Skip to main content

tv   The WPA Papers  CSPAN  November 16, 2013 9:45am-11:51am EST

9:45 am
about the book "the negro in illinois" a project part of fdr's work administration. the project employ prominent riders like richard right, margaret walker to chronicle the experiences of african-americans in illinois from the time of slavery to the great depression. this event was held at the
9:46 am
carter g. woodson library in chicago. we thank you for being here today. it's such a joy to have this project between book covers now. you know, it's been so long. and, you know, we've been talking with michael, you know, and eventually going get this project done. each step of the way he keeps saying, you know, one day we're going have that big event at the library. here we are. it's finally here. so i'm happy to have all of you here with me today. and thank you for coming out on a saturday afternoon. today i want to begin by talking about how i found this project. sort of how it found me. tell some of the background how the negro in illinois was conceived.
9:47 am
the individuals who carried it out, then read some passages from the book. my wife and i moved to town to 2004 to urbana champagne, it didn't take me too long to find the harsh research collection. it was straight up the interstate. i came here pretty promptly. i was interested in a fascinating figure. he had been a harlem renaissance poet. he written a couple of excellent novels during the depression. he was best friends with langston hughs. he had written several children's novels. still a largely unrecognized figure. i wanted to look up and came and started asking question of the staff here and what they had. they started bringing out the boxes. first of the 50 boxes, and i had never heard much about this project. they're labeled "negro in
9:48 am
illinois." illinois writers project innocuously on the box. i start looking through them and realize years of virtual yule treasure-troves of materials never published. never seen the light of day. so i start hearing from michael that this is one of 17 projects carried out by the federal writer's project, illinois being one of the chapters. you know, i had seen the state guidebooks put out by the federal writer's project. there was one for each state. you can find them at used bookstores today. they are kind of tourist guides. they have maps in them of places you want to visit. but i had never heard of these 17 separate projects undertaken and headed by by sterling browne, the famed black poet
9:49 am
howard university professor sterling brown. additionally on the "negro in illinois." these famous writers worked on. it all of these famous people had worked on the project. michael tells me these are the most frequently visited papers here at the collection. at this point my ears are starting to tingle. i'm starting to realize exactly what this project is. and yes, it's an obstacle with the one-third of the chapters were missing. we know there's original 29 chapters. we have the original outline. michael went to great lengths and late '80s, early 'out to organize these in different chapter. it was clear from what we had that one-third of the chapters were missing. so i decided to go on this
9:50 am
treasure hunt to try to track down the missing chapters. and i first went to the university of illinois. thankfully they were interested in the project. you know, there was various obstacles along the way. you know, these don't get in to the book, you know. there was somebody else who had in mind piecing together, you know, the chapters that we had and we weren't quite sure he was going to do a good job. i had to muscle in and get the project together. and the press picked it up and we went with it. so i had to try to track down the missing chapters. first i went to the new berry library on the north side of the coast, just right next to bug house square. i went to the new berry library and visited the paper of jack con roy, the noted parliament writer. the son of a miner in missouri.
9:51 am
he was coed or it on the project with him. but a unique case of interracial collaboration, black and white authors here. i went to the con roy paper and found some wonderful stuff but not the three missing chapters. i found some additional chapters. some drafts but i came out of new berry still missing three chapters. next i had to go to the abraham presidential library. the individual on the writer's project send copies on to springfield and d.c. i found a few things. i went to washington, d.c., next. the library of congress. i found some of richard wright's writing there. there's a eat it l of ten he did while on the project. but still, i was left after visiting the library of congress missing three of these chapters. the three missing chapters. john browne's "friend."
9:52 am
the story of john jones. the chapter on music, obviously, a great interest. and lastly, one of the chapters that had been referred to frequently in memoirs but we couldn't find called "what is africa to me ." the chapter on black nationalism. next i went to syracuse university. where he donated all the papers all the way in new york state. i wept to syracuse university and go through the files there. he knew just about everybody in the black literary world. it's a fabulous collection. one little folder there list that "in god's country" which was one of the working title for the study. there they had the last three missing chapters. so i called michael from the lobby excitedly telling him we
9:53 am
found and restored all the original 29 chapters. at this point, i came back to chicago. i wrote up a project. i sent it to the society. i got a fellowship to work on the project. i spent the summer of 2010 here going through the papers, you know, i got to really know the staff here, which has been wonderful. beverly cooke, all the staff here. denise english, cynthia, lou -- lucinda samuel. it's a unique here. it's a peoples library. it's been a joy to work here. so i finally sit down and going through the chapters and going through all the drafts and i finally find the most recent
9:54 am
versions. i put things back together. i type them all up. i show them to michael. michael says that's great. now we need footnotes. so i have to come up with a layer of footnotes all throughout the chapters. pointing to all the other materials that exist over here in the library. some of which i'll go through today. but really throughout this project one of the best things for me has been working with michael and i'm so grateful he would take young scholar like myself and trust me to take on this project. i feel very fortunate. i'm also grateful for the other scholars who can be here today. darlen and christopher who offered criticism and encouragement along the way. i'm happy to be part of the growing community of scholars doing work on chicago right now. i'm also grateful for the
9:55 am
community that exists in chicago supporting this work. when i first got to town, i remember looking at an exhibit over here and susan woodson introduces herself. telltell mes me to come to her apartment to see her art collection comp is one of the best in town. and although she has since passed and left us. i want to acknowledge she was one of the people who invited me in to her home and invited me to the community here in chicago. so next i want to tell the story of the illinois writer's project which officially started in mid 1935 when the federal writer's project began. in addition to putsing americans bark to world building roads, bridges, thing like lake shore drive here built by the wpa. they put writers back to work,
9:56 am
which is a kind of by disaster notion for the time. they put writers to work. there were four arts project, a music project, the theater project, and the writers project. each had different state offices we had here in town the illinois writers project. throughout illinois there were some hundred different projects. this was a really massive undertaking. nationally there were some 25,000 workers working for the cultural projects. and those on the writers project where tasked with writing state guidebooks, collecting local history, culture, and folklore. they first started coming out in the '37, '38. the first guidebooks, though, that came out presented a lily white image of the nation, as you might imagine. black leaders in washington, d.c., pressured the roosevelt
9:57 am
administration and they got sterling brown appointed to oversee several independent black projects. studies which would archive african-american life. when i first talked to michael. he told me there were 17 project initiated by sterling brown. i said how do you know there are 17? he said i don't know. i had to go part of that tour was finding those 17 projects. it wasn't until i found a role of microfilm. i finally found the list of 17 projects. let me see if we can get this going here. not too many people might be familiar with him. he's here on the right with langston hughs here at fisk university. he was head librarian for 30
9:58 am
years. he invited the people to visit him. sterling brown the national editor of the writer's project based in d.c. and here is the list of 17 projects. but the list of 17 -- number 15 was the negro in chicago laider became the negro in illinois dated november 1939. it says negro in chicago has begun. it's already underway. the best -- some of the first -- finally, some of these black projects started coming out. one of the most famous eventually became "crumb -- drums and shadows." collection of slave narrative. the actual during the day in 1940 the negro in virginia was published. and so this started getting him going. moving on the project. he starts working more quickly
9:59 am
in 1940, '41, and '42. in the early day of the project the black writers worked alongside white writers. in downtown, these were known as the eerie street offices east of michigan avenue near the navy pier. one of the earliest black writers to work on the project was richard wright. here he is with vivian at the library down at 48th and michigan. here is richard with vivian. he did -- a lot of the ib bwp workers did their work at the library. this is where they went to cothe research. it was the best archive in town for black history. the first document bearing wright's name isth largely about the great migration and black what he called mall adjustment of the urban environment.
10:00 am
you see some of the language of the chicago school of sociologies in the title itself. .. >> after congress passed the 18-month law limiting the time when you could collect relief to 18 months. some of you might also be
10:01 am
familiar with the landmark study of chicago black metropolis headed by horace caton. here's caton at his desk at the parkway center. cayton ran about 20 wpa projects while he was a grad student at the university of chicago. some of them had overlapped with the illinois writers' project. among them was a study of the black press, and there were several individuals who worked on this study, the black press, including richard durham, margaret walker -- who i mentioned. richard durham, some of you might have heard as the writer and inventer of the famed radio show called destination freedom sponsored by the chicago defender. we're happy to have mrs. durham here, i saw, in the audience today.
