The Activism of Art: Black Cultural Production and Protest Politics in Chicago, 1935-1960

This seminar will explore how cultural production intersected with protest politics to impact Chicago's urban development between the Great Depression and the Chicago Freedom Movement. We will begin by establishing the context of the city in the Depression era and birth of the Black Chicago Renaissance and then take an in-depth look at the visual artist Charles White.* Next, the seminar will look at 1940s collaborations such as They Seek a City between Jack Conroy and Arna Bontemps to discern shifting context of the Second World War. Finally we'll explore the Cold War era legacy of the BCR on art and protest politics (including artists Gwendolyn Brooks, Oscar Brown, Jr. and Nelson Algren). In so doing this seminar will seek new understandings of rupture and continuity over three decades as artists and activists alike battled over notions of race, representation, and inequality in the mid-20th century city.