Bronzeville History

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Gilded Age

Great Migration StatueThe Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville has a long and wonderful history beginning in 1779 with the migration of the first African American resident of Chicago, Jean Baptist Point DuSable. After the Civil War, many freed slaves made their way north looking for a new lives. The 1940's sparked the "Great Migration" of African Americans into the Chicago area. Looking for jobs, these entrepreneurial people moved north and settled in the strip of land south of the downtown area. While it is debated how the name came about it is documented that in 1930 the newspaper, The Chicago Bee, Sponsored a contest to elect a "mayor of Bronzeville". In the mid-1940's the name seems to have finally attached itself to the area ranging from 26th street south to 67th street, and west to the Rock Island Line railroad tracks (where the Dan Ryan Expressway is now), and to the east, the border was the Illinois Central railroad tracks. Great Migration statue, side view
Bronzeville was an area where African American businesses were established and thrived. According to an article by Walter Williams in the September 2001 issue of Capitalism Magazine, "During the 1900s, Bronzeville was home to several black newspapers and 731 business establishments, by 1917 in 61 lines of work. The Binga Bank opened in 1908 by it's founder Jessie Binga, who started out with a wagon selling coal and oil. By 1929, Bronzeville blacks had amassed $100 million in real-estate holdings."
(www.capitalismmagazine.com/2001/
september/ww_black_history.htm
)

Bronzeville has been home to many famous residents. The author Gwendolyn Brooks, The founder of Negro National Baseball league Andrew "Rube" Foster, Civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, The first African American female pilot Bessie Coleman, and legendary bandleader Louis Armstrong all lived, at one point of their lives, in the Bronzeville area.

For more information on the history of Bronzeville please visit these sites:

The Bronzeville Historical Society
http://bronzeville.qpg.com/


The City of Chicago website Landmarks Page:
http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/index.htm

IIT Bronzeville Stories site:
http://www.iit.edu/~bronzeville-stories/

The Jazz institute of Chicago's Jazzgram page:
http://www.jazzinstituteofchicago.org/index.asp?target=/jazzgram/contents.asp

The Center for New Horizons:
http://www.cnh.org/

Chicago Public Library's Chicago Renaissance Page:
http://www.chipublib.org/digital/chiren/institutions.html

National Parks Service Link (teaching tools):
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/53black/53black.htm



Last Updated: 4/30/02