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Chapter 18 - Chicago Gets the Blues: Migration, Depression, and the Black Renaissance

from Part IV - A City of Neighborhoods: The Great Depression, Sociology, and the Black Chicago Renaissance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2021

Frederik Byrn Køhlert
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
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Summary

From the Great Depression to the early 1950s, Chicago was the center of African American literary production. On the South Side, writers such as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank Marshall Davis, Margaret Walker, and William Attaway authored works that broke new ground in African American letters. They came of age artistically in the wake of the Great Migration, and the migratory experience and the challenges of creating new lives in the city became the grand themes of their writing and underpinned a broader creative flowering first manifested in the vibrant jazz and blues of the 1920s. Through local institutions, New Deal cultural agencies, and left-wing artists’ organizations, writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance interacted with performing and visual artists and social scientists, achieved unprecedented critical and commercial success, and sought to build infrastructures supporting black cultural initiatives. Collectively, they created a body of literature that was thematically powerful enough to portray a time of massive economic desperation and social dislocation while stylistically supple enough to incorporate many of the formal innovations of literary modernism.

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Chapter
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Chicago
A Literary History
, pp. 253 - 268
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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