|African American History|
"As long as I am firm and whole
Over the past century, African Americans have emerged from the shadows to claim their place in Chicago's sun. Before World War I, blacks in Chicago lived in several neighborhoods and made up a small proportion of the city's residents. The Great Migration of the late 1910s and 1920s changed their inconspicuous presence as thousands of African Americans arrived from the south in search of new jobs and freedoms. At best, the white population reacted to these migrants with tolerance, but more often, with hostility as exemplified in the 1919 riot. Segregation and restrictive covenants hemmed middle-class blacks into circumscribed areas and the poor were forced to live in substandard housing where landlords took brownstones and cut them up into tiny kitchenette apartments. Despite this treatment, African Americans in Chicago made segregation into congregation (to borrow a phrase from the historian Earl Lewis) by creating their own businesses, commercial areas, art venues, and churches, social and political organizations. Then, in the Depression decade, working-class blacks helped found industrial unions and their collective actions made strikes, boycotts, and marches respectable means to demand first-class citizenship. All of this activity amounted to a feeling of proud industriousness among many blacks on the South Side of Chicago. Indeed, by the 1940s, social scientists Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake would call Chicago the "Black Metropolis."
Beginning in the 1940s, an even greater migration of African Americans to Chicago occurred. The collapse of the southern farm tenant system and war-time jobs in northern industries caused them to head north for the "Promised Land." What they found was even less appealing than the earlier migrants: segregated neighborhoods, overcrowded schools, widespread job discrimination, and city officials and politicians who seemed to care more about delivering the black vote in their areas than about the people who lived within them. A new expressway built in the 1950s divided white and black neighborhoods and served as a symbol of a larger government supported racism. Public housing, despite the work of some dedicated public servants, became largely segregated and under-funded. Blacks moving into previously all-white neighborhoods faced intimidation and violence, and when African Americans remained steadfast in their right to live anywhere, whites fled. Other black Chicagoans who often worked just as hard remained impoverished. By the 1980s, deindustrialization, suburbanization, and a crisis in the public schools contributed to the emergence of high crime rates and blighted neighborhoods.
Yet the history of African-Americans in Chicago over the second half of the 20th century is one of achievement and struggle as well as oppression. African Americans helped organize strong integrated unions in both the industrial and service sectors that demanded anti-discrimination policies, seniority, better hours, and job mobility. Increasing numbers of black college graduates added to a growing middle class that moved to suburbs or middle-class neighborhoods (due to their successful fight against restrictive covenants). Activists led grassroots community efforts that directly confronted racism and fought for access to better jobs, education, housing, and fair treatment by the city's police, aldermen, and courts. Elected political power grew as well: while some black politicians joined the Democratic machine, others maintained their independence, formed caucuses, and advanced a progressive agenda. Some tried to do both. Eventually, in 1984, citizens elected the first black major of Chicago, Harold Washington, who opened up the city for all Chicagoans.
Although many scholars have analyzed the complex history of African Americans in the city, much of the story still remains in the shadows. History Fair students can bring these stories to light and address topics that will help explain how black Chicagoans built and sustained communities, confronted challenges, and helped shape the political, economic, and cultural history of the city.
These questions are designed to spark research into important historical questions. Once students begin to do their research, they will want to form a preliminary thesis–their argument–and then investigate deeper. Note: sources listed offer suggestions for beginning research. For full citations of works mentioned, see the select bibliography.
For More on Chicago's African-American neighborhoods, see "The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle" www.labortrail.org.
- Essay and Topics Questions prepared by Erik S. Gellman, Assistant Professor of History, Roosevelt University
Bates, Beth Tompkins. Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black
Black, Timuel D. Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration.
Blackside Inc. Eyes on the Prize II America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985. 8 videocassettes (VHS) (ca. 60 min. each). Alexandria, Va.: PBS Video, 1990. (See episodes on Fred Hampton and Harold Washington)
Branham, Charles, and Chicago Metro History Fair. A Bibliography on the Black Community in Chicago. [Chicago]: C. Branham: Chicago Metro History Fair, 1989.
________. "The Transformation of Black Political Leadership in Chicago, 1864-1942." Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago, 1981.
