A collection of interviews with African Americans who came to Chicago from the South.
In their first great migration to Chicago that began during World War I, African Americans came from the South seeking a better life--and fleeing a Jim Crow system of racial prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. What they found was much less than what they'd hoped for, but it was much better than what they'd come from--and in the process they set in motion vast changes not only in Chicago but also in the whole fabric of American society. This book, the first of three volumes, revisits this momentous chapter in American history with those who lived it.
Oral history of the first order, Bridges of Memory lets us hear the voices of those who left social, political, and economic oppression for political freedom and opportunity such as they'd never known--and for new forms of prejudice and segregation. These children and grandchildren of ex-slaves found work in the stockyards and steel mills of Chicago, settled and started small businesses in the "Black Belt" on the South Side, and brought forth the jazz, blues, and gospel music that the city is now known for. Historian Timuel D. Black, Jr., himself the son of first-generation migrants to Chicago, interviews a wide cross-section of African Americans whose remarks and reflections touch on issues ranging from fascism to Jim Crow segregation to the origin of the blues. Their recollections comprise a vivid record of a neighborhood, a city, a society, and a people undergoing dramatic and unprecedented changes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The strength of this book is in its informality. Mr. Black is friends with nearly all of his interviewees (he has known several of them for over 40 years), and the sessions read as a conversation rather than an interview. This book is especially useful for one looking for supplimental material about the neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago, segregation (from an individual perspective rather than scholarly leaning), and smaller aspects of city history and social change that are often forgotten. Some of his interviewees include a man that owned a company that distributed hair straightener around the U.S., a man that started what would become the Illinois state lottery, well respected teachers, and military servicemen.
There is a great deal of repetition that could have been eliminated regarding DuSable High School, locations of buildings, boundaries of the neighborhood, and references to people that are not elaborated upon; it is possible that Black chose not to edit this...
What a gift this collection is!
In 1988, Timuel Black began to record and preserve the recollections of people who had lived in Chicago a long time, particularly the first generation of the Great Migration. When he wrote the introduction to this book, he had recorded over 125 conversations and still had "many , many more people with whom I would like to speak." Thirty-six of those conversations are presented here, with two more volumes planned to follow.
The interviews are conducted using the "participant observer" technique, and since Dr. Black - a long time resident himself - is an "insider" these interviews are essentially honest, intimate conversations among old friends, many of whom have now passed. As Dr. Black makes clear, this book is not intended to be a history of Black Chicago and its institutions, but rather a collection of oral memories from people who participated in shaping those institutions. But his field work provides invaluable data for...
I'm a student teacher in history and this great volume will help educate and inspire my students. Personal accounts are always more interesting than a historian's view after the fact.
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