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Anthony Cheesboro

"African American Oriented Entertainment in Metro-East" is a study of leisure and entertainment in East St. Louis and Brooklyn from 1945-1990, focusing primarily on the development of music and music venues during this time, but not ignoring other areas of art and popular culture. He believes that he can show a vibrant leisure economy that was supported by the thriving industrial base that existed in the Metro East area during the post war period, and that the disappearance of most of the music scene in East St. Louis and Brooklyn is directly related to the decline in the general economy.

Similar to the research of Benjamin Looker, Cheesboro believes that the 1960's and 1970's saw a growth of "high art" in Metro East that largely was correlated to the growth of African American political consciousness. He also feels that the growth of high art reflected an increased role in government and foundation support that tended to obscure the relative decline of the industrial base that supported popular culture. In addition to high art and popular culture, "vice," gambling and erotic entertainment, have always been significant parts of Metro East leisure. Clearly gambling and burlesque/erotic venues have roots going back to the frontier and riverboat days of the region. It is noteworthy that, as live music faded in the Metro East, legalized gambling developed into a major revenue generator for East St. Louis, and Exotic Dancing would become a mainstay of the economies of Brooklyn, Washington Park and Sauget. Interestingly, exotic dancing has only a small presence in East St. Louis itself.

Another of the major goals of this project is to map the geography of leisure in Brooklyn and East St. Louis over time. There will be several maps, showing the area on 1945, the 1960s, and a map of the area around 1990. This will be accomplished using GIS. The maps will seek to demonstrate the relationship between general economic strength and the leisure economy. Theoretically, this study is an urban history, and Dr Cheesboro will seek to situate it within the existing literature of Post War and Post Industrial America. The story that he is developing about the Metro East is important because in different forms, it can be found throughout the United States during this period. It is the story of a vibrant and prosperous America that unknowingly was witnessing the seeds of its weakening while it was at the peak of its power.

On a local scale, the story of Leisure in East St. Louis and Brooklyn is the story of America.

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