This article offers a case study of the Book Circle, a black women's reading group on Chicago's South Side, from 1943 to 1953. It demonstrates how the group recruited literary reception—specifically middlebrow taste—as a way to lobby for racial equality in the postwar era. In doing so, the Book Circle makes visible a group of twentieth-century black readers historically rendered invisible, as Elizabeth McHenry and others have shown. In this way, this article argues, recovering the Book Circle helps us further document the legacy of black women readers—from nineteenth-century literary clubs to black feminist consciousness-raising groups in the 1960s through the 1980s—who turned to reading as a strategy for social transformation.

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