cover image Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality

Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality

Robert J. Blakely, with Marcus Shepard. . Northwestern Univ., $24.95 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-2335-9

This biography sheds welcome light on the man who sat to the left of Martin Luther King at the 1963 March on Washington. The first black graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and the first black alderman elected to the Chicago City Council, Dickerson arrived in the Windy City at age 15, as a stowaway on the Illinois Central Railroad. Finding the racial situation in Chicago pretty similar to the one he'd left behind in Mississippi, Dickerson spent the rest of his long and active life working toward its improvement. A man of prodigious energy, he was known as the "Dean of Chicago's Black Lawyers" (most notably, arguing Hansberry v. Lee in 1940; a harbinger of the end of racially restrictive covenants) and also became president of one of the largest black-owned insurance companies in America. While Blakely details Dickerson's major political and business accomplishments, he adds dimension to the man's life and gives the reader a keen sense of the African-American social and cultural history through his attention to Dickerson's involvement in Chicago's South Side. Though pedestrian in its prose style, Blakely's straightforward biography makes a meaningful contribution to African-American and Chicago history. (Mar.)