White Cities, Black Streets: Planned Violence and Native Maps in Richard Wright’s Chicago and Modikwe Dikobe’s Johannesburg

  • Loren KrugerEmail author


The art moderne architecture on Chicago’s streets and its Century of Progress Fair in 1933 influenced the Empire Exhibition and the urban form in Johannesburg in 1936 but in the shadow of the white cities, as their promoters called them, black lives were threatened by planned and unplanned violence. Owing more to property speculation and informal vigilantes than to legislation, Chicago’s black South Side in this period was more segregated than Johannesburg’s inner districts like Doornfontein. Starting with this counter-intuitive fact, the chapter compares critical responses to segregation by African Americans and black South Africans, and the literary expression of these tensions in fiction. Richard Wright’s Native Son and Modikwe Dikobe’s Marabi Dance combine sociological and ethnographic research—by Horace Cayton and St Clair Drake in Chicago and Ellen Hellman in Johannesburg—with melodrama and life-writing to depict with passion and realism black women and men who negotiate informal maps, gender and racial stereotypes, and planned and unplanned violence in their striving to fully inhabit their native cities.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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