Black City To Fall In Love With

'In Our Cities' series tell a story of Chicago, an incredible Black city.

When we see images of us and our neighborhoods in the media, they are more often than not against a backdrop of chaos. The visuals captured are usually those of police tape, shell casings, mug shots and oversized arrows pointing frantically toward a rising murder rate. Seldom do we see beauty, progress, children playing outside or neighbors coming together to clean up a community.

EBONY magazine wants to be the much-needed lens that will show our homes as they are, not as the mainstream news outlets would purport them to be. That is why we are launching a new multimedia storytelling series, “In Our Cities.”

We will examine the racial makeup of major cities where we live, profile standout citizens, spotlight projects and programs that are effective in helping the under-served. The cameras and reporters will capture students listening aptly in a STEM session, a series of rowhouses adopted and brought back to beauty by area artists or even an effort to feed the hungry. We’re here for a new skate park, a spiritual dance party devoted to Beyonce (it’s real, y’all), a farmers market spanning several city blocks or eye-catching murals celebrating #BlackExcellence in all its forms.

This initiative — a combination of print, photo and video storytelling—will span the nation to include Detroit; New Orleans; Jackson, Miss.; St. Louis; Atlanta; Oak­land, Calif.; and Los Angeles.

In short, we’ll capture к Black Joy wherever we can find it in the hopes it will spread and multiply.

Our first stop, fittingly enough, is the “birthplace” of Ebony magazine: the city of Chicago, or as some jokesters and detrac­tors dub it, Chiraq.


Racial segregation helped birth the the Black Belt, known as Brinzeville, a 30-block corridor on the South Side that was predominantly African-American, says 97-year-old historian and author Timuel Black. “Because of the quality of the quality of the people who lived there and the diversity of talent, we created our own,” he says, adding that Blacks have their own institutions. The Black metropolis was known for its nightclubs such as the Palm Tavern, Elite Club, Dreamland Cafe and the Sunset Club. Now, renovated brownstones and Illinois-based grocer Marianos are some examples of how the aim is on the rise again.

Nearby in Jackson Park, the soon-to-be-built Barack Obama Presidential Center will attract more tourists and businesses to the neighboring Woodlawn community. Another thriving Black community for middle- class families is Chatham. According to, in I960 African-Americans made up less titan 1 percent, but by I960, there was a signifi­cant increase—63.7 percent.


Samuel “Policy Sam” Young moved to Chicago in 1885 city to a numbers game, policy. It was an il­legal numbers racket now known legally as the Illinois lottery. the Great Migration be­tween 1910 and 1970, the Black population in Chicago more than doubled dur­ing WWI to about 100,000. By 1970,

As a result of the Great Migration be­tween 1910 and 1970, the Black population in Chicago more than doubled dur­ing WWI to about 100,000. By 1970, 1 million African- Americans made up one-third of the city’s population.

Eugene Williams, a Black teenager, crossed an invisible race line onto the white side of the 29th Street beach. He was stoned by a group of Whites while swimming and drowned in Lake Michigan. His death led to the weeklong race riot of 1919.

Fed up with over­crowded public schools for Black students as a result of segregationist policies, a quarter of a million students staged the Chicago Public School boy­cott of Oct. 22,1963, and sat out for the day. Approximately 20,000 of them marched through the streets headed toward downtown.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. led the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement demand­ing an end to housing discrimination. King and about 30,000 marched to Soldier Field and held a rally.

The 1968 assassina­tion of King had a huge effect on the city. Riots and result­ing fires destroyed businesses on the West Side, and nine people died. Mayor Richard J. Daley issued the notori­ous orders: “Shoot to kill arsonists” and “Shoot to maim loot­ers.” The struggle to rebuild in that area continues.



“More than half of the Black population (62 percent) lives in only 20 of Chicago’s 77 community areas — neighborhoods that are each more than 90-percent Black,” the Chicago Reader reported.

Natalie Moore, journalist and author of The South Side: A Por¬trait of Chicago and American Segregation, says many Blacks have been isolated from other parts of the city. Aldermen who fight against affordable housing in their wards don’t help, she adds. “In the past, Blacks were met with violence when trying to integrate in the 1960s. That violence isn’t happening now, but the city is still divided by ethnic enclaves. The solution doesn’t require any sort of housing mandate,” she says, but “there should be policies that foster inclusion.”

Restrictive housing regulations were set in place between 1916 and 1948 to ensure Blacks didn’t mix with Whites, says Michael Dawson, director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Banks made lending difficult to Black residents, he goes on to explain because they were labeled as risky. Lending discrimination remains a problem, he reveals. Chicago politics also played a role.

“The Daley machine in the 20th century used all the power of the city, including police forces, to ensure that White ethnic neighborhoods remained segregated,” Dawson says. Those regulations are gone, but the North Side is still predominantly white today.


Harold Washington elected the city’s first Black major in 1983

Chicago is the birthplace of house mu­sic, a genre developed by club DJs who were influenced by early-to-mid-1970s dance music. DJ Frankie Knuckles played a huge role in developing and popularizing the sound in the 1980s.

Kim Fox elected Cook County’s first Black female state’s attorney in 2016


‘Harold’s chicken is overrated.’

‘The Sears Tower is now Willis Tower.’

‘Is it OK to refer to your city as Chiraq?’

Thank you!
You have successfully subscribed!
We will be glad to enlighten you on
the life of the Black community.
Do you want to be notified?
Add meetup