10:02 am
while on at wpa, richard durham filled out several questionnaire forms on the study of the black press. he collected information on newspapers in town like the chicago bee, the conservator, a newspaper called the bronzeman. but most interesting is a chapter he wrote for an unfinished book, a whole book on the black press that was supposed to be completed. he wrote a chapter called quality don't spend your -- called "don't spend your money where you can't work," between the years of 1929 and 1932. this is a fascinating essay, although it didn't make it into the final book. but you can actually go read it here at the harsh collection. you know, these were public documents, you know? these weren't supposed to be stuffed away in the archives to collect dust, although they did that for many years. but they were supposed to be open to the public and available to the public and here at the
10:03 am
harsh you can go read some of these materials. another person you probably heard of is katherine dunham who worked on the project 1938, 1939. she oversaw a project studying what were then called black cults and storefront churches. and she and her group was among the first to study the nation of islam here in town. she -- dunham recalls meeting elijah mohamed and being, quote, impressed by his sincerity. but there's only one document with dunham's name actually on it. this one i found be here at the library of congress, this is -- the revolt in green pastures. this was the book project that was to come out of this study of black religious groups. here she's kind of riffing on mark connolly's play that was popular in the '30s called green pastures. she calls it revolt in green
10:04 am
pastures, this story. of start-up black religious groups dated here april 24, 1939. among dunham's staff was a young frank yerby who later became famous writing several poppe to lahr novels -- popular novels set in the south, romance novels. and frank yerby, first black author to make a million dollars writing books. black and white writers worked together on the illinois writers' project, but in this particular study they would try to send in white workers into places like the nation of islam or places like temples, and the white writers didn't get very far, so they started sending black writers, people like frank yerby, and he went in and started writing stories, firsthand ats, okay, -- account,
10:05 am
okay, and he left some documents behind. some of them eventually made it into the book. and negro in virginia, published in 1940, he was, quote, struck by the idea that a similar book about negroes in illinois should be even more interesting. bontemps had supervised the study of black music. keep in mind at this time he was ghost writing a biography for the father of the blues. he headed a team that produced pamphlet called the cavalcade of the american negro, a pamphlet that was sold for a quarter. they pressed up some 50,000 copies and distributed them at the 1940 american negro exposition which was another major event here in chicago in
10:06 am
1940, what adam green calls black america's first world's fair. and here you see the illinois writers' project compiling the papers. fenton johnson, bontemps, several of them worked on it. he was then appointed to supervise the negro in illinois with jack conroy who worked on the missouri writers' project previously, and conroy -- a radical -- was fired, run out of town for trying to unionize the writers' project in missouri. and so eventually -- his friend nelson recruited him to chicago and got him a job on the illinois writers' project. perhaps a somewhat more progressive writers' projectthan any other in the country really. conroy took up that study of black cults that dunham had started, and when she moved out
10:07 am
to new york to pursue her dancing career, conroy took the study over. this is the first actual document i was able to find documenting the start of the illinois writers' project. you know, what we have are papers with dates on them, we can kind of figure things out. but here is a newsletter produced by the illinois writers' project. i found this in springfield. and you see here published october 18, 1940, the new work received, it says, the knee grow in -- negro in illinois, jack conroy doing a little write-up about the launching of this new study. and according to the article, the project is funded by the rosen wald fund, a chicago-based philanthropic organization founded by julius rosenwald, a sears heir. and the project would be housed at 4901 south ellis avenue where the rosenwald fund was also
10:08 am
headquartered. they oversaw a staff of young and older writers, among them was fenton johnson, among the older set. fenton johnson, born 1888 in chicago published three books of poetry in the 19 teens, this is before the harlem renaissance. and during the 1920s johnson founded two journals. despite a long career, johnson was broke in the 190s, and the -- 1930s, and the wpa helped to sustain him during these years. as conroy recalls, johnson was always morose and taciturn when he was in the office. bontemps was a longtime champion of johnson's work. while he was on the project, fenton johnson wrote several essays like racial friction in chicago, one called negro aristocrats, and he also wrote much of the material that appears in the first four chapters for the negro in
10:09 am
illinois. someone you probably have not heard of but who i think is an important figure is robert lucas. these are photos of him from 1945 and 1947. lucas wrote several drafts for chapters in the negro in illinois, among the lincoln and the negro, recreation and sports, music and theater. previously had worked on the study of black religious groups along with katherine dunham. and here is one of the famous group photos that we have here in chicago, and, you know, we can identify just about all these people. margaret brundage, the white woman on the left, tom conroy, jack conroy's son, and fern gayden, gwendolyn brooks right in the middle, margaret burrowings, marion perkins you can see in the back as well,
10:10 am
vernon jarrett, the famed journalist, and robert lucas here way out on the right. i always thought lucas was sitting down here, but he's actually short, about five foot tall. [laughter] present here in these photos, but we know very little about him except that he worked on the wpa. another little-known individual, the other robert, robert davis. and, again, we're happy to have his sister here today, robert davis' sister. although rarely mentioned, davis was a central figure in the black chicago renaissance. the first meeting of the important south side writers' group took place at davis' home on south parkway, now martin luther king drive. and for a time he was on the staff for the south side community arts center. robert davis worked on the illinois writers' project from 37 to 1939.
10:11 am
he was one of those who, again, worked on the study of black cults with katherine dunham, although he didn't work on any of the chapters. he later moved to hollywood, changed his name from robert davis to davis roberts. apparently, there was another actor of the same name in the union. and had a successful career appearing in tv shows and in movies. as michael mentioned, the story of the negro in illinois begins with the story of john baptiste, today recognized as the first non-native settler of what is now chicago. in 2009 this bus was installed down on michigan avenue. the approximate place where he had his cabin where the river meets the lake. we have no actual images of him,
10:12 am
very few documents. but what we have here, the bust created by sculptor eric blom. this is today, in the 1930s, the idea that chicago was founded by a black man was a radical idea, and something being forwarded here by bontemps and the writers on the illinois writers' project. they helped uncover the story, they started by conducting interviews with annie oliver the founder of the memorial society. according to annie oliver, the society was founded in 1928 by a group of 13 women. they had more than 200 women at their height. these were the most prominent black women in the chicago. with this activist bent. the society made it their mission to include a replica of the cabin at the 1933 world's fair in chicago. and here's the photo of all the
10:13 am
women here. and right here in the middle sitting up front is annie oliver in the photo. and here you can see this is the actual dusable cabin behind them. they're also responsible for the naming of the dusable high school which still stands today on wubash. wpa workers interviewed annie oliver, got materials from her, pamphlets, they also got a copy of the original 1933 book by milo quafe which was the first major historical account to really bring dusable's name to light in 1933. so we see all this critical convergence here of historical documents, activist women, people recording black history in chicago all converging here
10:14 am
around these events and bringing to light the name dusable here in chicago. the first chapter called "first the french," has multiple versions, one by robert lucas, another one by bontemps, but all make reference to a common saying here in chicago. this those times -- in those times the indians used to say that the first white settler this chicago was a negro. [laughter] they had in mind, of course, john baptiste dusable, the man who built his home at the mouth of the chicago river in 1779 and lived there for more than 16 years. he was born about 1750, no one knows exactly where. the tradition is that dusable was a haitian negro who visited new orleans prior to his coming to chicago, his intention being to establish a colony of free
10:15 am
negroes in the lake region. it is only that he had been educated in france. now, we don't know that much, actually, about dusable. he might have come north through canada, others suggest he might have come from the mississippi delta and maroon communities in the mississippi delta. the first reliable record of dusable at chicago is dated 1779. at that time the english had taken over the great north from the french, and the american revolutionary war was being waged. in the no man's land of the north be west, the loyalty of almost everyone was under suspicion. in an official report july 4, 1779, colonel deprks ister wrote, quote, baptiste dusable -- and they had various names they used at the time, and there's some back story as well -- was a handsome negro, well educated and settled at
10:16 am
chicago but was much in the interest of the french -- this is the british writing here. remembering dusable's name and connections, his sympathy for the french is not inconceivable. he was ordered detained because of suspicion of treasonable intercourse with the enemy. but he left the vicinity and was later apprehended near what is now michigan city. the report of the arresting officer, lieutenant thomas bennett, throws some light on dusable's personality and position in the community. quote: the negro since his imprisonment has in every way behaved in a manner becoming a man of his station and has many friends who give him good character. um, the writers then talk about what we do know from documentation about dusable, his estate, the size of his property, you know, what he owned. we have bills of some of these
10:17 am
things. but they write here in the negro in illinois maybe correcting some of the popular perception here after the cabin here at the world's fair, they write, quote: the popular conception that dusable's home was just a cabin is not borne out by the records. very prominent individual in these parts. but for the writers of the negro in illinois, he was not anything of an exception. today call him a typical -- they call him a typical pioneer, all right? this is their story of dusable. many little known aspects of history, and people keep coming and asking me what about this in the book? and there's so much in the book for you to find, i think something for everybody. there's still a lot i feel like i miss in the book still reading it and putting it together after all these years.
