Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Chicago Bronzeville Originals
My great-great grandparents came to Chicago in the 1890's. My great-great grandfather Robert "Dandy Bob" Anderson was a valet for theater stage stars with whom he traveled around the U.S. He was known as "Dandy" because he was well-dressed man.
He and his first wife Jennie had two children born in Chicago. Their son Robert "Bob" Anderson, my great Uncle Bob was born in Chicago in about 1895. He was a local basketball star. He also played in the Negro Baseball League for the Chicago American Giants. Bob Anderson founded with a group of friends the Olde Tymers Athletic Club of Chicago in 1932. This organization sponsored youth sports programs. Bob Anderson and the Olde Tymers are credited for sponsoring the 1936 Olympic Team members: Jesse Owens, Rep. Ralph Mercalfe, Eddie Talon, Dave Albriton, Tydie Pickett, Claude Walton, Ben Johnson and Cornelius Johnson. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin at the 1936 Olympics. He was the first American Track & Field Athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. This occurred during the Hilter "Nazi" era in which the "Aryan" people were believed to be the dominant race.
Robert "Bob" Anderson's sister, Eva Mae Anderson was born in Chicago in about 1897. She became a jazz age dancer. She performed at the Harlem Cotton Club. She also danced with Josephine Baker in Blake & Sissle's "Shuffle Along".
It was written and performed by African Americans with Black audience members sitting in orchestra seats instead of the balcony. It was known for featuring the first African-American love story. Despite the fact that the performers wore blackface it was a huge success running 405 shows and setting the precedent for Black Theatre. It is credited with starting the Harlem Renaissance.
My great-grandmother, Eva Mae married Jodie Edwards "Butterbeans" of the famous vaudeville act Butterbeans and Susie Act.
Bob Anderson and Eva Wheatley Edwards were Bronzeville Socialites. The Olde Tymers Club was so named for those who were born or lived in Chicago before the Black Migration in the 1930's. Bob's sister Eva headed the Olde Tymers Women's Auxiliary. The women's club voted to uniamously to make the Abbotts, owners of the Chicago Defender Newspaper honorary members. The Abbotts graciously accepted the invitation. The Chicago Defender is an African American newspaper which was first published in 1904. The Chicago Defender is credited with spurring the Black Migration from the south to Chicago. The newspaper printed stories of job opportunities.
The Chicago Originals were known to look down upon those Blacks migrating from the South. I suppose this is the reason for setting themselves apart as the first to live in Chicago. During the Bronzeville era there 2,000 social clubs and everyone vied to see their name mentioned in the Chicago Defender at a social club gathering. It was during this time that Jazz was incubated in Chicago at the social club dances.
I am a sixth generation Chicagoan who family has it's roots in the Bronzeville area of Chicago's Southside. I am proud of the Chicago Southside. I am not a socialite. I am very down to earth and live among common people. I inherited my desire to travel and serve from my great-great grandfather Robert Anderson, the traveling valet.
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