Bronzeville

Black Chicago in Pictures, 1941–1943

A powerful collection of WPA images of black Chicago’s defining moment

“Many of the images are works of art and all beautifully capture a moment in time of one of America’s great cities.” —Black Issues Book Review

In the 1940s, the federal government sent a group of gifted photographers across the United States to record and publicize conditions in cities, towns, and rural areas that were the destination of an unprecedented migration. Two of these photographers, Russell Lee and Edwin Rosskam, spent time on Chicago’s South Side, eventually producing over a thousand documentary images of Bronzeville’s life. This remarkable coverage of a black urban community—the only significant collection of photographs of black Chicago during this pivotal era—has largely gone unpublished until now.

In over 100 handsome full-page black-and-white photographs of bustling city streets and sidewalks, prosperous middle-class businesses, thriving cabarets, as well as dirt-poor migrants from the deep South, this stunning tribute captures the vitality of a city whose burgeoning black population produced a vibrant and sophisticated culture now familiar worldwide. With original essays on the migration and the photography project, and contemporary commentary by Richard Wright and others, Bronzeville is a unique and exceptionally beautiful evocation of one of the defining moments in American cultural history.

Praise

“A multilayered book, wonderfully edited. . . . If Bronzeville had only pictures I might lose myself in autobiography. But the words, clinical, earnest, chatty, naive, determined, keep showing me what I did not and could not know.”
—Margo Jefferson, The New York Times Book Review
“Solid throughout, this work should be a part of every photography and African American history collection.”
Library Journal