This evening, June 17th, the Chicago Public Library will commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States with an inaugural Juneteenth Reading Circle discussion of Richard Wright’s novel The Man Who Lived Underground, just published by Library of America. Adult and teen readers are invited to join CPL and local community leaders on tonight at 6:00 pm CDT on Facebook and YouTube. The program will be archived on both platforms for those unable to join the live conversation.
Written nearly eighty years ago, Wright’s novel has proven remarkably timely as the nation explores race and the relationship between police and the communities they serve. The Man Who Lived Underground tells the story of Fred Daniels, a Black man who is picked up by the police after a brutal double murder and tortured until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. After Daniels signs a confession, he escapes and flees into the city’s sewer system.
“Chicago Public Library is proud to initiate our inaugural Juneteenth Reading Circle,” says Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “This program offers Chicagoans an opportunity to connect, reflect and build on community healing and civic unity.” The Juneteenth Reading Circle’s panelists include many Chicago leaders and scholars from an array of prominent institutions: Dr. Adam Green, Professor of History, University of Chicago; Ms. Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director, American Library Association; Dr. Garrard McClendon, Associate Professor, Chicago State University; Dr. Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies; Northwestern University; and Mr. Juan Perea, Professor, Loyola School of Law.
The conversation will be facilitated by Sylvia Ewing, Director of Strategic Communication, Marketing and Outreach at Elevate. Library of America editorial director John Kulka will join Commissioner Brown for an introductory interview.
Library of America president and publisher Max Rudin says, “Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground reshapes our understanding of Wright’s time and its connections to our own. Library of America is honored to partner with Chicago Public Library to bring this revelatory work by a great American writer at the height of his powers to a wide audience in the city that meant so much to him.”
“One of the best ways we can observe Juneteenth is by diving into stories that acknowledge how the vestiges of slavery continue to manifest today,” says City of Chicago Chief Equity Officer Candace Moore. “I applaud the Chicago Public Library for initiating this inaugural Juneteenth Reading Circle, which will connect residents to this important history as well as prompt the collective racial healing we need in order to create a more equitable and just society.”