Brooks, Gwendolyn. Bronzeville Boys and Girls. New York: Harper, 1956.
________. Blacks. Chicago, Ill. (P.O. Box 19355, Chicago, Ill. 60619): David Co., 1987.
Burns, Ken, and Lynn Novick. Baseball. 10 videodiscs. Burbank, Calif.: Public Broadcasting Service; Distributed by Warner Home Video, 2000. (See Inning 5: Shadow Ball).
Burns, Ken and Lynn Novick. Jazz. 10 videodiscs. Burbank, Calif.: Public Broadcasting
Cayton, Horace R., and George Sinclair Mitchell. Black Workers and the New Unions. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1939.
Chicago 1966: Open Housing Marches, Summit Negotiations, and Operations Breadbasket. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson, 1989.
Chicago Commission on Race Relations. The Negro in Chicago a Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1923.
Chicago Public Library. Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, and Robert Miller. Harold Washington, 1922-1987: A Select Bibliography. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Public Library Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 1989.
Chicago Riot Study, Committee. Report of the Chicago Riot Study Committee, 1968.
Clavel, Pierre, and Wim Wiewel. Harold Washington and the Neighborhoods: Progressive City Government in Chicago, 1983-1987. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Cohen, Adam, and Elizabeth Taylor. American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. 1st ed. Boston: Little Brown, 2000.
Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Cohen, Rich. Machers and Rockers: Chess Records and the Business of Rock & Roll. 1st ed. Enterprise. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004.
Cokliss, Harley, and Rhapsody Films. Chicago Blues. 1 videocassette (VHS) (48 min.). New York, N.Y.: Rhapsody Films Inc., 1991.
Daley, Richard J., and Chicago (Ill.). Riot Study Committee. Report of the Chicago Riot Study Committee to the Hon. Richard J. Daley. [s.l.: s.n.], 1968.
Dance, Stanley. The World of Earl Hines The World of Swing; V. 2. New York: Scribner, 1977.
Danns, Dionne. Something Better for Our Children: Black Organizing in Chicago Public Schools, 1963-1971 (New York: Routledge, 2003).
Dawley, David. A Nation of Lords: the Autobiography of the Vice Lords. [1st ] ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1973.
Depres, Leon M. Challenging the Daley Machine: a Chicago Alderman's Memoir (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005).
Drake, St Clair, and Horace R. Cayton. Black Metropolis; a Study of Negro Life in a Northern City. Rev. and enl. ed. A Harbinger Book, New York: Harcourt Brace & World, 1970 edition.
Dube, Caleb. "Between Starvation and Stardom: Chicago Blues Musicians as Cultural Workers." Ph. D., Anthropology, Northwestern University, 2001.
Duneier, Mitchell. Slim's Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Eastwood, Carolyn. Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood. 1st ed. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 2002.
Ellis, William W. White Ethics and Black Power; the Emergence of the West Side Organization. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co., 1969.
Farmer, James. Lay Bare the Heart: an Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Arbor House, 1985).
Flerlage, Raeburn, and Lisa Day. Chicago Blues: As Seen from the Inside: The Photographs of Raeburn Flerlage. Chicago, Ill.: ECW Press, 2000.
Foner, Philip Sheldon. The Black Panthers Speak. 2nd Da Capo Press ed. New York: Da Capo Press, 2002.
Forrest, Leon. The Furious Voice for Freedom: Essays. Wakefield, R.I.: Asphodel Press, 1995.
Grazian, David. Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Grimshaw, William J. Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931-1991. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Grossman, James R. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Grossman, James R., Ann Durkin Keating, Janice L. Reiff, Newberry Library, and Chicago History Museum. The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Guglielmo, Thomas A. White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Halpern, Rick. Down on the Killing Floor: Black and White Workers in Chicago's Packinghouses, 1904-54 The Working Class in American History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
Halpern, Rick, and Roger Horowitz. Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality Twayne's Oral History Series; No. 25. London: Twayne Publishers, 1996.
Hampton, Fred. You've Got to Make a Commitment! Chicago, Ill.: Peoples Information Center, 1969.
Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 Historical Studies of Urban America. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Jackson, Jesse. Straight from the Heart. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.
Jackson, Jesse and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Legal Lynching: the Death Penalty and America's Future. New York: New Press, 2001.
Kenney, William Howland. Chicago Jazz: A Cultural History, 1904-1930. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Kersten, Andrew Edmund. Race, Jobs, and the War: The FEPC in the Midwest, 1941-46. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Kotlowitz, Alex. There are no Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
Lemann, Nicholas. The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.
Lewis, Earl. In Their Own Interests: Race, Class, and Power in Twentieth-Century Norfolk, Virginia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
Miller, Wayne. Chicago's South Side, 1946-1948 The George Gund Foundation Imprint in African American Studies. Berkeley: University of California Press published in association with the Graduate School of Journalism Center for Photography University of California Berkeley, 2000.
Muhammad Speaks. Vol. v. 1-15, no. 8; Oct./Nov. 1961-Oct. 31, 1975. Chicago, Ill.: [s.n.], 1961.
Mullen, Bill. Popular Fronts: Chicago and African-American Cultural Politics, 1935-46. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Mumford, Kevin J. Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
Needleman, Ruth. Black Freedom Fighters in Steel: The Struggle for Democratic Unionism. Ithaca: ILR Press, 2003.
Ottley, Roi. The Lonely Warrior; the Life and Times of Robert S. Abbott. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1955.
Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Perkins, Useni Eugene. Explosion of Chicago's Black Street Gangs: 1900 to the Present. 1st ed. Chicago: Third World Press, 1987.
PoKempner, Marc, and Wolfgang Schorlau. Down at Theresa's--: Chicago Blues: The Photographs of Marc Pokempner. Munich, Germany; New York, NY: Prestel, 2000.
Ralph, James R. Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.
Reed, Christopher Robert. The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966 Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.
________. "All the World Is Here!": The Black Presence at White City Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.
Reynolds, Barbara. Jesse Jackson, the Man, the Movement, the Myth. Chicago: Nelson-
Rivlin, Gary. Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race. 1st ed. New York: H. Holt, 1992.
Sale, Richard T. The Blackstone Rangers: A Reporter's Account of Time Spent with the Street Gang on Chicago's South Side. New York: Random House, 1971.
Spear, Allan H. Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.
Stange, Maren. Bronzeville: Black Chicago in Pictures, 1941-1943. New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2003.
Strickland, Arvarh E. History of the Chicago Urban League. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001.
Terkel, Studs. Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession. 1st ed. New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton, 1992.
Terkel, Studs, and American Council of Learned Societies. Hard Times an Oral History of the Great Depression. Book club ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.
Thompson, Nathan. Kings: The True Story of Chicago's Policy Kings and Numbers Racketeers: An Informal History. Chicago: Bronzeville Press, 2003.
Thompson-Peters, Flossie E. Jean Baptiste Dusable: Father of Chicago. Los Angeles, Ca.: Atlas Press, 1986.
Travis, Dempsey. An Autobiography of Black Chicago. 1st ed. Chicago, IL: Urban Research Institute, 1981.
________. An Autobiography of Black Jazz. 1st ed. Chicago, Ill.: Urban Research Institute, 1983.
________."Harold," the Peoples Mayor: The Authorized Biography of Mayor Harold Washington. Chicago, Ill.: Urban Research Press, 1989.
Tuttle, William M. Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919. Studies in American Negro Life. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi. American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Ward, Geoffrey C. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. 1st ed. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2004.
Williams, Linda, and Raul Zaritsky. Maxwell Street Blues. 1 videocassette (VHS) (56 min.). Chicago, Ill.: Facets Video, 1978.
Wilson, William J. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Wright, Richard.Black Boy: (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth. 1st Perennial Classics ed. New York: Perennial Classics, 1998.
Wright, Richard, Edwin Rosskam, and United States. Farm Security Administration. Twelve Million Black Voices. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1988.
X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 1st Ballantine Books trade ed. New York: One World/Ballantine Books, 1992.
Credits: This page was developed by Dr. Erik Gellman, Roosevelt University, 2009.