Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War

By Chatman, Jason | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Fall 2019 | Go to article overview

Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War


Chatman, Jason, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War. By Ian Rocksborough-Smith. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018. Pp. xvii, 238, notes, bibliography, index. Paper, $28.00.)

Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War, by Ian Rocksborough-Smith, history professor at University on the Frazier Valley and Douglas College, takes the reader behind the scenes of Chicago's story of African American activism through a historical narrative that focuses on pioneering efforts of dedicated school teachers, artists, community members, and fledgling civil rights groups. In rich detail, Rocksborough-Smith examines the struggles and accomplishments of an equality-minded movement tasked with challenging conventional stereotypes and overcoming attempts at delegitimization to establish institutional change in how African American history was taught and learned. Black Public History in Chicago is organized into five chapters, beginning with a foundational introduction that is followed by indepth analyses of curriculum reforms to Chicago's public-school system in chapter one, and continues chronologically through the establishment of an African American museum and other cultural efforts in chapters two through five.

Prior to the efforts described in the book, African American history in the United States was disregarded, diminished, or simply not taught, robbing African Americans and Americans broadly of important historical perspective. Particularly for African Americans, absence from the history books meant a disconnection from one's place among the population, a failed recognition of important contributions to the society, and the loss of a touchstone of historical, cultural, and economic identity. …

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