An Autobiography of Black Chicago

An Autobiography of Black Chicago

by Dempsey Travis


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Few were more qualified than Dempsey Travis to write the history of African Americans in Chicago, and none would be able to do it with the same command of firsthand sources. This seminal paperback reissue of Travis's best-known work, An Autobiography of Black Chicago, depicts Chicago's African-American community through the personal experiences of Dempsey Travis, his family, and his circle. Starting with Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first non–Native American to settle on the mouth of the Chicago River, and ending with Travis's own successes leading the city's NAACP chapter, organizing Martin Luther King's first march in the city, and providing equal housing opportunities for black Chicagoans, An Autobiography of Black Chicago is a comprehensive yet intimate history of African Americans in 20th-century Chicago.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781932841671
Publisher: Agate
Publication date: 02/11/2014
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,178,121
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Dempsey Travis (1920–2009) was born and raised in Chicago. He was a real estate magnate, civil rights activist, jazz musician, and author. He graduated from Chicago's DuSable High School in 1939 and served in the army during World War II. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1949 and received a degree from the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University in 1969. He is the author of Views from the Back of the Bus and An Autobiography of Black Jazz, among many other books. He served as president of the Society of Midland Authors, as financial editor for Dollars and Sense magazine, and as a contributing writer to Ebony and The Black Scholar.

Table of Contents

Introduction to this first revised edition Richard Steele 9

Foreword St. Claire Drake 11

Publisher's note to this Agate Bolden edition 15

Prologue-Before My Time 19

Chapter 1 Beginnings 23

Chapter 2 The Early 1900s: Time of Change 30

Chapter 3 Racial Strife: I Never Learned to Swim 35

Chapter 4 Hard Times 40

Chapter 5 If Bad Dreams Were Money, Blacks Would Be Rich 46

Chapter 6 Listening Back 53

Chapter 7 Hoover's Depression and Grandma's Session 58

Chapter 8 Changing Tides: Boyhood to Manhood 67

Chapter 9 DuSable High, Class of'39 76

Chapter 10 My Street of Broken Dreams 88

Chapter 11 World War II 99

Chapter 12 Camp Shenango 109

Chapter 13 Facing Facts 125

Chapter 14 Don't Stop Me Now 134

Chapter 15 Civil Rights Struggle-Northern Style 141

Chapter 16 Front Lines 148

Chapter 17 Raising the "Cotton Curtain" 156

Chapter 18 The Contract Buyers League 165

Chapter 19 Reading the Obits 174

Acknowledgements 181

Notes and Documentation 183

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Autobiography of Black Chicago 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Feathered_Quill1 More than 1 year ago
Richard Steele opens Dempsey Travis’ re-print of An Autobiography of Black Chicago with his perspective toward understanding how the black community fits into ‘...Chicago’s urban mosaic...’ and the necessity to understand the ‘...intersection between race relations, politics and business...’ Perhaps the motivation for the Travis family to re-release the 1981 publication of Dempsey Travis’ autobiography was to provide an education to many of the inherent convictions Mr. Travis had toward his personal vision of never giving up and seeking out what he believed he could achieve. By the end of his life, he had risen to admirable status in the real estate world and became a solid voice and advocate for the black community. We live in a time where there is more than a sublime suggestion of racial discourse and I would surmise if a man were to take to the streets and ask a variation of nationalities with diverse cultural background: “What do you think the current climate is toward racial issues in our country today?” the answers would be spectral. It is no secret there have been many eras of unjust and mistreatment in this great nation of America. Perhaps this is why An Autobiography of Black Chicago has been re-released now. Mr. Travis breaks down his autobiography chapter-by-chapter sharing personal accounts of what it was like to begin his life in 1920’s Chicago—a time when it was roaring in the smoke-filled speakeasies and prohibition was a word that applied to those on the outside of those speakeasies. Time marched forward for Travis and with it came a further understanding that because of the color of his skin, his rights were limited due to the color of his skin. Travis continues to step his story forward and with its unfolding, there is an evolution and purpose to why it was important for him to seek a sound education; overcome the obstacles of being “black skinned” and make a difference. While I cannot say I can relate to what it must have been like to be “black” back then—I am white and a few years younger-I do believe every human being no matter their race, color or creed do have a common intersection of knowing and feeling when it comes to the experience of injustice and that, I believe, is the essence of what the take away is from this particular book. Travis had moments in his autobiography where I believe it was close to impossible to not vent his anger and frustrations he and his brothers in arms experienced in their respective lifetimes. While there is nothing offensive in the way the book was crafted, it is abundantly clear Mr. Travis used his pen to deliver his perception and message; such as: "...The Sivart mortgage banking presence in Chicago not only raised the “cotton curtain” between the black community and the FHA, it also created jobs for blacks within the mortgage banking industry in “lily-white” companies that had never previously considered a black either for a job or a mortgage application..." I had never heard of Dempsey Travis before reading his book. I migrate toward historical works because history is an intrinsic element to the evolution of any society. I believe Mr. Travis delivered a sound perspective and historical road map of his experience of growing up in a time and place when change was a necessity versus an option. Quill says: An Autobiography of Black Chicago is an interesting account of the importance of focusing on the will to succeed no matter the color of one’s skin.