10:18 am
slavery was officially banned in illinois, although few know about the black laws that existed denying basic rights to african-americans. for example, blacks could not testify in court against white defendants, they could not vote, indentured servitude was common in southern illinois. a chapter on the underground railroad was written by arna bontemps, and here we see bontemps hand in the chapter, "the underground railroad." he says, the negro himself, never a do style slave -- docile slave, struck out boldly for his freedom. so this is part of writers here expressing a new part of assertiveness. okay, here on the part of offering a new interpretation of history, of slavery, of black independence and assertiveness, resistance, okay? bontemps had already written
10:19 am
about in two black novels. so expressing in this new kind of assertiveness that was also present, i think, during the depression. and we see it in expressions like the dusable memorial society. illinois was a common destination for many traveling on the underground railroad with stations along the southern border like the holiday hotel in caro, illinois, where the mississippi and ohio rivers converge, one of the largest and most important underground railroad stations in the state of illinois. in the book there are also stories of those who advocated for abolitionists such as elijah lovejoy who became illinois' first prominent martyr to the cause of freedom. other abolitionists include john jones. we have a photo of him here in the book. john jones was born free on a plantation in north carolina,
10:20 am
became a successful tailor in chicago and was a personal friend of john brown. now, keep in mind the negro in illinois here is written by literary types. some would fault it for not being written -- and some folks have -- not being written by historians, you know? it's written by people who write poems and novels and things. but you see this, and i think it makes for a delightful read. the chapter called "john brown's friend" about john jones. one night in 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 open, and a shaft of yellow lamp light fell on the man outside. he was tall and gawpt with piercing eyes, the man inside extended his hand. john brown grasped the hand of alan pinkerton, famous detective
10:21 am
and later abraham lincoln's bodyguard. pinkerton, an active abolitionist, took some of the men into his house and found places for others. they were all john brown's men. all, that is, except for 11 escaped slaves headed for canada. pinkerton took brown to the home of a mutual friend, that of john jones, the free negro and leader in the fight for equal rights as well as prominent businessman. so they tell here the story, little-known story of john jones. his home, john jones' home, became a popular rendezvous for abolitionists, both black and white. among about a thousand african-americans who lived in the state in 1860, jones was the wealthiest. he published a pamphlet called "the black laws of illinois and
10:22 am
a few reasons why they should be repealed." his story was lost -- he was tailor. his story was lost in the great fire of 1871, but he was still left of a rich man. he was the first african-american elected to the cook county board of commissioners and died in 1879. they write here at the end of the chapter, john jones' life bridged two eras. born in the midst of slavery, he lived to see the negro raised to legal citizenship. his role in shaping and influencing events during this turbulent period was a significant one. of course, illinois known as the land of lincoln, but few know the story about william defluorville or billy the barber who was lincoln's black barber and had some amount of influence on lincoln, particularly in his views on race.
10:23 am
here again in the chapter "lincoln and the negro," this one written by robert lucas -- one of those roberts i had up on the screen here. late one evening in the fall of 18 31 just outside the village of new salem, defluorville met a woodsman carrying an axe on his shoulder. these kind of stories here, you know? not just telling straight history. the two men engaged in conversation and walked into a little grocery store. when the tall man learned defluorville was a barber, he introduced the young negro to the people in his boarding house, the rutledge tavern and attained him for an evening's work. although he resumed his journey to springfield the next morning, the friends were later reunited when the tall woodsman went to the capitol and hung out his shingle, a. lincoln, lawyer.
10:24 am
they continue. lincoln spent much of his spare time at fluorville's barbershop where there was always a crowd. here he could relax and swap yarns with the boys. now and then he picked up a client there. lincoln's actions as president recognizing the independence of haiti and his offer of free passage for any negro who wished to go and live there -- and keep in mind here lincoln actually supported colonization, sending blacks back to africa or, in this case, to haiti, something that they cover also in the chapter. and, indeed, it's no doubt that lincoln's interest in haiti and its people was aroused by fluorville's stirring accounts. in spite of objections by the state department, lincoln received haitian, the haitian minister with all the honors accorded any other diplomat. when fluorville died in 1868, the illinois state journal wrote, quote: only two men in
10:25 am
springfield understood lincoln; his law partner, william h. herndon, and his barber, william lafleurville. so they pick out these marginal, you know, moments of history, but these absolutely central figures, these central black figures who played a big part in the way history has gone. authors of the negro in illinois also cover the life of ida b. wells, they have a whole chapter. known for carrying out an international campaign against lynching, but who also tout injustice -- fought injustice locally during the 1919 race rye rot in chicago and -- riot in chicago and working with jane adams, she also ran for state senate, i think is where we got
10:26 am
this photo here from. in chapter 11, a chapter on business, the authors coffer the black banker, jesse binga. some of you might have heard about jesse's bank. but they also cover small-time entrepreneurs like ernie henderson, owner of ernie's chicken shack at 47th and indiana. this is restaurant where bigger thomas takes the two white liberals and native son to have some restaurant, you know, some experience slumming on the south side. this is the site for ernie's chicken shack. and the wpa workers actually go out and interview ernie henderson. they say the chicken shack has been a typical development on the south side, the best known being one founded by ernie henderson and generally supposed to be the scene of an episode in richard wright's novel and play, "native son." we know that, in fact, richard
10:27 am
wright from his wpa documents lives just a few blocks north of the chicken shack on indiana. so this was just down the street. mr. henderson has interested the progress of his venture. quote: i started my business in 1930. i got the idea from a number of successful barbecue establishments. he says, more people eat fried chicken than barbecue. i naturally thought it would be a wise investment. i started in a basement. i cooked the chicken myself. i advertised the best fried chicken in town and later had the name copyrighted. i soon had to hire a boy to deliver the chicken on his bicycle. in four months i had quite a trade. business got better and better. i enlarged the place, hired a a cashier, i bought a delivery car. in 1933 i bought the whole building. all right? so not the typical kind of businessman you might hear about, but here the wpa going
10:28 am
out and getting these stories. be -- they also tell the story, some folks in the room might remember a practice. colored taxi cab drivers had developed a kind of zoning system without legal sanction. the usual fee is ten cents for any ride between 31st and 67th on south parkway. if a passenger wishes to leave the parkway, the sum becomes 15 cents. enterprising drivers also carry a number of riders picked up at various points and delivered them at different destinations. so it's difficult to really summarize this book. there's so many illuminating chapters on health, on housing, a whole chapter dedicated to the chicago defender and the black press in illinois and in chicago. a fascinating chapter called the
10:29 am
slave market that starts off talking about a different kind of modern slave market, women who would stand waiting in the downtown loop for domestic jobs working for white women out in the suburbs. other chapters, two chapters on religion, one called "churches" and another one called "and churches." but one of the most interesting, as i mentioned earlier, is the chapter "what is africa to me," a title taken from the poem "heritage." which was probably a decision made by bontemps who knew cullen and was well familiar with his work. they tell the story in this chapter "what is africa to me" of black nationalism. they have portraits of the nationing of islam, but they also tell the story of marcus garvey's one and only visit to
10:30 am
chicago. you guys know that marcus garvey came to chicago? 1920. i've never seen a historical marker for it, but maybe someday. garvey's unia, the united negro improvement association, found fertile soil in chicago. in 1930 membership in the city is said to have totaled 7,500 while gran. s flourished in east st. louis, mounds, olson, caro and other localities. william a. wallace, later a state senator, gave up a slaving bakery business to head the chicago movement. garvey founded the negro world as a house organ for the or unia. the weekly, which attained a circulation of 75,000 or more, in the negro world, garvey
10:31 am
