NHD 2017 Theme-Related Topic Ideas PDF Print E-mail

2017 nhd logoGOT CURIOSITY??

Here's a list of different ideas related to the theme "Taking a Stand in Chicago/Illinois History."

History Fair now offers you topics – some of them are specific, some of them of broad – but in all cases,  we give you only a title and leave it to you to do the work to find out what it is about and what kind of argument you want to make regarding its rights and responsibilities. Often you will have to dig deep to find a good and important story. Treat most topics as ideas to inspire your own interests.



Urban Planning, Housing, Architecture

  • Burnham and the City Beautiful
  • Public Utilities, Not Private! – the trains and buses, the electricity and gas—energy
  • SDS and Community Organizing Uptown
  • Saving Sullivan: Richard Nickel
  • Look at the Urban League (need to narrow)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • The Parks and Playground Movement
  • Dorothy Gautreaux and Fair Housing
  • Saving Cook County Hospital
  • Restrictive Covenants
  • Rules of the Roads—The Introduction of Automobiles into the City
  • Expressways: Yea or Ney (Crosstown, Dan Ryan, Kennedy, Suburban Extensions)
  • Building UIC (East Garfield Park-for, Near West Side-against)
  • Free and Clear Lakefront
  • Buckminster Fuller Revisions Space
  • Fighting Homelessness
  • Elizabeth Wood and the Fight for Integrated Public Housing
  • Trumbull Park Riots
  • Saving Comiskey Park
  • Bauhaus and the New Design


  • Citizens for a Better Environment
  • Hazel Johnson and Altgeld Gardens Fight Environment Racism
  • Saving the Dunes
  • Mary McDowell
  • Cleaning Up the River: Beyond the Reversal
  • How the Hyde Park Resource Center Reinvented Waste

Race, Ethnicity Rights, and Justice

  • Chicago Freedom Movement
  • Anti-Lynching
  • Recognition of Jean Baptiste du Sable
  • Good Doctors Quentin Young Medical Committee
  • Disability Rights
  • Young Lords
  • Abolitionism in IL or Chicago (Skinner, Carpenter, Mary and John Jones)
  • The Trial of John Hossack
  • Carlos Montezuma
  • Montrose Village and AIM
  • Division Street Riots
  • PRCC – building a political voice and culture
  • 1919, Springfield, East St. Louis
  • Commission on Race Relations: A Dream Deferred
  • Robert Abbott and the Great Migration
  • Editorial Cartoonist Chester Commodore
  • Chicago Defender: Sengstacke Era and Civil, Political Rights
  • Integrated communities: Beverly, Oak Park, Park Forest
  • Eunice Johnson and Black is Beautiful
  • Earl Dickerson
  • WVON
  • Maldef: The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
  • Coles and the Fight to Make Illinois a Free State
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates
  • Lincoln – No House Divided
  • Women Mobilized for Change: From the Chicago Freedom Movement to Black Power
  • Original Rainbow Coalition (Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, The Young Lords, Rising Up Angry, and The Young Patriots)
  • Conservative Vice Lords as Community Organizers
  • Catholic Sisters fighting for civil rights
  • Black Panther and community building
  • Chicago Commission on Race Relations Response to 1919 Riot
  • Mamie Till-Mobley
  • Charlemae Rollins – Fighting for Multicultural Children’s Literature
  • Dickson Mounds and Graves, Human Burial Rights
  • African Americans at the World’s Fair
  • Ben Reitman:Taking a Stand for Outcasts


Women, Gender, Feminism

  • Deborah’s Place-shelter and advocacy group for homeless women in Chicago
  • Chicago Women’s Clubs reform (Insane Asylum, Chicago Fire, Juvenile Court, discrimination)
  • The Fight to Before Abortion was Legal
  • Catholic Women-Feminist Nuns
  • JANE
  • Ethel Percy Andrus and the Stand for Retired People
  • Women at the World’s Fair
  • Project IRENE (Illinois Religious Engaging in Nonviolent Endeavors) -Social Justice Program for women and children
  • ACT-UP – People, not Patients
  • Human Rights Ordinance (Illinois, Chicago)
  • National Black Feminist Alliance / Organization
  • Latina Feminism Chicanas on 18th Street
  • Suffrage Activism: Wells, Livermore, Willard, McCullough, Grace Wilbur Trout
  • Julia Lathrop and Mother’s Pensions
  • Black Women’s Clubs
  • Jane Addams and the Women’s Peace Party, WILPF
  • ERA
  • Chicago NOW and Title 7
  • Gay pride
  • Pearl Hart and gay rights, human rights
  • Politics (Mary Jo Ardnt and Topinka, Alter, Stern, Saperstein)
  • Karen Ulane, Transgenderism and the Workplace
  • Ron Sable, Mardge Cohen AIDS
  • Betty Friedan, Phyllis Shafley
  • Queer Clout and Taking it to the Streets
  • Ida Craddock and Free Speech for Birth Control



