The Great Migration of 1916 involved African Americans, in the tens of thousands, traveling to Chicago to escape the Jim Crow South and bolster the industrial labor force.
– “The black population in Chicago more than doubled during World War I to around 100,000. By 1970, as the Great Migration drew to a close, there were one million African Americans in Chicago, a third of the city’s population. Most of these new arrivals to Chicago found themselves living in a narrow strip of blocks on the South Side, stretching from Twenty-second Street down to Fifty-first Street. The neighborhood was initially labeled the “Black Belt” or the “Black Ghetto,” but an African American writer suggested calling it “Bronzeville,” a name that many residents found less insulting.”
– “Chicago and the Great Migration, 1915–1950.” Digital Collections for the Classroom – February 24, 2021, https://dcc.newberry.org/?p=14436
Although Chicago did not have the same official discriminatory laws that African Americans were fleeing from, that was primarily due to the fact that there was not a large Black population initially. Once that shifted, culturally, the caste system of the South was still ever present in the North. However, Black History Month is NOT about rehashing the American history of discrimination and suffering but celebrating the accomplishments of Black people who persevered and succeeded when all the odds were (and are) against them. And Chicago, particularly Bronzeville, is brimming with remembrance.
Bronzeville IS Chicago Black History, and the goal today is to encourage you to venture out, with children in tow, to immerse yourself in the history of your own city. Due to the pandemic, the included map and scavenger hunt will be more of a walking tour of historical landmarks. But for future adventures, plan a more immersive experience by visiting the museums, galleries, and local restaurants!
Please enjoy these coloring pages designed in collaboration with Hopscotch City while you explore Bronzeville and appreciate the Black History that built this great city! And remember to tag us! @whatshouldwedotodaychicago & @hopscotchcity
Here are the top landmarks to explore throughout the area:
- Bronzeville Children’s Museum
- Although outside the bounds of Bronzeville officially, this museum is the first and only African American children’s museum in the U.S.
- Named after historic Bronzeville, the museum focuses on African American culture and history.
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- Another America first thanks to Chicago!
- DuSable Museum of African American History is the nation’s first independent museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and Americans of African descent.
- “Chicago is a city rich in African-American History, and the Museum’s namesake comes from Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a Haitian of African and French descent, who in 1779 established the trading post and permanent settlement which would become known as Chicago.”
- Obama Family Home
- 5046 S. Greenwood Ave
- Obama Kissing Rock
- The corner of Dorchester Ave & 53rd St.
- A plaque across from a Subway is where President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama had their first kiss
- Harold Washington Cultural Center
- Gallery Guichard
- “Andre Guichard, Frances Guichard and Stephen Mitchell, opened the gallery in 2005 with the mission to expose patrons to multicultural artists specializing in the African Diaspora. Through fine art exhibitions, experiential events, and art tours, Gallery Guichard gives emerging underrepresented talent and mid-career artists an opportunity to develop their imagination and creativity.”
- Louis Armstrong House
- 421 E. 44th Street
- “Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans into extreme
poverty. He learned to play the cornet while serving a
sentence for delinquency. After eight years of playing
in clubs and on riverboats, Armstrong moved to Chicago
to join Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.”
- The home is a private residence but there is a memorial plaque on the outside of the building.
- Nat King Cole Home
- While living at 4023 South Vincennes Ave, Nat King Cole played amateur clubs in Chicago like the Savoy Ballroom and Regal Theatre.
- South Side Community Art Center
- “Founded in 1940, SSCAC is the oldest African American art center in the United States and is a Chicago Historic Landmark. While taking pride in our rich past, we today build on our legacy and innovatively serve as an artist- and community-centered resource with programs, exhibitions and events that inspire.”
- Wabash Avenue YMCA
- “Only the Wabash Avenue YMCA can claim itself as the undisputed birthplace of Black History Month. Located in the heart of the historic Bronzeville district and often referred to as the “Colored `Y’ ” during its heyday, the five-story building was where historian Carter G. Woodson and three buddies developed the notion that if whites learned more about the contributions of blacks, the races would get along better. The result of those meetings was “Negro History Week,” first observed 70 years ago.” – Sabrina Miller from the Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Bee Building
- This building originally housed The Chicago Bee, an African American newspaper.
- Built and founded by Anthony Overton, the first black cosmetics maker to be in Woolworth drug stores and the first African American to lead a major business conglomerate.
- The building is now a branch of the Chicago Public Library
- Overton Hygienic Building
- The headquarters of the aforementioned cosmetics company from Anthony Overton.
- Overton was responsible for State Street being “The Black Wall Street.”
- “The building also housed the Douglass National Bank, the first nationally chartered, African American owned bank. The Overton Hygienic Building not only housed Overton’s empire, it also provided rental space for other Black professionals, including lawyers, doctors, and architects.”
- Ida B. Wells House
- 3624 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
- “After settling in Chicago, Wells-Barnett founded the Negro Fellowship League for black men, the first kindergarten for black children, and, in 1913, the first suffrage club for black women.”
- Ida B. Wells is known for documenting and speaking out against the lynchings that were occurring across the country and championing anti-lynching legislation.
- Congress has never passed anti-lynching legislation to this day.
- Victory Monument
- 35th Street and King Drive
- “This structure was erected to honor the meritorious achievements of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, an African-American unit that served in France during World War I as part of the 370th U.S. Infantry.”
- Eighth Regiment Armory
- 3519 South Giles
- “The Armory was constructed in 1915 to provide refuge for the all black 9th Infantry Battalion, which fought in the Poncho Villa Campaign at the Mexican border. It was later reorganized as the 8th Infantry and was comprised of “all black” officers and soldiers from the State of Illinois which fought in France during WWI.”
- The armory is now home to the Chicago Military Academy
- Sunset Cafe
- 315 E. 35th St
- Later known as The Grand Terrace Cafe, The Sunset Cafe was a famous jazz club in Chicago.
- Considered a “Black and Tan” club where minorities could mingle with authorities without (as) much fear.
- Also the club where Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, and many more graced audiences with their music.
- A plaque on the side of the building commemorates this historical site.
- Chicago Defender Building
- 3435 S. Indiana Ave
- A former Jewish synagogue which housed The Chicago Defender newspaper from 1920 – 1960
- This newspaper is partially responsible for encouraging southern Blacks to migrate North for work opportunities as well as campaigned for equality and against Jim Crow violence.
- Unity Hall
- 3140 S. Indiana Ave
- Chicago’s first African-American alderman and the nations first Black congressman, Oscar dePriest, established The People’s Movement Club and moved it into what is now known as Unity Hall.
- Monument to the Great Northern Migration
- 2600 S. Martin Luther King Drive
- Alison Saar’s 1994 sculpture depicts a traveler whose entire outfit is made out of the soles of his worn out shoes. He is pointed northward, hand raised, luggage in hand. Representing all of the Black travelers who comprised of The Great Migration.
- The sculpture is situated at the historic entrance to Bronzeville.
From The Monument to the Great Migration, follow the Bronzeville Walk of Fame! The 91 bronze plaques on sidewalks and medians along 35th street commemorate former neighborhood residents who have made contributions to Bronzeville and the African American community at large.