attacked such prominent me grows such as w.e.b. dubois and robert s. abbott. abbott was also skilled in the art of invective and tough and tumble journalistic warfare. soon garvey announced his intention of invading chicago. he rented the eighth armory, the eighth regiment armory on giles still, a building which still exists. garvey got up on the platform and denounced abbott even more vigorously. at the close of the meeting, he was arrested for selling stock in the black star steamship line, a violation of the law which governed the sale of stock certificates in shares. garvey claimed the arrest had been engineered by abbott who, he said, had arranged to have a detective and prospectiving
10:32 am
client incriminate him. released on bail, garvey departed from the city never to return. garvey's one and only trip to chicago. lastly, there are four final cultural chapters to the book, and it's okay to read ahead. i think tease are some of the best -- these are some of the best chapters in the book. chapters on literature, theater, music and one called "rhythm" about the black jazz and blues. this one, "rhythm," who by joseph -- [inaudible] who wrote two of the four cultural chapters, he outlines the days of the stroll on state street before 47th was the hot spot in the '40s, at the time they were writing. the stroll in the 1920s was the place to be up and down state street. this is where there were famous clubs like the theater owned by
10:33 am
robert motts this 1905, opened in 1905, as well as jack johnson also had a café on state street. and we have here a wpa worker who we know virtually nothing about. some of these people became famous. a lot of them struggled, worked on the defender, hung around the south side community arts center, went for times being unemployed, worked as janitors. you know, they were struggling writers. some of them never made it. all right? but at least they left us behind this one document. and this chapter, "rhythm," about king oliver's appearance in chicago, he writes: the historians of chicago jazz like to recall the arrival of king
10:34 am
oliver. representatives from two spots were on hand to greet him. the contingent was made up of members of the bands of the royal gardens café and the dreamland café. both wanted oliver and were determined to get him. both did. the solution was profoundly simple. it was worked out over a try at a bar near the railroad station. joe joined both bands and left no doubt about who was the king among chicago trumpeters. one dropped in at the royal gardens to see how the new orchestra was getting along. there followed a battle of core nets in which joe oliver beat the socks off him. oliver left chicago in the spring of 1927. five years after a new king had come upon the scene, shortly before his departure he wrote a song, "dr. jazz," which he peddled from a cart occupied by his band playing the new tune wherever a crowd gathered. this was probably the last time
10:35 am
a new orleans band played in a wagon. he died in small southern town in 1938. the new king who oliver had brought up from new orleans in 1932 and who play -- 1922 and who played second trumpet behind the leader was a young louis armstrong. and you guys know where this story goes from there. i'm going to wrap up there. i'm looking so forward to our esteemed scholars and what they have to say today, and thank you all for being here today. [applause] >> we're going to have about a two minute break so we rearrange the furniture up here.
10:36 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> could i have the distinguished scholars come up? [inaudible conversations]
10:37 am
[inaudible conversations] >> okay. i think we're, we're about ready to resume. i want to just interject a note of thanks here. there are a number of organizations ask individuals -- and individuals that we need to acknowledge and for good reason. i want to thank the cosponsors for this meeting, those who have really been with us at the harsh research collection in the work
10:38 am
we do. the vivian g. harsh society incorporated, the south side community arts center and the black chicago history forum. so i want to acknowledge their cosponsorship and their help in spreading the word about the program. i also want to thank the funders of the harsh archival processing project. these days, which are hard times for many municipal institutions, more and more we need funders to assist us in what we do. and the harsh archival processing project wants to acknowledge -- and that's me -- wants to acknowledge the chicago public library foundation, the richard h.dreihouse foundation for their wonderful support of
10:39 am
the work that we do which very much made this program possible. so there are a number of people who have been mentioned in the audience, and i just want to do this because i see -- i'm not going to recognize who everybody is out there, but i see a number of people who are donors of man manuscript at archival collections to the harsh who are in this room today k and i want you all to at least know who they are. i see -- will you all get up as i call your name, please, and stay up? okay? indiana net turner, bennett johnson -- [applause] clarice durham -- where's clarice? i know there are other of you
10:40 am
who have been involved in this. tucson perkins for the -- i'm sorry, not tucson, yusinni perkins, please stand for the perkins family papers. i apologize for that. diane -- [inaudible] who is already standing over there for the chicago archives. [applause] and many of you whose names i have not called, i beg your forgiveness. but this is a wonderful group of people, and without your generosity, the harsh collection would not exist. thank you. [applause] and now to our three distinguished panelists. and when i say "distinguished," i don't use the term lightly. really these are three of the finest scholars of
10:41 am
african-american history in general and specifically of chicago's black history in the whole country. and to have them here to comment is a great privilege. so first person here going from left to right is dr. darlene clark hine. dr. hine earned her ph.d. from kent state university, a place that has produced many black history scholars. i first met her in the 980s -- 1980s when she was working on a ground-breaking project much loved by archivists called "the black women in the middle west project," a project that brought out the history of the activism and achievements of so many black women all over the midwest. and not only that, encouraged them -- many times
10:42 am
successfully -- to donate their papers to archival institutions including this one. so that alone earned her great love by many of us. i'd also like to point out that she is the author of far more books than i could possibly mention. the nurses in the audience have esteemed her for many years since the publication of "black women in white." and i'd like to say that her new book -- and where has it gone? thank you. [laughter] her new book which she co-edited with john mccluskey jr., is call "the black renaissance," and it's a wonderful book on all the different aspects of the black chicago renaissance of the 1930s and '40s.
10:43 am
be you don't have one -- if you don't have one, you need to have one. [laughter] so darlene clark hine, i should mention, is a past president of the organization of american historians. the next speaker that i want to mention is christopher reed. christopher reed also earned his ph.d. from kent state. he is the author, again, of a series of books, three of which i will mention; the chicago naacp and the rise of black professional leadership, black chicago's first century, metro history students have kind of dog eared a number of copies here because if you want to write about early black chicago
10:44 am
history, black chicago history of the 19th century, you have to start with this book. and it will lead you to all the original sources beyond it. so a wonderful book. and then the rise of chicago's black me metropolis which i bele is dr. reed's most recent book, although it's hard to keep up. "the rise of chicago's black metropolis" traces the period of the 1920s and leads us to the birth of the chicago black renaissance. he claims to have retired in 2009, but i suspect that, like me, chris reed -- chris reed's retirement is more alleged than actual. [laughter] and then finally, final hi, the
10:45 am
youngest of the people on this panel, and i don't know exactly how old he was when he first started doing research at the harsh collection, but it was a long time ago. and that, we're talking about adam green. adam green earned his ph.d. from yale. he has toured at north -- taught at northwestern and is now at university of chicago where he is the associate professor of african-american history, the master of the social sciences collegiate division and the associate dean in the college. so this is a man with a lot of hats, but the most important for us is twofold. first of all, his magnificent research work and writing. he is the first -- and as far as i know, still the only person -- to publish a scholarly work on
10:46 am
one of the most important documents in chicago black history, and that is the wonder book, the negro in illinois, 1779-1929, 27 and 29, two volumes. that work by adam green is absolutely essential for understanding how the chicago black renaissance kicked off and where its impetus came from. and then i want to mention most of all the work for which he did a great deal of research here at the harsh collection, selling the race: culture and community in black chicago, 1940-1955. again, a work on the period of the black chicago renaissance and a work which takes it into the 1950s and through the
10:47 am
achievements of johnson publishing company. adam green's work on this is absolutely eye-opening. his discussion is fresh and different. his -- the concept of what he means by selling the race should cause everyone many this room to think about -- in this room to think about it very deeply. and finally, i would like to say that we love him most of all because he was famous as the person hardest to kick out of the manuscripts reading room -- [laughter] while he was doing research. it would be ten minutes to nine, and we'd say, adam, you have to go, but he wouldn't go. [laughter] so, okay. so having thoroughly embarrassed everyone on the panel, i would like to call, first, on darlene clark hine.