  • Margaret Haley
  • Separate and not Equal: Willis Wagons, Freedom Day
  • Student activism on universities for African American, Latino, and White studies programs and centers
  • University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins defending academic freedom
  • Chicago Teachers Union
  • John Dewey
  • African-American Alternative Schools: Howalton School, Black Arts Movement
  • Ella Flagg Young
  • Harold Washington and School Reform
  • Barbara Sizemore and African American Education


Politics, Law, Economy

  • Albert Parsons Inside/Outside Politics
  • Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty
  • Harold Washington and bringing all people into city government
  • Illinois Legislative Black Caucus
  • Uncovering the Murder of Fred Hampton
  • Leon Despres
  • Reforming Within (Jarecki, Dever, Merriman, etc.)
  • Debs: From Prisoner to President
  • Chicago 8
  • DNC of 1968
  • After MLK assassination
  • Citizen Muhammad Ali
  • Abner Mikva
  • Clarence Darrow
  • Civic service reform (Shakman, Mikva, O. Wilson)
  • Women Join the Party(ies) – Democratic Women’s Caucus, Republican
  • Paul Robeson in Chicago
  • Heather Tobias Booth
  • Redlining, NPA, Gail Cincotta and Sheldon Trap
  • Alinsky, IAF, TWO
  • Robert McCormick's Fight for a Free Press
  • Banning Handguns in Morton Grove and…beyond
  • Free speech – Dil Pickle Club, Bughouse Square, Hull House Riot, and more recent cases such as
  • Miranda rights
  • The Cold War Fight Against Deporting Foreign Born (Hull House, Pearl Hart)
  • The Economy for Whom: Gold vs Silver: the Bimetallism
  • Henry Demarest Lloyd: Gadfly
  • Irene McCoy Gaines: African American Republican Activist
  • AMA against Quackery
  • AMA’s Fight to defeat national health care
  • Vashti McCollum and separation of church and state
  • New Deal for Workers: Public Employment to Build the Economy
  • Ending Black Codes, Recognizing African-American Citizenship
  • John W.E. Thomas, Mrs. Curry and the Fight for Equal Public Accommodations
  • Cairo’s Civil Rights Era in Southern Illinois


Arts, Culture

  • Margaret Burroughs
  • Charles White
  • William Walker
  • Franklin Marshall Davis
  • AACM
  • Black Arts Movement
  • Avant-Garde (Armory Shows, Hairy Who, Surrealism, political painters of the 1930s)
  • Second City
  • Free Street Theater, Organic Theater and Chicago’s Rebel Theater Tradition
  • ETA
  • Judy Chicago
  • Artemsia and other Chicago feminist art collectives
  • Kartemquin –democracy and documentaries
  • For Public Support of the Arts—WPA
  • Harriet Monroe and Modern Poetry



  • WW1 and the IWW
  • Chicago Peace Council
  • Vietnam
  • Central America – Anti-Intervention
  • McCormick and Isolation Stance
  • Copperheads
  • Puerto Rico (annexation/colonization and freedom fighters in Chicago)
  • Illinois Regiments in Civil War (both sides)
  • Black regiments in World War One and Two- Tuskegee, Ethiopia, Double Victory)
  • Ben Hecht and Saving the Jews of Europe
  • Black Hawk against Conquest
  • For the Union: Medill
  • Women cross-dressing for the army
  • Dirksen and Vietnam War
  • Paul Findley and Middle East
  • When Immigrants' Home Countries are at War
  • Cambodian Refugees Teach the Genocide



  • Addie Wyatt – Fighter on Four Fronts
  • Haymarket Tragedy
  • John Altgeld
  • Organizing Janitors
  • Organizing White Collar (teachers, waitresses)
  • Protective Legislation
  • Women Workers WTUL
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women
  • Farmworkers solidarity
  • Refugio Martinez
  • Beyond A. Phillip Randolph: Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Paul King, the Coalition for United Community Action, and the struggle to open the building trades
  • Afro-American Patrolmen’s League
  • Pullman Strike
  • Brotherhood of Pullman Porters Ladies Auxiliary
  • Integrating the Fire Department
  • Coal mining wars (Virden, Herrin)
  • For workplace safety: COSH, Radium Girls
  • Ellen Gates Starr
  • Florence Kelley and Child Labor
  • John Fitzpatrick, Agnes Nestor and the Labor Party
  • Saving the Stockyards Gate: Les Orear
  • Steel strike 1919 and multi-ethnic organizing
  • Women's Trade Union League
  • Chicago Women in Trades
  • Open the trades schools to women and minorities
  • One Big Union: The IWW
  • Memorial Day Massacre
  • Washburne Trade School: Open the Doors!
  • CIO and Chicago's Organizing Drives

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