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Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration Paperback – February 22, 2005
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Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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There is a great deal of repetition that could have been eliminated regarding DuSable High School, locations of buildings, boundaries of the neighborhood, and references to people that are not elaborated upon; it is possible that Black chose not to edit this out to keep the interviews intact. It would have been extremely helpful for maps of Bronzeville throughout the past 80 years were inserted among the small selection of pictures that are included, in order to help those unfamiliar with the neighborhood navigate through some of the interviewees' memories of businesses, theaters, and homes.
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!