10:48 am
you can stay there. [applause] >> thank you. first of all, i think we would be amply justified in giving a round of applause to michael flug. [applause] a lot of us wouldn't have been here, would not be here had it not been for michael and the kind of encouragement that he has provided researchers and students andñr professors. he works with passion, with intelligence, and he is unrelenting. i should also point out right from the outset here that i am
10:49 am
co-editor of a series that published brian's amazing new book, along with -- [applause] and one of the things that i want to do right now -- mcbride is the other co-editor. and i warned him that i would do this, because when this book came across my desk, the manuscript, it was like this gift. and i know why the publishers doesn't know what to do with -- didn't know what to do with it. but i persuaded them that it would make an absolutely astonishing contribution to the history of black chicago.
10:50 am
and i prevailed. and so brian, after ten years, you found a friend. [laughter] and i really have been so pleased with the way that you have turned this book out. so pleased, in fact, that i want to read a couple of paragraphs from the afterword. now, after ten years of working on this project, you can imagine that this author and editor was quite exhausted. but we thought it would be good if he wrote an afterword, bringing all this stuff together, all new knowledge. and he -- i'm not going to fault him -- he didn't want to do it. [laughter] but we prevailed.
10:51 am
marin mcloughlin in particular, and he did so. ask it is an amazing afterword. so i want to just read a couple of your words. you read so eloquently the words of others who contributed those 29 chapters. he says here: there was admittedly no apparent be attempt to theorize the chicago renaissance or advocate for unified approach by those worm involved. those who were involved. there was no anthology equivalent to elaine p locke's new negro. the few black literary magazines that were launched in chicago such as fenton johnson's taifort magazine, robert wrap bot's "abbott monthly" and alice browning's if the negro story were short lived.
10:52 am
the closest thing to a manifesto with richard wright's blueprint for fee grow writing. although the essay is attributed solely to wright and members of the south side writers' group with whom he wrote the essay, and the members with whom he wrote the's is say have been pushed into the background. the fall of 1937 issue of new challenge where the essay first appeared was co-edited and featured poetry by frank marshall davis, robert davis and margaret walker. all founding members of the south side writers' group. in the final section of blue print for negro writing, wright urged black writers to overcome their isolation and work
10:53 am
collectively. members of the south side writers' group had come together to work many a collective environment -- in a collective environment. wright had learned the importance of working collectively in the chicago chapter of the john reed club. he and others experienced it while working on the illinois writers' project. i want to come down a little farther here. despite short-lived existence, the illinois writers' project played major role in supporting black writers when there were few opportunities available to them. at that time, the american free press, quote-unquote, remained segregated with white magazines and newspapers refusing to hire black writers. during world war ii, black war
10:54 am
corps somes -- correspondents were for the first time sent to europe to cover the war, but they were all reporting for black newspapers. the publishing industry, after fulfilling a temporary appetite for books about the race problem quote-unquote during the war, soon lost all interest if -- in publishing black authors. finally, more than just a job, the federal writers' project gave a generation of african-american writers the hope that they could continue to follow their dreams. although they were on relief, quote-unquote, they still took pride if their work with -- in their work. many looked back fondly on their time at the illinois writers'
10:55 am
project. they developed friendships that are last for several decades after the project ended. the contacts they made helped them to get published this -- in journals and anthologies. a few of them would collaborate on other fruitful ventures. the writers' project sustained many who were struggling to survive during the bleak years of a depression when jobs were scarce for most, but for black writers trying to make their way in the white-dominated media, the road was a weary one. while the reuniting, the final reuniting of the 29 chapters of the fee grow in illinois -- negro in illinois or with the final reuniting of the 29 chapters of a negro in illinois,
10:56 am
we now have a document that may bring -- begin to bring writers of the chicago renaissance their due credit. amen. thank you. [applause] >> back in 1998, 1999 i sat with adam green here to my left -- my right, and darlene clark ion -- hine in indianapolis. and we had a panel. and i remember starting out talking about a negative assessment of black intellectual and cultural creativity and assessment from the distinguished sociologist
10:57 am
charles s. johnson who wrote that black chicago lacked an intelligentsia. that was back in 193. i had to -- 1923. i had occasion to present be opposing, an opposing argument. and i thought about that in regard to the negro in chicago that brian dolinar has recently are retrieved from not obscurity, but from somewhat obscurity. the public didn't know about it. the lick will now -- the public will now know about it. and when i thought about johnson, i said countersauling evidence to johnson's condescending impressions appeared a decade later, and that's what the work of those 100 researchers and writers that put together the negro in illinois. the circumstances of economic depression and subsequent recovery in various areas including the arts brought forth
10:58 am
the illinois writers project, a component of the federal writers project during the late 1930s and 1940s. resulting efforts brought forth a voluminous archive compiled by scholars and rising literary figures and, of course, was known as the fee grow in illinois -- negro in illinois papers. personally, i remember working with these papers when they were located down at the george cleveland hall library before the collection moved out here. and i remember how scattered the files were, how disorganized the papers were. almost impossible to work with. then the collection was moved out here to the woodson, an appropriate place second only in importance to george cleveland hall's location. here the -- and i forgot your name, flug. i know you like a brother. michael flug will remember the
10:59 am
papers were out in the middle of the study area not too far from the ladder, richard hunt's jacob's ladder. still a certain amount of disorganization. i mean, there were folders there but not the organization that later was to result from michael flug's laborious task completed of putting things in order. so thank you, michael. the final step, though, was the work of brian dolinar putting everything together in print in one book. this was the final stage. this is great. so kudos out to brian dolinar. now, there is a problem, though, and i just thought about it. people used to come to the harsh. they'd come from all over the country and from outside the country to do work at the harsh
11:00 am
in these papers. since these papers -- you know where i'm going -- they're now available in print. why come to chicago? [laughter] and that's a greater problem that's involved. if you don't come to the harsh, you lose what? the possibility of collaborating with scholars who are doing work here and with the staff and, very importantly, looking at related collections. of so on the one hand, we're blessed with this. on the other hand, brian, watch yourself when you leave. [laughter] especially if downtown notes that there's a decline in people coming to chicago saying we've come to do research in these papers. but this is great. ..
11:01 am
some of this material has to be handled very cautiously. probably the strongest of the last four dealing with theater and drama and music. in some of the others you'll get, information, for example dealing -- and i pronounced the way dusab. we know he probably -- i think we can say because relatives have come to chicago in years past to the museum. he came from haiti. there was an attempt in the 1830 to connect him with a wealthy
11:02 am
french-canadian family, and we know that he was real. we know that when he got here, he lived not in a cabin. you mentioned this, bryan, he had a homestead. it you have seen the sketches of the area where he lived, he had several houses and bryan mentioned this. he had, what, a house for his cows and a brake i are and a this and a that. he had a homestead. now it just so happens -- i had an opportunity to inquire from the hostess at the cabin at the world fair of 1933 asked why people during that period decided they would accept a cabin in place of a homestead. i was told directly that despite their efforts, they couldn't get a lot of money together and they had to settle for what was available based on the money that was there.
11:03 am
it came from the city and the state. and in terms of location, everybody wanted a piece of the lake side site. so the best they could cowas -- do was a site -- as i wrote in an article, the shadow of fort deer born. he had more than a cabin. and, by the way, you may not know it, but about three years ago, the chicago city council voted to celebrate his birth date. we don't know when he was born, what day or year, but it is to be celebrated on the city's birthday, march 4th of every year. now, interestingly enough, this year it was also a day to be shared with persons of hispanic dissent. that was a resolution about three years ago from the city council. moving on, analyzing what is in
11:04 am
the collection. when i heard the comment about -- i love that chapter. i think it's 14 on business. i thought about what was missing now. the section is at the end of the section on business. in the major part of the section to chapter on business there's no mention there were black cab company at least two major cab companies in existence during the 20s. there are photographs of well-uniformed limos driven by the men up-and-down the highways of the south side. one cab company was the your cab company. there was another one. both went out of business during the depression. we've had more cab companies recently but there were at least two during the 19 20s.
11:05 am
i found that chapter interesting because it mentioned bankers beyond the two we know the most about. overton, anthony overton, the owner of a newspaper, a manufacturing company, and insurance company who also owned the bank called the douglas national bank. all right. we know of jesse, that was mentioned in 1980 open the first of three banks. the first bank at 26 place and state. then it moved to the northwest corner. near the northwest corner of 35th and state. then binger the man with the big egg go but money available at the time to make the dream come true built from the ground up on the exact northwest corner of 35 and state. where the iit administration. he built the bing arcade.
