Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration / Edition 1

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Recipient of 2007 The Hyde Park Historical Society Paul Cornell Award

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Black has produced compelling oral history certain to stand alongside classics on black Chicago that start with St. Clair Drake and Horace Clayton's Black Metropolis."
--Library Journal

"[E]ven the casual reader. . .will delight in this invaluable resource."--Publishers Weekly

"These interviews provide a lens into the choices, disappointments, work, family, cultural community and race relations that shaped the lives of Black Chicagoans during the age of the Great Migration. The history of Chicago has been made richer and more accessible by Black's work." --Lonnie Bunch, president of the Chicago Historical Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810123151
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 616
  • Sales rank: 786,496
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Timuel D. Black, Jr. is a prominent civil rights activist, noted jazz historian, and professor emeritus of social sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he moved to Chicago as a baby, and has lived here since. He holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University and a master's degree from the University of Chicago.
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Table of Contents

John Hope Franklin

Studs Terkel


Willis Thomas
Warren Kirkland (and Mr. Rhodes)
Thomas Ellis and Edith Ellis
Fred Smith
Representative Corneal Davis
Lillie Lodge Brantley
Robert Colin
Ida Mae Cress
Ernest Griffin
Etta Moten Barnett
Alonzo Parham
Gwendolyn Davis
Irma Clark
Wayman Hancock
Jimmy Ellis
Morris Ellis
John Levy
Eddie Johnson
Juanita Tucker
Mildred Bowden and Hermene Hartman
Louis Caldwell
Alvin "Al" Boutte
James "Jack" Isbell
Dorsey Day
Jacoby Dickens
Dorothy McConner
George Johnson
Walter "Buddy" Brown
Commander Milton Deas Jr.
Dr. Rudy Nimocks
LeRoy Martin
Judge Earl Strayhorn
Justice William Cousins
Marjorie Echols and Harvey Echols
Bishop Arthur Brazier
Dr. Barbara Bowman and Dr. James Bowman


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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2006

    Excellent book about Black Chicago

    This is an excellent book about Chicago and the blacks that reside there. Many of the stories seemed to contain similar experiences that other blacks who migrated to large cities encountered. It makes you wish you were able to go back in time and have the same wonderful experiences...and also helps you to learn how the blacks dealt with issues of limited/overcrowded housing, competition for limited jobs and racism. We have come a long way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    Eavesdrop on conversations among old friends

    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 future researchers attempting to compile that history. If this book contained nothing more than the biographical information about each of the 40 participants (some are joint interviews), it would make fascinating reading. But the interviews bring each vividly to life. We meet people from all walks, including civil servants, educators, politicians, jazz musicians, railroad workers, business people, even two generations of South Side Chicago represented by mother and daughter Mildred Bowden and Hermene Hartman. Some, like George Johnson, tell a story of ¿from rags to riches.¿ Others fall into a category of ¿just keep on keepin¿ on.¿ But all are riveting. I look forward to the next two volumes!

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