Interracial Marriage in Chicago, 1937-1967

Students

2020
College

Faculty

George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights

Project Summary

This summer I worked under Professor Dorothy Roberts on a project entitled “Interracial Marriage in Chicago, 1937-1967.” Professor Roberts is writing a book based on hundreds of interviews with interracial couples that her father, Robert Roberts, conducted during this time period. Robert Roberts was a student and professor of Sociology and Anthropology in Chicago and spent his career researching the lives of interracial couples and their families. My professor’s goal is to write a book based not only on the content from these interviews, but also her father’s experience conducting this massive research project. 

I spent this first part of the summer doing library and internet research on topics related interracial marriage in Chicago. To understand how Robert Roberts became interested in interracial marriage, I researched the University of Chicago during the time that he was a student there. I read about the history of the University of Chicago and scoured the internet for any resources that might be helpful in answering my questions. My most valuable discoveries included archived materials at the University of Chicago and at the Schomberg Center that contained information on professors and students at the university during the time that Robert Roberts was there. I even had the opportunity to travel to the New York Public Library to view a collection of archived letters between Robert Roberts and St. Clair Drake, a classmate and colleague of his.

During the second part of the summer, Professor Roberts gave me the opportunity to read and analyze a portion of the interviews that were conducted by Robert Roberts. The files that I focused on were primarily interviews with children of interracial marriages. My job was to read these interviews and take notes on common themes that were interesting or important to the project. Reading the personal accounts of these children gave me a glimpse into their lives and the unique challenges that they faced. This was by far the most rewarding and informative aspect of my research. 

Working on this project was an educational opportunity that went further than any course I have ever taken at Penn. Through focusing in on a specific area of research, I became knowledgeable on the subject and felt that I could give meaningful input to Professor Roberts. Under her mentorship, I gained insight into the academic research process and the dedication and self-motivation that it takes. This valuable experience has better informed my academic and career goals and confirmed my decision to study Sociology.