11:06 am
i'm looking back there and asking your brother, mr. davis, about that facility. along with tim black both had wonderful memories going not only the bank but the activities at the arcade. now both the arcade and the bank that was next to it torn down. i love that chapter. i learned a lot about it. my big e complaint about the chapter. there was no expansion beyond mentioning a monopoly here and there. there was a lot to mention. so that might accounted for why there was short shoplift given to certain business in entrepreneurial activity. in looking at one of my favorite chapters, i want to conclude in
11:07 am
a minute or so, one of my favorites was one mentioned by bryan. that was the one on negro aristocrats. johnson wrote that. now the significance of that chapter was that it was based on his actual memories having grown up in chicago and having seen person of high social status. whose titled knew grow aristocrats. i met a woman well-known out east in boston who was the woman who wrote about black -- everybody knows her. she's the daughter the of -- what is her name? well, she wrote a book about blacks who were living beyond the ranks of the working class. [inaudible] no. oh.
11:08 am
com well's daughter. that's right. she wanted to let americans know that all blacks, all of them are hard working, didn't live at just the working class level. there was a class structure among blacks. so that was great knowing it about boston. here, fen ton johnson as recovered by bryan gave us an expo suggestion of life among those who were in the upper class. i remember johnson described one woman who visited his mother as looking somewhat like a grey-haired bertha. the wife of potter palmer. that was interesting. so i use this particular segment of this chapter to substantiate a point i made by the early 1900's black chicago had, what i
11:09 am
like to refer to, is a normative class structure. a lot that -- although that term was challenged by many. there was an upper class, a middle class, and a highly seg mated laboring classes in black chicago. so i really loved that. i did have a problem, though, with chapter on the negro soldier. the negro soldier chapter starts out with black men after the civil war. after mentioning in the first couple of sentences that there were black men that fought in the civil war. but for states outside of illinois. we had a regimen, the 29th infantry regimen as a part of the united states color troops from the late spring of 1864, and a year-long campaign at peterrers berg down through richmond. the unit was there when robert e
11:10 am
lee surrenders. i went down there looking for my great grandfather's unit. the one 16th and all-slave unit from kentucky. there was the one 116th and i tip my hat to my great grandfather. there next to the 2116 of the 29th illinois and the 31st new york. said, how can they miss the 29th in this chapter? especially since they were writing in the late '30s and the last of the civil war soldiers usually referred to as soldier were living. i have papers showing them appealing pension decisions from washington. i don't know how they missed it, but they did. everything else is enlightening. this omission sort of strikes home. because to me, the civil war was
11:11 am
the most momentous occasion for persons of african dissent. >> are you saying that bryan should have rewritten the chapters in l? -- ? 0. >> no. >> to say they have to be reteaked by those -- >> this is what i'm saying. this is my buddy from ken state, by the way, and the editor of -- i think i have three books where she was editor. coed or it. this is not attacking bryan. it's the writers. that's the whole thing. everybody understands it's not about bryan. it's caution in using what is here. this is very valuable. especially the precious last four. you have to be careful when you use these chapters. there's no way in the world you could have gone through every chapter. you put footnotes in. it would be who is the
11:12 am
researcher to, in fact, -- [inaudible] you need -- and you said it already. you read this verse. [laughter] [applause] one last thing. i mean, yeah you should read that book. let me end up by saying what is missing also in the chapter, two chapters on ida b. wells. one talk about her at the fair. you need to read this book on blacks at the world fair. blacks were not excluded from the world fair. that might have been the intention of a lot of people. i don't think most people wanted to exclude blacks because they wanted those admission prices. this is called all the world is here. but you contact the people here at the library, they would be able to inform you about it. one last thing, it has to do with the depression. the last book michael was the
11:13 am
book i wrote on black people in the south on the side during the depression that talks about don't spend your money where you can't work campaign. but goes to the streetcar riot at 51st and now king drive and the disastrous 1931 massacre of three black men at 50th doing an eviction riot. that was substantial. anyway, i love this. i'm going to be praising bryan again at roosevelt in what, two weeks? yeah. and i'm going start off a little differently. i won't do as much in the way of critique because -- [laughter] but this is very valuable. a momentous effort has brought forth fruit. thank you, bryan. [applause]
11:14 am
so i have a lot of praise and a lot of thanks and i hope some points to raise that may give a sense of frame, but before a different frame. but before i do that, i just want to observe that, you know, it's always good to kind of go back to where it is that you had your formation and intellectually. the people you started debating with. people that when you were young and kind of imagining your career. in a certain sense your work as a thinker. not just your career as a scholar. but your work as a thinker sort of moving forward. the people there touching you at the start that you argued with and you went around with texts and i've seen this very, very good show. a couple of times. where professor and professor reid kind of go back and forth and you can, you know, feel the presence of their mentor. you can feel the sort of weight
11:15 am
of the time when they were studying. which was at a very momentous time in term of establishing the ground work for modern african-american history. i have no problem seeding over time. it's a pleasure, always, to hear the two of you talking about the finer part of the enterprise we care about so much, african-american history. i want to say thank you to bob miller. i want to say thank you to michael, my dear friend. i want to say thank you to beverly cooke and the harsh board for making this panel possible. i also want to add my thanks, so you stole my thunder, professor, to darlene and dwight mcbride for their wisdom in taking this book up and bringing it up to publication. we take that as a given that books just naturally come over to presses and presses naturally decide to publish them.
11:16 am
and this is not true in the best of times. and the last few years, at least, for the academic publishing industry are far from the -- a great deal of work in to making it possible for this book to come between two cover and be available and to professor reid's point about a fact it may contain difficulty. if i remember the totaling correctly we have 2 manuscript -- if we remain industrious as a profession. thereby much work to do. i want to congratulate bryan. it's important to note he edited. he tweal went from the confine
11:17 am
of the collection. michael, if you were clocking him in relation to the time he was putting in the collection. part of the issue he had to go to the new berry and syracuse university, and several other sites around the country to track down chapters that no longer were based here. he had to do a great deal of work to find out where things were and pull them together. there's a line in bryan's introduction that refers to a conversation with michael about might l saying to bryan that at least half a dozen scholars had been invited to take on the project of pulling this together. i don't know -- and i don't want to presume that i was one of those six, but i know that michael gets several points in the course of my research say well, you know, in addition to getting this or that little tidbit out of this collection, there's a lot of stuff there. and it would be very, very useful, very, very fascinating
11:18 am
for someone to take this up and organize it as a volume. you know, maybe that would make -- i'm looking at my friend bennett johnson. part of a new silent six in relation to chicago not being able to go forward and conserve its legacy. whether i am or am not part of the group, obviously, we owe a great dote bryan for his work in term of put this volume together. i want to recognize him for that. [applause] >> what i want to do, i think, is talk less about the content of this volume and more about its form. and more about its intervention. i think it's important to think about in the context of the black chicago renaissance, as professor heinz so appropriately and eloquently encouraged us to do. i think it's important to think about it in relation to how we think about chapter by chapter its capacity to represent
11:19 am
african-american history in the form of the research that was done. but i want to talk about what it means to make a case for cure rating african-american history at the moment that this book was put together. not by bryan in term of editing it but the people who gathered the stories, put them together in text, and attempted to put in to publication in that moment in time. before you can even start to write real stories. true stories about african-american history. you have to have something of an archive. and when we think about that in terms of the ways in which much of our knowledge of black folk is based on the sources that we have access to, sometimes in print, sometimes put together by a federally funded program, but also oral tales, slave narrative, of course, the vast tradition of biographical literature for
11:20 am
african-americans. autobiographical literature, poetry, popular song, including hip-hop and rap. each of these serves as a repository of knowledge about how to think about african-american life. now, in unremarkable times and few periods in history, of course, we can speak of being unremarkable for african-americans. let's just conceive the point that sometimes sort of tensions and energies and dynamics receive. it's possible to sort of see things as being the usual day-to-day in unremarkable times. they help inform, ground, corroborate, and vet ways that representation of african-american life sphond real conditions and the sacred memories of people. as i said before, most times african-americans remember and live within are not unremarkable time. they are, in fact, remarkable times. and in remarkable times, these archives are ones that allow
11:21 am
like legal research to a landmark case. they allow an evident area base for actively working upon and transforming, thinking about the world in its diverse people. including, obviously, african-americans as a people. and i draw that distinction -- i draw that distinction because every time someone cure cureuates -- they may not be 1900% absolutely accurate. but in the face of what generally stands in as representation of black life and the the especially black history. having something that gives some richness, some details, some forthright appreciation of people's capacity to droibt history is a treasure. and it's also an extraordinary tool in the struggle of overcoming oppression, overcoming depravation,
11:22 am
overcoming the demeaning of the people. we think about the '30s because it was a period of the cultural front. because it was a period in which left energies were expansive. because it was the period of the black chicago renaissance, at least the start. we think about the '30s as general a good time in relations to african-americans being able to advance their intellectual position, their corp. response, and place and charting their course and helping steer the course of the nation and the world. i think it was better times, certainly, than was the case, say, during the 1890 or better times than the 19 teens. during the 19 30s in to the '40s there was plenty of counter narrative. in term of what sense to make of the place of african-americans in the history of the nation. and in that sense, the fact that people came together in chicago
11:23 am
as part of a larger convergence in the country, under the federal writer's project, and especially under the directorship of sterling brown who was the head of negro affairs for the federal writer's project to draw people together, to bring stories that give a different basis for appreciating the place of african-americans in national, world, and human history. was an extraordinary intervention. it was revolutionary in all sorts of different ways. step back and think about what some of the companion establishment -- accomplishments were of the general movement notion the negro in illinois. where a lot of hard work went in to generating the texts. but because of various conditions and factors they were unable to see publication in their own day. the gathering of slave testimonies. 2000, all of which, by the way, are -- can be accessed through the web right now by going to the library of congress.
