Chicago, a mega-center of Black urban culture, serves as a workshop for exploring many of the historical and current dimensions of the Africana studies experience. During the Great Migration, Black Americans came by the thousands, creating a renaissance of Black identity that stretches from the early 1900s to the present. Specific elements of this development include—though are not at all limited to—the following milestones and locations.
Provident Hospital and Training School
Opened in 1891
Provident Hospital and Training school opened on the South Side of the Chicago as the first Black-controlled hospital in the United States. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams founded it in reaction to the racially exclusionary policies of Chicago nursing schools, who refused to admit Black students.
The Chicago Defender Newspaper
Editor and founder Robert Abbott (1870–1940) was the revolutionary journalist among African American leaders of his time. He believed that “a good newspaper was one of the best instruments of services and one of the strongest weapons ever to be used in defense of a race which was deprived of its citizenship rights” (The Lonely Warrior, by Roi Ottley, p. 1). He filled the Defender with rhetoric—verbal and visual—that demanded racial equality and encouraged Southern Blacks to migrate north. The Defender continues to be published as a voice for Black Chicagoans and Americans, with a daily digital edition along with the weekly print edition.
Chicago Urban League
The Chicago Urban League was founded in affiliation with the National Urban League, an organization borne in 1911 by groups assisting newly arriving Black immigrants from the South in adjusting to the social, political, and vocational challenges of life in the North. The Chicago Urban League was committed to uplifting and preserving the Black Chicago migrant community, and still exists with its mission to work for economic, educational, and society progress for African Americans, promoting strong, sustainable communities.
Travel writer Richard Lindberg described it this way: “Legendary "Bronzeville"—the Black Belt of yesteryear—encompassed much of Douglas and Grand boulevards. Its boundaries extended roughly from 26th to 47th, and from State Street on the west to the shores of Lake Michigan. It was here, in a string of jumping cabarets, that Duke Ellington, Count Basie and other legendary jazzmen performed their music (Ethnic Chicago: A Complete Guide to the Many Faces & Cultures of Chicago, p. 222). The neighborhood developed as multitudes of African Americans migrated to Chicago and they were relegated to small units on the city’s South Side. Bronzeville became not only a residential center but a cultural wellspring of the African American community in the city.
DuSable Museum of African American History
Opened in 1961
Originally opened as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, the DuSable Museum of African American History was the first museum in the nation to focus on African American history. The building was renamed for Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable (long regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago) in 1968 and expanded to include a wing dedicated to Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, a prominent African American teacher and artist, and a diverse group of Chicago artists and intellectuals founded the museum as an expression of their commitment to preserving and celebrating Black culture.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson founded PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in 1971 to advocate on behalf of Black citizens and pursue social justice, civil rights, and political activism. It merged with Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition in 1996, and the combined organization keeps its main headquarters on the South Side of Chicago with branches all over the country, continuing to be involved in issues including economic and political empowerment, employee rights, educational access, fair and decent housing, civil rights, gender equality, and environmental justice.
Other Resources for Chicago’s Black History