustrates what life was like for enslaved blacks whose families were pulled asunder as they relocated from the Upper South to the Lower South and how they fought back any way they could to control small parts of their own lives. _x000B__x000B_Against a smoldering backdrop of violence, this study analyzes the various degrees of slave resistance--from the perspectives of both slave and master--and how they differed in various regions of antebellum Florida. Identifying more commonly known slave rebellions such as the Stono, Louisiana, Denmark (Telemaque) Vesey, Gabriel, and the Nat Turner insurrections, Rivers argues persuasively that the size, scope, and intensity of black resistance in the Second Seminole War makes it the largest sustained slave insurrection ever to occur in American history.

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The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929

Christopher Robert Reed

In this book, Christopher Robert Reed describes the rise of Chicago's "black metropolis" of the 1920s, bringing to life the fleeting vibrancy of this dynamic period of racial consciousness and solidarity. Reed shows how African Americans rapidly transformed Chicago and achieved political and economic recognition by building on the massive population growth after the Great Migration from the South, the entry of a significant working class into the city's industrial work force, and the proliferation of black churches. Mapping out the labor issues and the struggle for control of black politics and black business, Reed offers an unromanticized view of the entrepreneurial efforts of black migrants, reassessing previous accounts such as St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton's 1945 study Black Metropolis. The exquisitely researched volume draws on fictional and nonfictional accounts of the era, black community guides, mainstream and community newspapers, contemporary scholars and activists, and personal interviews.

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