“Bronzeville,” a ten episode mini-series executive produced by Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate, could easily be viewed as a loose retelling of the stories of thousands of Black families, my own included.
As the story was told to me, my great-grandfather suddenly left his home in Orville, Alabama one night after getting into a heated exchange with a sheriff and soon found himself in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. He later met my great-grandmother while she was selling numbers.
At the time, the Southside Chicago neighborhood was viewed as a beacon for Black prosperity and given the title of “Black Metropolis.”
The podcast series, which can be heard for free on iTunes, is a reflection of that mostly unspoken of time period and place. While the story is fictional in nature, its first episode is already proof enough that it can be used as a way to learn about and appreciate Black history.
The main character, Jimmy Tillman, fills in as the protagonist who’s experiencing the Bronzeville for the very first time in all of its glamour and mystery which allows the audience, most of which probably never saw Chicago in the 1940s, to gain some added perspective.
The dialogue paints a clear picture of what life was like for many Black people living at the time whether they were going to college, working on an assembly line or even those making a not-so-legal income.
Casual references to legends of the past such as Henry Armstrong, one of the most popular boxers of the 20th century, and others will give the curious listener plenty of opportunities to research and find out more about their history.
As someone with a stake in learning more about Black history and Black Eexcellence, “Bronzeville” looks to be a welcome escape from our current world once a week. As a native to Chicago’s Southside with roots in Bronzeville, this story is already one of my favorite tales of the year.
Feel free to check out the story for yourself on iTunes and experience Fishburne, Tate, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Tracee Ellis Ross, Wood Harris and many more actors of note bring life into new roles.