11:24 am
2,000 testimonies on the part of former slaves were gathered as a result of the work of the federal writer's project. and as a result of the vision of sterling brown and others like him. the ways in which chronicles of all sorts of different locality and regions were launched simultaneously with the effort that was going on in illinois headed. ones that had to do with virginia, georgia, new york, philadelphia, various sort of genres of black life and black expressions. 16 in all that sterling brown characterized as putting people in a position in which it would be possible to talk about the african-americans. the negro-american, as he called it, a a participant in national history. it's a line directly from bryan's introduction rather than a problem. participant rather than a problem. and what is at stake with doing
11:25 am
that is actually work that was very, very vital in that moment of the 1930s. because i'm advancing and asserting even though there was an expansivend in the place where the role where the african-americans played in informing culture, literature, knowledge, and the like. there were many counter forces. i would say the counter forces were stronger in the 1930s than the forces trying to advance african-americans, which doesn't mean that we don't -- the people who did it in the '30s but we appreciate what they were up against. everything from hollywood film to high academia to seats of power in the federal government were very much committed to the idea that african-americans were, in fact, second class citizens. they had not contributed a great deal to the culture. they needed to mature and develop for much, much longer before they could be anything like equal contributors to the
11:26 am
national story. and this made me think about the intervention of what was pretty much indispute mr. wilson the most important and forth wright black intervention of the day. i'm speaking of web debose. he wrote many books. i think you have a few more to go, doctor, before you get that -- he wrote a book in 1935 for many people was his most pointed and most impactive book in terms of taking on orthodox citizenship. its representation of black history. a book called "black
11:27 am
reconstruction." and i read several passages of "black reconstruction." in order think a little bit about what was at stake in relation to addressing this deficit of bringing together african-american history. and one jumped out at me in particular. this is one that is dealing with reconstruction, but if we react the word "reconstruction" we can probably put any phase of history in the united states in its place including potentially the one that we're in right now. in order paint the south as a martyr to inescapable faith, to make the north the magnanimous emancipator, and ridicule the negro as the impossible joke in the whole dwroment, we have, in 50 years -- he's talking here about orthodox citizenship, academics, working at places like columbia, harvard, university of chicago, northwestern, and the like. we have in 50 years so
11:28 am
completely misstated and obliterated the history of the negro in work -- today it's almost unknown. this may be fine romance. but it's not science. it may be inspiring but it is certainly not the truth and beyond that it is danger use. it is not only part foundation for our present lawlessness and loss of diminishing ideal. it lead the world to embrace and worship our social al elevation. and helping to rangeman kind in the rank of mutual hatred and contempt. so what was done in the late '30s to the early '40s in term of drawing these various stories together was part of that tradition of working against the tide of what he called using propaganda in the place of history. and i would submit that it's important not only to celebrate
11:29 am
the achievement of the individuals who drew these various histories, these case studies, these personal sorts of narratives together. but also to think about the value of having this assessable both in print and in the manuscript form in the archive of the collection today. because the same sorts of dynamics even as we see great opportunities. even as we see great expansion and dwo. tradition of african-american history, there remains counter narratives. there remains history that is not based on science in relation to talking about the lives of black folk. there remain propaganda. i'm looking at stan willis in the front here and thinking about the expansion of african-americans working at the academy at the same time that the survivors cannot have the stories heard and taken seriously.
11:30 am
as kind of constituentive of history within chicago. i'm looking at my dear friend and colleague who has written a wonderful book in relation to talking about the black studies movement in the united states. and at the same time thinking about the ways in which black studies is often underattacked today in various parts of the country. so this -- [inaudible] and she has a lot about chicago in it. there's a lot to say today about the course and the interest of african-american studies in relation to various forces. including the forces of the administration and the city college system. so the question is not only one of understanding the content of a book like this, or understanding the motive of those who assemble the content of the book like this. the question is also one of understanding the value of the form. what it means to make a case for a basis of black history at the time when so much history that referred to african-americans
11:31 am
saw itself as having no responsibility for having a basis at all. i think there are parallels in relation to today that tell us that it is valuable to gather these stories. to make sure that we learn them. to give credit to those that put them together, and then most importantly to go out and use them. ..
11:32 am
>> okay. we're supposed to have an opportunity for audience questions and comments. we have had a wonderful program, and we have run out of all of our time, but we're going to have a few questions and comments anyway. so for those of you who want to stay, and i hope you all will and go to meet with brian in the lobby and get copies of the book and get them signed, please stay. now, if i would figure out how to get a microphone here -- >> [inaudible] right here. >> could i -- >> right over there. [inaudible conversations] >> ah, thank you. thank you, thank you. okay, is that better? all right. so i'm going to come out in the audience, um, and -- be some kind of a talk show host and find someone who wants to say something.
11:33 am
and i see mrs. perkins. >> thank you. two brief questions. one, in your collection did you find material dealing with the sports community? a very active sports community, the old-timers and even the globetrotters. some of that is in these papers. i'll be looking forward to that. and you mentioned, professor reed mentioned the military. what about the 8th regiment? it's mentioned. okay. so i'm just asking questions that are already presented. thank you. >> by the way, just before i do this, i want to say that there's a little misimpression that's going on, and that is that everything that's in the illinois writers' project negro in illinois papers is in the book. that's not true. the actual book as it was
11:34 am
intended to be written has now been published. but a hundred people did research. there are 50 boxes of research materials, and much of the material that you find in those doesn't appear in the book. so there's a wealth of knowledge that you get by still coming to the archives and using that book. [laughter] >> thank you very much. i was wondering, um, in regard to the dusable memorial society, are they the ones that that continued right up until this bust was placed on michigan avenue? >> [inaudible] >> because i know that about ten years ago there was such a group of women trying to get a memorial to dusable, but you
11:35 am
didn't -- you haven't come across that? >> i add something? many i was with the group, what was the name? friends of the parks was part of it and mrs.-- the lady was the president of the dusable memorial. she was part of it. the haitian community was part of it. there must have been at least a dozen groups trying to to get dusable park, and along the way they had that dusable parkway along the river named, and they put that bust out there. i can't think of the lady's name, but as of today i don't think the memorial society is active, but at least five years ago they were somewhat active and meeting down at the atlas center on 79th street, but meeting irregularly. >> let me go to the back of the auditorium, give them a chance. okay? >> thanks so much for these presentations.
