A unique chronicling of African American history,The Negro in Illinois, was originally produced during the 1930's Depression era by the Illinois Writers' Project, a program of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under President Roosevelt. Headed by Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps and white proletarian writer Jack Conroy, The Negro in Illinois employed major Black writers in Chicago during the 1930s, including Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, and Katherine Dunham. Doing interviews and scouring old newspapers and courthouse records, the writers told the story of the African American experience in Illinois. They wrote about music, the movement to abolish slavery, sports and housing, from the beginnings of slavery to the Great Migration. After Roosevelt pulled the plug on the project in 1942, most of the writings went unpublished for more than half a century...until now.
"Some of the original writers, such as Richard Wright, would go on to great acclaim. And because many of them were novelists and poets, their writing style wasn't at all dry but literary as they wrote about a variety of issues and people, including entertainers like Louis Armstrong; a young Nation of Islam..." Read full review of The Negro in Illinois from Chicago Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice at A book that binds black history in Illinois.
Editor Brian Dolinar unraveled a mystery, searching for the missing pieces over several years and over several states to resurrect all 29 chapters of this historic Illinois Writers Project. Dolinar is a scholar of African American literature and culture from the Depression era. He is the author of The Black Cultural Front: Black Writers and Artists of the Depression Generation. Brian has taught history and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Go to University of Illinois Press to read comments on The Negro in Illinois by Richard Courage (co-author of The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932-1950), Christopher Robert Reed (author of The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1920-1929), Bill V. Mullen (coeditor of Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans), and Adam Green (University of Chicago).
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