Bronzeville Lives - Chicago's Black Metropolis
Bronzeville is a city within a city.
The once teeming heart of Chicago's Black Metropolis on the city's Southside has shaped the career of President Obama, made music to change the world and been on the frontline of the American dream.
For generations it has been the most densely populated part of the city.
Divided by great highways from white neighbourhoods, latterly defined by its disastrous public housing developments or 'projects', it has birthed the words of Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright and Lorraine Hansberry.
The music of gospel, blues & jazz, not to mention the publishing phenomenon of Ebony Magazine.
Between 1900-1944 Chicago's black population grew from 30,000 to 340,000 constrained largely to the Southside with Bronzeville at its heart.
The Great Migration saw successive waves of black Americans abandon the poverty and murderous racism of the South's small towns to head for what many saw as 'the Promised Land'.
Work, freedom from fear and a shot at the American dream drew millions to the concrete and steel of Chicago and its steel mills, slaughter yards and railways.
For a time, those who dwelt in the Black Metropolis had a community bound tight by pride and the knowledge that they stood on their own.
The Black Metropolis is also the title of the classic 1945 study of this world.
As historian Adam Green consults its words as a guide to today's streets so activist, teacher and historian Timuel Black recalls the night Joe Louis became champion of the world with Bronzeville as its capital.
Susan Cayton Woodson remembers the time Paul Robeson drove her to this vibrant city to begin an new life and the writer Sam Greenlee spins bittersweet tales of a world on the cusp of disintegration and painful change.
Producer: Mark Burman.
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Once the teeming heart of Chicago's Black Metropolis on the city's Southside, epicentre of the Great Migration that brought hundred's of thousands from the South, it has shaped the career of President Obama, launched the city's first black Mayor, birthed brilliant writers and poets and made music to entrance the world.
Once it was a proud and self contained black universe remembered by Timuel Black & Sam Greenlee.
Banks, department stores and clubs where the world's greatest performers played.
But it was also a slum where two thirds of its housing was condemned.
A world of de facto segregation made possible by housing covenants and hostile white communities.
Bronzeville began to crumble and change in the late 1950's as the world's largest housing developments, the Projects, rose to create a city within a city within a city.
They would become a trap for the poorest of the poor and a base for the rising gangs to deal drugs and death.
Now those projects are either empty lots or desirable low rise homes & Bronzeville faces an uncertain future with the prospect of gentrification and a scramble to preserve its fast disappearing landmarks.
A long walk along State St, once a 4 mile concrete corridor and home to 40,000 people brings you finally to the Bishop Roberts Temple.
In 1955 Mamie Till brought her son Emmet's corpse here for a funeral that would spark the civil rights movement.
Just a few blocks away on 44th St was the world of Coach John Hill which grew increasingly murderous by the late 1960's.
Young entrepreneur Tanya Durr still smiles about a childhood in the notorious Ida B.Wells projects.
some 40 years separate them.
Neither can remember how many friends and students they have buried
Presented & Produced by Mark Burman.
Bronzeville, a city within a city: Four generations of Chicago's Black Metropolis speak.