AHA Session 283
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton, Fifth Floor)
John McCluskey Jr., Indiana University
When writer and librarian Arna Bontemps started reflecting on the number of authors whom the federal government helped to employ from the 1930s to the 1940s, Bontemps also pinpointed a previously underemphasized cultural movement that emerged in the wake of the Great Depression nationwide. In essence, Bontemps was identifying what would come to be called the Black Chicago Renaissance. Lasting slightly longer than those aforementioned years of federal support, the Black Chicago Renaissance was a rich period for artistic, literary, and intellectual production as well as political organizing within the African American community. At the heart of these intersecting developments were a variety of texts being produced and circulated across Chicago for a variety of purposes. This panel explores the impact of four different categories of such texts (poetry, manuscripts, newspapers, and school curriculum) within the contexts of literary and historical production, politics, and education in order to demonstrate the value of print culture as a social catalyst. As an interdisciplinary conversation, this panel will demonstrate how Chicagoans’ loyalties to the city itself created many of the textual transactions that defined this period and how the shaping and sharing of this sometimes site-specific information also managed to inform the national stage as well. Ultimately, audience members from different backgrounds and disciplines will gain a deeper understanding of this important period within American history and culture from our panelists’ “readings” and interpretations of these four mediums.
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