Bronzeville-Black Metropolis NHA

May 10, 2023

Bronzeville-Black Metropolis NHA – Chicago South-East Side

The Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area contains the Black Metropolis Historic District, a Chicago landmark since 1997, consisting of eight historic buildings, and one monument, as well as the homes of entrepreneurs, Civil Rights activists, cultural, and scientific icons, and a Civil War Union Army Camp. The area runs from 17th to 71st streets.  James Gentry, a theater editor for the Chicago Bee suggested the name “Bronzeville.” He said that African Americans’ skin color was closer to bronze than black. The name was popularized by the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper with nationwide circulation. Officially became a National Heritage Area in January 2023.

5/4/2023 Th – Our first stop was the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley House.  Emmett Till’s former home, now A Chicago Landmark, will become a museum. Till’s brutal death at the hands of white supremacists helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. See our Blog for January 2019, Till was abducted, tortured, and killed in Money MS in 1955 at the age of 14 for offending a white woman in her family’s store by whistling at her.   

Emmett’s mother Mamie brought the body home and insisted that there be an open casket displaying Till’s bloated, mutilated body in the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.

Fountain of Time in Washington Park near the University of Chicago

DuSable Black History Museum and Learning Center.  Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was Chicago’s first permanent non-native settler.

Harold Washington Cultural Center – is a performance facility named after Chicago’s first African American Mayor. It was originally to be named the Lou Rawls Cultural Center, but Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman changed the name without telling Rawls; it opened in 2004.

The Forum – was constructed shortly after the adjacent 43rd St “L” (for elevated) stop opened in 1892.  It initially served a community of ethnic European residents. From 1930 to 1970, Chicago was considered the black business capital of the U.S. 

By 1925, The Forum had become part of the Black Metropolis – the black city within a city.

Local Nat King Cole assembled bands for Sunday dances and Muddy Waters was a regular at The Forum.  A $1 Million Grant from the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation will support The Creative Complex, which will have four arts-based spaces in the building.

The Stockyard Bank Building (1925), at Halsted and Exchange Ave, was booming when Chicago ruled the meatpacking industry.  It is now in disrepair, but there are proposals for development – a Steakhouse, Museum, Banquet Hall?  The arch is for the Stockyards Industrial Park (Richard M. Daley Mayor!).

The Union Stock Yard Gate was the entrance to the famous Union Stock Yards. Though you cannot read it in the photo, above the bottom curve of the arch it states “Union – Stock – Yard – Chartered – 1865.  The gate is the only significant structural element of the stockyards to survive.


Monument to Fallen Firefighters – my father was a Chicago Fireman and later an ambulance driver and EMT for the Chicago Fire Department.  When I was a child, he was stationed at the firehouse in the Stockyards.  He ended his career at the Fire Academy.

Bronzeville Classical School Elementary School is a selective school offering a liberal arts education with an accelerated academic program.  All Chicago students can apply.  The curriculum is taught at least one level above grade and emphasizes literature, mathematics, language arts, world languages, and the humanities.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett social reformer (1862-1931) and advocate for civil rights, woman’s suffrage and economic justice, her anti-lynching campaign stirred the nation and brought international attention to racially motivated brutality.  In 1909, she founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

She lived here on Grand Boulevard, now Martin Luther King Dr, from 1919 to 1930. 

The Ida B. Wells Monument located nearby commemorates the Ida B. Wells Homes (over 1,600 units) that stood here from 1941-2002.

Victory Monument – One of the most famous landmarks of Chicago’s African American community, “Victory” was erected after a lengthy campaign led by the Chicago Defender. African American soldiers formed the 8th regiment of the Illinois National Guard, which became the 370th Infantry of the 93rd Division upon the start of World War I. The unit saw action in France as the last regiment pursuing retreating German forces in the Aisne-Marne region, just before the war ended.

Martin Luther King Dr and 35th Street – Bronze plaques on median, sidewalks, and crosswalks stretch ten blocks from the Victory Monument at 35th St. to the Monument to the Great Northern Migration at 26th Place.

There are about 100 plaques – here are some examples.

We stopped by the Bronzeville Information Center at 411 E 35th St – this is what we found

Eighth Regiment Armory (1914) – was the first armory in the U.S. built for an African American military regiment, known as the “Fighting 8th”. The armory was later used by a division of the Illinois National Guard and was incorporated into the U.S. Infantry during World War I. After closing the armory in the early 1960s, it became the South-Central Gymnasium. In 1999, following an extensive renovation, it was reopened as a public high school, the Chicago Military Academy. The restoration and conversion into a school has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The armory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1998.

Our last stop was the Monument to the Great Northern Migration.  According to Wikipedia, “In 1900–01, Chicago had a total population of 1,754,473.  By 1920, the city had added more than 1 million residents. During the second wave of the Great Migration (1940–60), the African American population in the city grew from 278,000 to 813,000.” The 15ft tall statue is located at the northern end of Bronzeville (26th Pl).  He is carrying a ragged suitcase, with suitcases as small pillars surrounding the circle. 

His clothes and the mound on which he stands appear to be made from the soles of worn shoes.

Pullman National Historical Park is also a part of Bronzeville-Black Metropolis NHA – see Blog for June 2016.

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