Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance

New Negro Writers, Artists, and Intellectuals, 1893-1930
Author: Edited by Richard A. Courage and Christopher Robert Reed
Foreword by Darlene Clark Hine
The origins and triumphs of an African American cultural vanguard
Cloth – $125
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 04/27/2020
Cloth: 04/27/2020
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

The Black Chicago Renaissance emerged from a foundational stage that stretched from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to the start of the Great Depression. During this time, African American innovators working across the landscape of the arts set the stage for an intellectual flowering that redefined black cultural life.

Richard A. Courage and Christopher Robert Reed have brought together essays that explore the intersections in the backgrounds, education, professional affiliations, and public lives and achievements of black writers, journalists, visual artists, dance instructors, and other creators working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Organized chronologically, the chapters unearth transformative forces that supported the emergence of individuals and social networks dedicated to work in arts and letters. The result is an illuminating scholarly collaboration that remaps African American intellectual and cultural geography and reframes the concept of urban black renaissance.

Contributors: Richard A. Courage, Mary Jo Deegan, Brenda Ellis Fredericks, James C. Hall, Bonnie Claudia Harrison, Darlene Clark Hine, John McCluskey Jr., Amy M. Mooney, Christopher Robert Reed, Clovis E. Semmes, Margaret Rose Vendryes, and Richard Yarborough

* Publication of this book was supported in part by a grant from the Howard D. and Marjorie I. Brooks Fund for Progressive Thought.

About the Author

Richard A. Courage is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the State University of New York and a professor of English at Westchester Community College/SUNY. He is the coauthor of The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932–1950. Christopher Robert Reed is a professor emeritus of history at Roosevelt University. His books include Knock at the Door of Opportunity: Black Migration to Chicago, 1900–1919 and The Rise of Chicago’s Black Metropolis, 1920–1929.


"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance has many pleasures for readers interested in African-American history, art history, Chicago history and, indeed, US history, and one is the opportunity to learn about important but little-known figures from a century and more ago." --Third Coast Review

"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance makes a compelling case for starting any history of Black culture and arts in Chicago well before the traditional start date of the Chicago Renaissance in the 1930s." --Society for US Intellectual History

"Highly recommended." --Choice

"What Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance captures are the ideas, institutions, and individuals that had to come together in a post-Emancipation America and ask, “Where is the race headed?” Regardless of their individual answers, they laid the foundation for Black people in Chicago and abroad to ask the same question of themselves. " --South Side Weekly

"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance ultimately presents a rich, varied tapestry for understanding some of the foundational moments of Black Chicago's cultural and literary history. No doubt future studies will continue to build on some of the insights presented by this volume." --Journal of American Ethnic History

"The Black Chicago Renaissance (BCR) remains a relatively understudied moment in 20th-century African American cultural history. . . . An engrossing account of the formative period that led to the BCR of the 1930s and 1940s. . . . A highly informative, albeit imperfect, step toward a fuller reconstruction of the pre-BCR years." --Science and Society

"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance exposes us to fruitful new archives, bringing lesser-known culturati, readers, publications, and patrons more squarely into the frame of Chicago's African American cultural history." --American Literary History

"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance may be an essential prequel to The Black Chicago Renaissance, but it has its own clear integrity and value and will be a key cultural source on a crucial period in the story of the people and the city of Chicago." --Journal of American History

"Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance invites a new generation of scholars to keep digging into the scarcely tapped and rich history of Black Chicago and its influence on US history." --Society for US Intellectual History


"An important work of intellectual and cultural recovery. It brings to the surface corners of Chicago's vibrant intellectual and cultural life that we have never considered or simply heard about in passing. The archival depth and artistic breadth will powerfully add to a much broader understanding of black cultural renaissance both geographically and conceptually."--Davarian L. Baldwin, author of Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life

"This is the book we’ve been waiting for--revelatory at every turn--attesting to the creative ferment of black Chicago in the early years of the twentieth century. Courage, Reed, and an impressive range of contributors give us the vital 'prequel' to the Black Chicago Renaissance, through new stories of writers, artists, dancers, tastemakers, and cultural entrepreneurs who made Chicago a center of the New Negro movement."--Liesl Olson, author of Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis


•  Certificate of Excellence, Illinois State Historical Society, 2021