The Project

This is a thirty-month (January 2014 to June 2016), interdisciplinary, collaborative research project investigating African American arts and letters in Chicago between 1890 and 1930. The NEH-funded project brings together an historian, a literary scholar, a social anthropologist, and a new media artist/scholar specializing in interactive information-driven web environments. This team will identify black residents of Chicago – most of them long forgotten – who contributed to the literary arts, journalism, scholarship, and/or visual arts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will trace their lives and careers back through the family and social networks and institutional affiliations that supported and sustained them and examine their creative works in order to develop evidence-based generalizations about the provenance and substance of intellectual life and creative expression among African Americans in that city. Through an edited collection of scholarly essays, an interactive website with searchable database and historical image galleries (, and public presentations sponsored by the Black Chicago History Forum and St. Clair Drake Center of Roosevelt University, we will make the results of our research broadly available to diverse public and scholarly audiences.