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Thursday, September 12, 2024

This Black History Month, Resources to Learn About Chicago History

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and learn about the history of African-Americans locally and nationally. Chicago has been the site of many significant events in African-American history — from the Great Migration to former president Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

As February comes to a close, take set aside some time to visit one of the many educational sites or historical landmarks that pay tribute to African-American influence on the city of Chicago.

Educational Opportunities

  1. The DuSable Museum of African American History

This museum was founded in 1961 and is dedicated to the conservation of African-American history, culture and art. Current exhibits range from “Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean” to “A History of Blacks in the Armed Services,” but there is also one that specifically relates to Chicago. “A Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story” tells the story of former Chicago mayor Harold Washington, who served the city between 1983 and 1987 as the city’s first African-American mayor.

  1. The HistoryMakers

This Chicago-based nonprofit institution is the nation’s largest African-American video oral history collection. It preserves and produces oral video accounts of various African-Americans’ personal stories. Its digital archive contains more than 29,000 stories, about individuals ranging from jazz musician B.B. King to congressman John Lewis.

You can also find plenty of information about African-American history in Chicago online. Take advantage of resources such as the Encyclopedia of Chicago and Chicago Public Libraries’ endless supply of books and records to learn more.

Chicago Landmarks

If you want to see specific locations throughout Chicago that pay homage to African-Americans, there are both formal and informal landmarks throughout the city to explore.

The African-American History Tour is a great place to start. It visits 30 landmarks that range from Chicago’s musical history to former homes of historical figures such as poet Gwendolyn Brooks and journalist Ida B. Wells.

For unofficial landmarks and other historical sites not on the tour, there are a variety of locations throughout the city that recognize key developments in African-American history.

Though these locations are not all open to tour, you can include them in a driving tour of the city or simply use them to guide your historical reading. Martin Luther King Drive has several historical buildings lining it, including the Chicago Orphan Asylum Building, which is now the Chicago Baptist Institute. In the 1940s, the building, then named the Parkway Community House, served as a hub for culture and history in the Bronzeville community, and was a key location during the Chicago Black Renaissance. Nearby stands the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, which housed meetings led by civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph to organize the Pullman Porters Union; and Oscar Stanton House, the home of former Congressman Oscar Stanton De-Priest in the early 20th century.

Other sites throughout the city include the statue of former Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan outside the United Center, the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville and the building that housed the first African-American-owned publishing company in the U.S., Johnson Publishing Company, which might soon become a landmark.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the significance of African-American history throughout the U.S., but that celebration shouldn’t end on March 1. What else would you add to this list for those looking to learn more all year long? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.

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