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The cry "Up North!" and the city of Chicago became synonymous as America's second city absorbed the masses during the great black migration of 1910 to 1940. This great migration was a watershed event in American history, transforming the lives of millions of black people and the cities to which they flocked. It had the obvious outcome of turning a primarily southern, rural people into one identified, for better or worse, with the inner cities of the American North and West.
Originally published in 1945, the award-winning, two-volume Black Metropolis is the work of two eminent social scientists, anthropologist St. Clair Drake and sociologist Horace Cayton, trying to describe what this massive movement of people had wrought. It takes as its subject for study one of the largest black communities in the world, at the time, Chicago's inner city, nicknamed Bronzeville. Richard Wright wrote the preface to the 1945 edition. In it he said:
Chicago is the city from which the most incisive and radical Negro thought has come; there is an open and raw beauty about that city that seems to either kill or endow one with the spirit of life. I felt those extremes of possibility, death and hope, while I lived half hungry and afraid in a city to which I had fled ... it was not until I stumbled upon science that I discovered some of the meaning of the environment that battered and taunted me. . . . BIack MetropoIis, Drake's and Cayton's scientific statement about the urban Negro, pictures the environment out of which the Bigger Thomases of our nation come.
This study is critical in locating the site and tracing the circumstances under which southern dreams of freedom and prosperity up North were dashed. It is critical to understanding the modern history of the disenfranchisement of the African American.