Brian Dolinar, whose accolades include writing for Smile Politely, has just published an edited collection about the African American experience in this state. The Negro in Illinois: the WPA Papers, forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press, includes texts written decades ago by a number of African American writers.
From the author’s website:
Headed by Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps and white proletarian writer Jack Conroy, The Negro in Illinois employed major black writers living in Chicago during the 1930s, including Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Katherine Dunham, Fenton Johnson, Frank Yerby, and Richard Durham. The authors chronicled the African American experience in Illinois from the beginnings of slavery to Lincoln’s emancipation and the Great Migration, with individual chapters discussing various aspects of public and domestic life, recreation, politics, religion, literature, and performing arts. After the project was canceled in 1942, most of the writings went unpublished for more than half a century–until now.
Working closely with archivist Michael Flug to select and organize the book, editor Brian Dolinar compiled The Negro in Illinois from papers at the Vivian G. Harsh Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at the Carter G. Woodson Library in Chicago. Dolinar provides an informative introduction and epilogue which explain the origins of the project and place it in the context of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Making available an invaluable perspective on African American life, this volume represents a publication of immense historical and literary importance.
On September 28, Dolinar will join other scholars of African-American history in a panel discussion about the collection and the book at 1:30 p.m. at the Woodson library.