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Brian Dolinar, editor of a new book featuring never-before-published reflections of African-American writers living in Chicago during the 1930s, will speak about the newly edited book,  The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers at an Oct. 22 lecture at Roosevelt University.

The lecture entitled Bound for Freedom: Black WPA Writers Document Chicago’s South Side is free and open to the public and will be held at 4 p.m. in the University’s 10th floor library, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

The second in Roosevelt’s 2013-14 St. Clair Drake lecture series, the event will look back in time to when President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration put promising black writers to work in Illinois on a project to chronicle aspects of Chicago’s African-American experience. Major black writers of the day, including Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps, white proletarian writer Jack Conroy, Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Katherine Dunham, Fenton Johnson, Frank Yerby and Richard Durham wrote at the time about everything from public and domestic life to politics, religion, literature and the performing arts.

The Negro in Illinois project never came to fruition as a publication until several months ago due to the painstaking efforts by Dolinar, who reconstructed the project from papers in the Vivian G. Harsh Collection of Afro-American History and Literature kept at the Carter G. Woodson Library in Chicago and other archives across the country.

“Brian Dolinar’s efforts are impressive along two scholarly fronts. He has presented a first-class introduction to the monumental New Deal Era’s writing project to preserve Black Chicago’s history and culture that was embodied in the research and writings of Arna Bontemps, Jack Conroy, Richard Wright, Margaret Walker and others,” remarked Roosevelt University Professor Emeritus  of History Christopher R. Reed, a leading scholar on Black Chicago’s early history. “He (Dolinar) has untiringly resurrected all 29 chapters of the historic Illinois Writers’ Project labeled The Negro in Illinois, providing posterity with long sought-after meanings of things past in the vaunted Black Metropolis of the early 20th Century,” Reed said.  Following the lecture, Reed will discuss Dolinar’s groundbreaking research and the context of Black Chicago in the 1930s.

Sponsored by Roosevelt’s St. Clair Drake Center for African and African American  Studies, the lecture is being presented as part of a lecture series that honors and reflects upon the significant speeches Drake make in 1963 – 100 years after Emancipation. Dolinar will discuss the significance of Drake’s  relationship to the Negro in Illinois writers and the Black Chicago Renaissance they were part of.

The Bound for Freedom lecture is supported by a generous gift from Roosevelt alumnus Robert Johnson and his wife, Rose. For more information and/or to attend, contact Erik Gellman, associate director of the St. Clair Drake Center at egellman@roosevelt.edu or 312-322-7138.

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