Recovering Green in Bronzeville: An Environmental and Cultural History of the African American Great Migration to Chicago, 1915-1940

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Recovering Green in Bronzeville: An Environmental and Cultural History of the African American Great Migration to Chicago, 1915-1940

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Title: Recovering Green in Bronzeville: An Environmental and Cultural History of the African American Great Migration to Chicago, 1915-1940
Author: McCammack, Brian James
Citation: McCammack, Brian James. 2012. Recovering Green in Bronzeville: An Environmental and Cultural History of the African American Great Migration to Chicago, 1915-1940. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Between 1915 and 1940, millions of African Americans migrated from the South to cities in the North. “Recovering Green in Bronzeville” examines the ways in which these migrants experienced, perceived, talked about, valued, and shaped these natural and landscaped environments in the interwar years. Taking Chicago as its focal point, this dissertation argues that not only should African Americans be central to narratives of environment and place in the early twentieth century, but also that natural and landscaped environments are central to African American culture. The dissertation’s first part compares and contrasts the environmental resonance of lives left behind in the South with those established in Chicago, particularly with regards to foodways and labor. It asserts that while many African Americans had already become integrated into national industrial networks prior to migration, residence in even the most urban southern city could not have prepared them for Chicago’s densely populated South Side. The dissertation’s second part explores the significance of African American experiences with both urban and rural natural and landscaped environments from roughly 1915 to 1929. It shows how African Americans joined a chorus of late Progressive Era Americans who saw these environments as an antidote to modern city life that produced ill health and delinquency, as well as how race – through the discourses of respectability, uplift, and primitivism – uniquely inflected their approaches to those places. Primarily grounding its analysis in a few specific sites – Chicago’s Washington Park; Idlewild, an African American resort in rural Michigan; and Camp Wabash, a YMCA youth camp in rural Michigan – it also reveals black Chicagoans as a mobile population that regularly accessed the rural North. The dissertation’s third part considers how African Americans’ connections to these same environments evolved during the Depression, adding an analysis of segregated African American Civilian Conservation Corps companies which, with the labor of black Chicagoans, radically altered the landscapes of rural Illinois and Michigan. On the whole, African Americans focused on building communities in natural and landscaped environments separate from whites in a cultural context defined by widespread poverty, New Deal-era politics and agencies, increasing segregation, and diminished migration.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288944
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