With events and programming citywide, February is the perfect time to jump-start an exploration of the city’s black heritage.
- Armed National Guard and African American men stand on a sidewalk during the race riots in Chicago in 1919.
- Jun Fujita | Courtesy Chicago History Museum
Chicago history is black history—the city was founded by a black man, after all, and we have a regional library named for the father of what has become Black History Month—so it’s no surprise that we go big in February, with events nearly every day.
That makes this month a good time to start or continue an exploration of the city’s black history, which is rich enough, of course, to carry through the whole year. This roundup includes events and programming taking place in February, as well as all year long.
Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots
In February: The Newberry Library, in partnership with 12 other Chicago institutions, is holding a year of events to examine the race riots of July 1919 that left 38 people dead and 520 injured, the vast majority of them black. The first event of the year is Saturday, February 23, at the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Pl.) and includes a multimedia presentation about the riots, breakout conversations about police brutality and other topics, and a reading by Eve Ewing from her new book of poems about what happened in 1919.
All year: The opening event is sold out, but more programming is planned throughout 2019 about race and journalism, segregation and public education, literature, and more. For more information and a full list of events, visit chicago1919.org.
Chicago Black Social Culture Map: South Shore/South Side Edition
In February: The Chicago Black Social Culture Map is “an online public humanities project documenting Black social culture from the Great Migration through the early 21st century with a focus on the emergence of house music and dance in the 1980s,” according to its organizers.
The online map has profiles of more than 350 venues and includes first-person stories and multimedia. On Saturday, February 23, the project is hosting a series of panel discussions about South Shore’s queer community, the south side’s “teen scene,” and the role that crews and houses played in the development of the city’s house culture. The event is free, but registration is required. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos, flyers, clothes, and stories that will be added to the digital archive.
All year: The project is ongoing, so stay tuned for the next event.
Chicago Park District
In February: The Black History Escape Room, a physical adventure game with puzzles and riddles to solve, has already happened but the Culture Jam (Saturday February 23 at Amundsen Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale) is still a possibility, as are other dance, music, theatre, craft fairs, and other events for people of all ages at parks around the city. Most events are free or low cost.
All year: Chicago’s more than 600 parks host cultural events all year that celebrate different communities. A favorite from last season was Chicago Soul in Action, a program performed around the city by journalist Cheryl Corley and musician Lucy Smith that paid tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks and Curtis Mayfield.
Chicago Public Library
In February: More than 60 author events, story times, music performances, film screenings, and more are planned at the libraries this month, and all events are free and open to the public. The full list of events is available at chipublib.org/AfricanAmericanHistory.
All year: “All Power to the People,” an exhibit on the legacy of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, runs February 16 through December 31 at Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted, in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection gallery.
CPL bills the Harsh Research Collection as the largest African-American history and literature collection in the midwest. People can visit the collection during the Woodson library’s regular hours or make an appointment to see available materials.
Free Black Panther screenings
A colleague made the case for including Black Panther in a Black History Month roundup because its black cast and creative team made history last year, and I’m going with it. The free screenings by AMC end Thursday, February 7, so act fast to grab a ticket or a spot on a waiting list.
Lifting As They Climbed self-guided tour
The former homes of Ida B. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks are just two of the 33 locations detailed in the guidebook Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping a History of Black Women on Chicago’s South Side by Mariame Kaba and Essence McDowell.
The book profiles 48 black women artists, activists, and educators, and provides south-side locations and landmarks that were important in their lives and the city’s larger history. Copies of the book can be ordered from the authors. v