11:36 am
um, i don't know if this question is for brian or for the panel, but i work at the newberry where some of these manuscripts are, and i know there's another person there the newperry here, and, michael, you told me a very funny story about how some of the manuscripts ended up at the newberry. maybe they should come back here, i don't know, but i've looked through that material, and i'm wondering if you can tell me how it fits in the book. and then secondly, you know, conroy and bontemps obviously wrote "they seek a city" out of the research they did for this project and, you know, it too is a mix of history and story and narrative, and not all the facts are right, but it certainly is a compelling text. i was wondering if you could tell me how your compiling of these 29 chapters resembled or
11:37 am
doesn't resemble the "they seek a city" work which, of course, was published, you know? soon after they wrote it. >> [inaudible] >> yes. it's a great question. and i explain some of it. it was the case that in 1942, 1943 they tried to find a publisher for the negro in illinois, and they had no luck. after a book by roy otley called "new world coming" came out compiled from wpa documents in new york where roy was the head of the project there, there was again this kind of new interest in some black history. so b be ontemps and conroy get to work on the manuscript again.
11:38 am
the 1945 book, which is fascinating, a great read about all these little mud towns as they call them, and yet about three-quarters of the material from negro in illinois was cut to make this "they seek a city" about the more general trends of the great migration and cities across the united states. so a lot of material was ditched. and what happened in the process was that between 1942 when they had finished the project and -- according to letters, they had finished the project -- and 1944, '45 when they start writing "they seek a city," the book is swapped back and forth. they give some of -- they give all the materials to vivian harsh, but then bontemps moves to fisk in nashville, and conroy's still in chicago, and bontemps is writing letters to conroy sending, saying send me these chapters. i'm working on the chapter on churches, but i need the original material.
11:39 am
vivian harsh has it, can you go to the library and get it and send it to me down in nashville? so you have conroy and bontemps sending back the chapters back and forth, and they became split apart, separated. and so some of that material ended up in conroy's papers, and that's why it was at the newberry. some of it ended up in bontemps collection, some of it ended up in vivian harsh's hands. this is how it all got split up, and i had to go visit all these papers and conroy papers at newberry are a treasure-trove themselves. thank you for the question. >> i've got -- [inaudible] i've got another person in the back of the room who's patiently waiting. >> um, my question is i'm not an educator, but my question is what are the plans for getting this information, because this room is full of adults, it's
11:40 am
full of scholars, down to the children of chicago? that's a main concern of mine. there also seems to be a trend lately of removing history from part of the curriculum and studying, you know, concentrating on science and math and things like that. and we all know the power of thoughing your own history -- of knowing your own history. evidence mr. green. i was at a panel earlier this year when your father, one of the little rock nine, said -- i asked him what influenced him at the age of 16 to do what he had did, and he said he had recalled the story of nat turner, and that's proof positive of knowing your history, the impact of knowing your history can have. i'm just concerned, are there plans to get this information if grammar schools -- in grammar schools and other children-age levels of history? >> thank you for the question. thank you very much for the question. be -- i'm so glad that almost at every harsh library symposia or
11:41 am
program that question comes up. regardless of how many people are in the audience. i mean, the woodson audience is very, very much concerned about disseminating all of the scholarship that we produce and labor for decades to find publishers for. and it's a constant challenge. one of the things that somebody needs to do is to examine what kinds of social studies textbooks are being used in the chicago public school system. this is a big project, right? and how much of that material is either accurate or up-to-date or reflects the black experience in this community, if this
11:42 am
nation -- in this nation, in this city. secondly, we need to have a more robust enterprise of writing books for children now that we have uncovered all of this new material, the new information. correcting omissions and silences and what have you. there needs to be some kind of movement to prepare a whole range of books or other kinds of instructional projects or products so that this material can be communicated to our students. and to the people who also train our students. so i can work at the college level in teaching those who come to me and who may eventually end up in classrooms, but this needs
11:43 am
to be a multi-directed kind of project operating on many levels at once. because we can't wait another 50 years to discover all of this material, all of this information that would have been so empowering to us if we had had access to it in the 1950s and '60s and '70s when we were in school. so we've sort of had to invent black history. but now we have to become agents of disseminating it broadly and making it impossible for anybody to ignore black contributions to this country and to our history. because like i said before, african-americans are really americanizing america. [laughter] >> i add that -- >> the amen.
11:44 am
>> can i add that chicago public television already made a major step forward three or four years ago with dusable to obama. how many saw that in the prize-winning film? the black chicago history forum is committed to getting the various local school councils, lscs, to at least view the films. and maybe those social studies teachers will talk about the film, and then you can go to curriculum change. keep in the mind it is mandated in the state of illinois that african-american history be taught. in illinois you not only have a refusal to teach african-american history, but holocaust history is not being taught. but it's for citizens and groups like this to pressure their legislators to get this thing rolling. it is mandated. it's in law. let's learn what -- let's have those kids learning what they should be learning starting with the film. >> the film maker who made that
11:45 am
film, barbara allen, did much of her research here. >> [inaudible] >> there you are. much of the research was done here. it was great material, and the barbara allen papers which includer previous two films -- include her previous two films are also here. so the you want to see all the long interviews, for example, instead of -- when you make a documentary, maybe you get three minutes on the screen. but that might have been a 90-minute interview. it's worth looking at the 90-minute interview. >> wait, michael, can i actually add two more things also on this? >> yes, please. >> and i don't know whether or not brian wants to put something in, because maybe he's got plans that we don't know about in relation to conversations here. one is that christopher spoke about the importance of the to politics in relation to this, and i do think it's important to
11:46 am
recognize that today the question of how young people, particularly young people of color, are educated in chicago is highly, highly politicized question. so it's important for adults whether or not they are teaching students directly, young students directly, it's important for adults to bear their civil responsibility to make sure that that the best decisions are made by those in positions of political authority vis-a-vis educational policy. because that question is something that's very, very much out in front right now. we have to think about that as a point of responsibility for all of us. and then the second thing is i want to give a shout out to the chicago metro history fair, because i see lisa in the back there. the metro history fair gathers projects by high school students across the country where they do long form, intensive, collaborative research. there's a prize at the end, but my understanding is that
11:47 am
everybody wins in a certain sense in relation to the experience of going through doing that kind of work. so we do want to intervene in the schools, but we also want to think about how to encourage our young people to think about the opportunities that exist outside of schools or, i guess, in a co-curricular relationship with schools. perhaps there might be opportunities to speak with her later on if you know of young people that are interested in this. and one maybe quick, brief personal story. when i was coming up in high school in the 1970s in new york city, i read maybe not the historians, you know, dunning and burgess and others that duboise was writing against, but i recall very vividly in my social studies classes reading accounts of the civil war that basically replicated the dynamic that duboise was talking about. everything was the cause of the
11:48 am
civil war except slavery and the circumstance of african-americans. everything else was something that drove this. that's the history that i learned in high school. but i had enough counterexamples, and so maybe this is a reversal in a way of what my father encountered in little rock. i had my father's story, i had people like bayard rustin, a. a. philip randolph that i knew by name and in terms of their place in history, and they were able to tell me that nothing that was that significant in history that so concerned the welfare of african-americans could not have not only had some reference to african-american lives, but some direct impact and steering in relation to it coming from african-americans. so there are all sorts of ways in which we can touch our young people. it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to be successful in putting an entire class before them, just encouraging them to think critically about the dominant common sense is a good way to get them to appreciate
11:49 am
what the opportunities are that are there. so keep that work up. >> i add one more thing? brian, you realize the passage that talked about billy the barber. i thought about billy when i watched this movie, this fantastic political movie, "lincoln." there's a part where someone asks lincoln, do you know any black people if and he says, no. well, he did know billy the barber as that chapter -- i mean, everybody knew that he knew billy the barber who was haitian. and then, of course, the movie missed the point that when frederick douglass came to the white house on more than one occasion, there was that one occasion when lincoln beckoned him past the guards to come up and called douglass what, my friend. so movies which teach us as much as the print medium does have to be, as he said, scrutinized.
11:50 am
there must be critical analysis of just about everything except god. [laughter] >> well, we're going to let that be the last word. [laughter] [applause] thank you all for coming. the books are on sale in the hobby -- in the lobby, and you can get them signed. thank you again. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at >> c-span bus is parked down here on the mall, and on the bus with us right now is novelist joyce carol oates. here is her most recent book, "the accursed," it's called. joyce carol oates is the ar.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on