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Anthony Cheesboro (Historical Studies)

2010

“Leisure and Entertainment in East St. Louis and Brooklyn from 1945-1990” 

Description:

I. Basic Thesis

A study of leisure and entertainment in East St. Louis and Brooklyn from 1945-1990. I want to primarily focus on the development of music and music venues during this time, but I will not ignore other areas of art and popular culture. It is my belief that I 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 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, I believe the 1960’s and 1970’s saw a growth of “high art” in the Metro East region that largely was correlated to the growth of African American political consciousness. I also feel 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.

II. Methodology

My research techniques will be very traditional. I intend to make full use of the archival materials here at SIUE, including the recently donated collection from Professor Emeritus, Eugene Redmond.  I also intend to make extensive use of interviews because the period I am studying is within the living memory of so many people. To help me to this end, I hope to hire two graduate assistants, preferably females, for the interviews of women who were involved in erotic dancing.  Another of the major goals of my project is to map the geography of leisure in Brooklyn and East St. Louis over time. Ideally, there will be several maps showing the area on 1945, the 1960s, and a map of the area around 1990. In order to accomplish this, I want to work with GIS. The maps will seek to demonstrate the relationship between general economic strength and the leisure economy.  Theoretically, I see this study as an urban history, and I will seek to situate it within the existing literature of Post War and Post Industrial America. The story that I am 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.

 

RESEARCH PRODUCT:

Dr. Cheesboro has submitted an essay with the above title to be published in the forthcoming journal:

St. Louis Currents:  Facing Regional Issues at 250
Editors:  Terry Jones (UMSL Emeritus) and Andy Theising (IUR Senior Research Fellow)
Partners:  FOCUS St. Louis, St. Louis Metropolitan Research Exchange STLMRE, and SIUE
Publication Date:  Spring 2015

Contact Dr. Cheesboro: acheese@siue.edu

 

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