Bronzeville was a "Black Metropolis
" in south Chicago
and Grand Boulevard
) with significant African-American urban history. It was first populated between 1910 and 1920 during the peak of the Great Migration
. Bronzeville was first coined in 1930 by James J. Gentry
, a theater editor for the Chicago Bee
Also called the “Black Belt” or “Black Ghetto.”
Although there was no institutional power, the community elected their own mayor. It was first a contest, started by The Chicago Defender in 1934. There were tremendous barriers preventing blacks form participating in the city's mainstream electoral politics, so the newspaper held an annual election where any black citizen could run for the position of mayor. What sets apart politics in Bronzeville is their election rules.
- No mud slinging
- No reference to the incumbent
- No politicking
In 1939 130,000 votes were counted for the election. By 1942 over 2.4 million votes elected the Bronzeville Mayor. This brought some stability to the disarray in south Chicago, where White Supremacy
was dominantly preventing the African-American community from participating in politics.
Two Important Tools
- The Chicago Defender, a newspaper controlled by the African-American community in south Chicago.
- The Church, not only for spiritual well-being but an open forum for discussion.
Without The Defender or the church, the Bronzeville community would never have occurred. It was through these two mediums that they grouped together. However, since the mayor had no power to change an institution that did not exist, over time it just became a popularity contest by the 1950’s.
If you want to see Bronzeville, you should walk down 47th Street, which to this day remains the hub of the neighborhood.