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Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration Paperback – February 22, 2005

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Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration + Bridges of Memory Volume 2: Chicago's Second Generation of Black Migration (v. 2)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810123150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810123151
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,113,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A two-hour interview may only scrape the surface of a life, but Black's 36 oral histories exceed the sum of their parts. Black, a jazz historian and professor, frankly selects subjects whom he personally knows-and most people Black knows turn out to be fascinating. Many of the biographies of these political leaders, activists, artists and educators turn on how their considerable gifts were made manifest in the "promised land" of Chicago in the early 20th century. Among all the leitmotifs-a dissertation could be written on the repetition of the words "money," "education" and "hustle"-the conflict between national identity and racial identity emerges as one of the most profound. On the day WWI ends, nine-year-old Robert Colin makes a small fortune selling American flags, enough to finance his family's move to Chicago. They arrive just as a race riot explodes. "That riot took all the religion out of me and all the patriotism as well because of what they did to blacks," he says. Corneal Davis, who will go on to become an Illinois state representative, gets his first job in Chicago by putting down "American" as his race. "But ain't it a shame," he says, "that after I've been soldiering and risking my life for this country, now I can't put down 'colored' and even get myself any kind of a job in a city like this?" In these moments, oral history offers the richness of novels with the punch of nonfiction, and even the casual reader, who may not appreciate Black's scrupulous attention to dates or his sentimental reminiscing with his subjects, will delight in this invaluable resource.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

This is a collection of interviews with black Chicagoans affected by the great migration of southern blacks to the North during World War II. While many of these interviewees--bankers, lawyers, doctors, entertainers, and politicians--reveal substantial success stories, they also reflect on the adversities they faced and the evolution of their strategies to overcome and, in fact, endure the prejudice and hardships they found in Chicago. Black interviews more than 150 people who left their mark on Chicago, providing personal accounts of the broader sociological studies that have profiled black Chicago. This oral history, done in a question-and-answer format, captures memories of the children of the great migration, many now grandparents and great-grandparents. Without this work, many of these stories would otherwise be lost to a throwaway generation with little historical perspective. Black has captured the voices of the near past, and they tell a story as contemporary as our own: that success only comes with struggle, that progress is possible only when our history is both reflected and recognized in our contemporary lives. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By declension on December 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The strength of this book is in its informality. Mr. Black is friends with nearly all of his interviewees (he has known several of them for over 40 years), and the sessions read as a conversation rather than an interview. This book is especially useful for one looking for supplimental material about the neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago, segregation (from an individual perspective rather than scholarly leaning), and smaller aspects of city history and social change that are often forgotten. Some of his interviewees include a man that owned a company that distributed hair straightener around the U.S., a man that started what would become the Illinois state lottery, well respected teachers, and military servicemen.

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AfroAmericanHeritage on August 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "politicalnut" on November 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm a student teacher in history and this great volume will help educate and inspire my students. Personal accounts are always more interesting than a historian's view after the fact.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Thompson on November 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Here's my bias. I like history. I like to hear people talk about their lives. I like intelligent, articulate, effective language. And I loved this book. The people interviewed are fascinating, and Timuel Black helps them tell their stories in an unpretentious but by no means diffident way. I learned a great deal and enjoyed myself for many evenings.
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