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Grant number: FT-254697-17

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Mary I. Unger
Ripon College (Ripon, WI 54971-1465)

Cultures of Reading in the Black Chicago Renaissance

A book-length study on reading communities and audience reception during the Chicago Renaissance.

This book recovers forgotten African American reading communities on Chicago’s South Side that helped create the Black Chicago Renaissance, a flourishing of African American literary expression from the 1930s through the 1950s. In Bronzeville, Chicago’s predominantly black neighborhood, writers such as Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks discovered lively reading communities that responded to and shaped their work. Through extensive archival research, I analyze how--in public forums, book clubs, the black press, and local businesses--Bronzeville readers served as agents of critique and reception who proved central to the work of Wright, Brooks, and other black writers of the era. My project thus demonstrates how local readers--rather than the white literary establishment--dictated the norms and tastes of African American literature in the mid twentieth century. In this way, my book uncovers the impact of Chicago’s South Side on the development of American life and letters.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
African American Studies; American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2017 – 7/31/2017