Chicago Public Library hosted a city-wide Juneteenth Reading Circle to discuss Chicago author Richard Wright’s novel The Man Who Lived Underground, and the significance of its release in April 2021, nearly 80 years after it was written. The Man Who Lived Underground tells the story of Fred Daniels, a Black man who is picked up by the police after a brutal double murder and tortured until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. After signing a confession, he escapes from custody and flees into the city's sewer system.
This Reading Circle conversation was facilitated by Sylvia Ewing, Director of Strategic Communication, Marketing and Outreach at Elevate. Panelists included Adam Green, Professor of History, University of Chicago; Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director, American Library Association; Garrard McClendon, Associate Professor, Chicago State University; Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies; Northwestern University; and Juan Perea, Professor, Loyola School of Law. John Kulka, the Editorial Director of this novel, from the nonprofit publisher, Library of America, spoke to Commissioner Chris Brown to introduce the book.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the June 19, 1865 ending of slavery in the United States. Additional recommended readings, a topic guide and blog posts on Juneteenth are available for continued celebration and learning.
CPL offered this discussion in partnership with the City’s Together We Heal, a journey aimed at building racial healing by encouraging every Chicagoan to do their part to foster racial healing, learning, and restoration in every neighborhood across our City. The initiative seeks to promote civic unity by encouraging Chicagoans to connect across lines of difference and support a collective conversation about our truth and our promise as a City.