Here, we spotlight essays that detail the historical and contemporaneous experiences of black people living in the region.
Tracing Water, Memory And Change Through Black Experiences Along And Near Route 65
"This history is encapsulated in the area that Route 65 spans. Like the rivers, it is a sort of connective tissue, linking people and places across the region. I set out to talk to Black residents living in communities along and near Route 65 about where they live and their experiences in these places, in the context of their connections to water. What you’ll read and see isn’t a definitive account of Black life in this area. Instead, it will present the stories of a few people, in a few places, and uses water as an entry point to the complex social, political and economic context of the region."
Coming From Where I'm From...
"It didn’t build my character, as people say poverty does, it built angst, dejection, and posttraumatic stress. It harbored in me, for years after going down south for college, a deep sense of inadequacy and eventually survivor’s guilt. I began to feel guilty that all of my greatest memories-falling in love, meeting lifelong friends, traveling the world, finding amazing mentors, becoming engulfed in life altering projects, getting married, graduating, starting a family-were not in Milwaukee."
Black & Midwestern: On the Mississippi and Sites of Memory
"Within this imagined landscape of white blue-collar life, there’s the dismissal of Black people that shaped Midwestern cultures. Cities with rich Black culture and history, like Chicago and St. Louis, get pushed into their own class. But if there’s something unique and differentiating about white people from the Midwest versus white people from the Coasts, then why isn’t there recognition for the complexities of Blackness?"
Hip Hop in Peoria: A Photo Essay
"Nevertheless, hip hop is thriving in Peoria, albeit on a very underground and, well, middling level. And before you dismiss Peoria rappers as having little to rap about, consider that nearly half of the city’s black residents live below the poverty line and that Peoria’s violent crime rate is the fourth highest in Illinois."
Pittsburgh is a progressive city,
Slavery, Freedom and African American Voices in the Midwest
"What, I wondered, about the timeless and award-winning work of Toni Morrison? Morrison, like other African American literary luminaries (Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and Gwendolyn Brooks, to name just a few) was born in the Midwest, and like them she has devoted a significant portion of her career to examining African American lives in the cities, small towns, hills, valleys and rivers of the region. We miss out on much that is important about the Midwest when we fail to consider the complex narratives of African Americans here."
The Ghosts of 808 East Lewis Street
Tanisha C. Ford
"This crime was Fort Wayne’s first triple homicide in more than a decade. Adam was Christian, so the police quickly ruled out the possibility of an anti-Muslim hate crime. But immigration, Muslim rights, and Black Lives Matter activists demanded a full police investigation, and for a few days, #ourthreeboys trended on Twitter."
What it's like to be black in Naperville, America
"[...] people can be totally cool for years and years but suddenly decide that they need to be super racist because they want to hurt you. They'll say they're sorry, they'll explain how you misinterpreted what they said, but the fact is, they reach for racism because they think it'll emotionally and psychologically destroy you, and that's what they want to do at that moment."
Christina Long Is Opening Up the Mosh Pit for Black Women
"Because in the metal community, especially out in the Midwest, the racism is a little different. People are not afraid to be vocal when they see something they don’t like. So we would walk into a show out there and a big bearded dude might say, “There’s a black person in here! I can’t believe it! What are you doing here?” [...]"
Coming Up ‘Down the Hill’ On Peoria’s South Side
Terrion L. Williamson
"But while Richard Pryor might seem an inordinate point of departure for me, a churchgirl-turned-college professor, it is in his brazen commentary and his obscene, autobiographical, profanity-laden stage routines that I have found something of a life I know — something that the conventions of academia can sometimes gesture toward but that, for me, have only been fully embodied in the place and the people I know of as home [...]"