Chicago Renaissance Digital Collection

CPL's Digital Collections document life in Chicago through archival images, documents and artifacts.

Horace Cayton with "Blue Boy," circa 1947


The Black Chicago Renaissance was a creative movement when activism and scholarship flourished with the prodigious work of African American community leaders, performers, artists, writers and activists.

During and after the Great Depression (1930s-1950s), African Americans in Chicago created a new community on the South Side that was distinctly their own.

  • In literature, the Black Chicago Renaissance was represented by such giants as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Arna Bontemps and Fenton Johnson.
  • The explosion of musical creativity in Bronzeville’s clubs and concert halls ranged from classical to jazz and from gospel to blues and pop.
  • A new social science of Black urban life was born with the writing of St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton’s Black Metropolis.
  • The art of William McBride, William Edouard Scott, Gordon Parks, Archibald Motley, Jr. and other local Chicago Black artists defined the era.

Photographs in the Chicago Renaissance exhibit are housed in the Vivian G. Harsh Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at Woodson Regional Library.

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Acknowledgment of Harmful Materials

Chicago Public Library collects images, documents and other archival materials from different communities and time periods to preserve and make available the cultural and historical record. As historical objects, some of these materials contain harmful or disturbing content. CPL presents these artifacts as an unfiltered social record and does not endorse the views expressed therein.

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