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We Are the Culture
We Are the Culture

We Are the Culture

Black Chicago's Influence on Everything


224 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, EPUB, PDF

Cloth, $28.99 (US $28.99) (CA $38.99)

Publication Date: April 2024

ISBN 9781641608305

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Apr 2024)
Lawrence Hill Books


eBook Editions Available

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Price: $28.99


Black Chicago culture is American culture.
During the Great Migration, more than a half million Black Americans moved from the South to Chicago, and with them, they brought the blues, amplifying what would be one of the city’s greatest musical art forms. In 1958, the iconic Johnson Publishing Company, the voice of Black America, launched the Ebony Fashion Fair show, leading to the creation of the first makeup brand for Black skin. For three decades starting in the 1970s, households across the country were transported to a stage birthed in Chicago as they moved their hips in front of TV screens airing Soul Train.
Chicago is where Oprah Winfrey, a Black woman who did not have the “traditional look” TV managers pushed on talent, premiered her talk show, which went on to break every record possible and solidify her position as the “Queen of Daytime TV.” It’s where Hall of Famer Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six championships, including two three-peats, making the NBA a must-see attraction worldwide and wearing Jordans a style symbol to this day. And it’s home to Grammy winner Chance the Rapper, whose work honors the city’s cultural institutions, from the White Sox to modern art superstar Hebru Brantley.
Pop culture expert Arionne Nettles takes us through the history of how Black Chicagoans have led pop culture in America for decades, and gives insight into the ways culture spreads and influences our lives.


“In We Are the Culture, Arionne Nettles has not merely written a love letter to Soul Train, the Defender, and all of Black Chicago’s contributions to the world. She’s written a history of the Great Migration and a living testimony to how connected Black people are across the many miles and centuries of the United States. She’s written a theory of community-informed journalism and showed how the traditions of Ida B. Wells and Robert Abbott can be applied to the many media challenges of today. And in telling her own family’s story in elegant and insightful prose, she has shared how the politics and culture of Chicago live in all of us. Going far beyond the influence of Oprah and the Obamas, We Are the Culture is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how Black culture has shaped America, from barbershops to the White House.” —Steven W. Thrasher, PhD, Daniel H. Renberg Chair of Social Justice, Medill School of Journalism, and author of The Viral Underclass

“I see myself in Arionne Nettles. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood, Arionne is a reflection to me, but she is also a griot, a historian constantly priming her journalistic tool kit. With every page of We Are the Culture, I learned something new about a city and a people I hold so close to my heart. Arionne is more than a reflection, a journalist, or a historian, she is a product of the best parts Black and Chicago have to offer. Arionne is the culture.” —Harold Green III, executive director, Flowers for the Living Foundation

Author Biography

Arionne Nettles is a university lecturer, culture reporter, and audio aficionado. Her stories often look into Chicago history, culture, gun violence, policing, and race and class disparities, and her work has appeared in the New York Times Opinion, Chicago Reader, The Trace, Chicago PBS station WTTW, and NPR affiliate WBEZ. She is a lecturer and the director of audio journalism programming at Northwestern University's Medill School as well as host of the HBCU history podcast Bragging Rights and Is That True? A Kids Podcast About Facts.