A Street in Bronzeville
A Book That Changed America
For many of us reading is something we do to escape the reality of our lives and live through someone else’s eyes. Over the years, a multitude of stories have been published and changed the world, Gwendolyn Brooks’ “A Street in Bronzeville” being one of them. She used the city of Chicago’s streets to ride her way to fame and success by bringing light to topics that not everyone would feel comfortable talking about, especially at the time that “ A Street in Bronzeville” was written.
About the Author
Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917. Her family participated in the Great Migration, better described as “the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West”(History.com Editors, 2010) Growing up in Chicago, she was exposed to so many diverse cultures and groups which later inspired her work like “ A Street in Bronzeville. She attended three different high schools including, Hyde Park High School, Wendell Phillips Academy High School, and Englewood High School. Of the three she realized just how different they all were and the different types of students. “The racial prejudice that she encountered at some of these institutions would shape her understanding of social dynamics in the United States and influence her writing.”(Biography, 2020) She later graduated from Wilson Junior college and continued on her writing quest while also publishing some pieces of her work.
All Gwendolyn knew how to do was write. She started at a young age and by the age of 16, she already had written and published 75 poems. All the hard work and dedication lead her to win awards from the Midwestern Writers’ Conference, appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and countless others.
About the Book
Brooks’ story “ A Street in Bronzeville” focuses on the oppression of blacks in a Chicago city. The occupants of Bronzeville live in kitchenettes which are smaller than your average apartment. Throughout the story, you hear about different issues that this poverty-stricken town is faced with and the racism that inhabits Chicago. From a married couple, a man wrongly accused of raping a white woman, a woman with no family, a woman in an abusive relationship, to a woman who has trouble at her job. These things seemed to be common occurrences in the city of Bronzeville and in each story you witness the oppression that blacks underwent. Brooks’ writing style was very modernist. She made sure to include in her writing a perspective from an African American and shows the urbanization of Chicago. However, there are common themes throughout each of the stories. Racism, trauma, and wanting to live the American Dream are integrated into each of the 12 poems. Living in a city that has so much hatred towards the African American group made a life for these people very difficult. “ African Americans began to build a new place for themselves in public life, actively confronting racial prejudice as well as economic, political, and social challenges to create a black urban culture that would exert enormous influence in the decades to come.”(Biography, 2020) Another theme of this poem was the idea of loneliness. Blacks were being oppressed throughout the city and nothing was being done to help them. They were being falsy accused of things they didn't do, they felt as though they were not welcome and most of all when things were turned against them they had nobody and nothing to turn to for help. Being in the situation they were put into is hard enough but feel like you have nobody who will listen is hard too.
I think Gwendolyn Brooks’ “ A Street in Bronzeville” changed America because she brought the oppression of blacks to the surface by publishing her work. We all know that there once a time where people in America did not have equal rights. However, Brook’s brought light to specific events that she saw happening that would be looked over. “ the cultural complexities of racial segregation, major movements in black letters such as the Black Arts movement, modernist ideas promoting individuality… incorporate a neglected black experience”(Critical Insights) The book is considered to be so influential because in a time where blacks had no voice she made a right move. Blacks were not favorited but she made them a priority to show the world the reality of Bronzeville and the traumatic situations they undergo. Brook’s maintained respect for the South Side but gave them a voice that reached all of them but also the rest of the world.
Critical Insights: Gwendolyn Brooks. (2009, October 01). Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://www.salempress.com/Critical-Insights-Gwendolyn-Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks. (2020, August 24). Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/writer/gwendolyn-brooks
History.com Editors. (2010, March 04). The Great Migration. Retrieved October 31, 2020, from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/great-migration