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AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE

From museums to historic places, an itinerary for discovering African American heritage in Chicago.

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Chicago is rooted in a rich African American history. During the early 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Southern African Americans traveled to Chicago and brought with them a cultural revival that rivaled the Harlem Renaissance. From The Great Migration to President Barack Obama's Presidential Election victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago's long been a place of cultural significance in the African American community.

PUBLIC ART

Monument of the Great Migration

Designed by Alison Saar, Monument to the Great Migration (2600 S. Martin Luther King Dr.) celebrates the thousands of African Americans who journeyed to Chicago in search of freedom and opportunity during the early 20th century. The Great Migration is one of the most profound and celebrated cultural movements in modern history. The traveler waves his hand to symbolically greet his new home, while his worn suitcase represents his journey. You can find this famous piece of modern art in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

In 1927, the State of Illinois erected a memorial to African American veterans of World War I after a lengthy campaign led by the Chicago Defender. One of several historical landmarks located in Bronzeville, Victory Monument (3500 S. King Dr.) is a towering granite column with designs by renowned French sculptor, Leonard Crunelle. On three sides of the shaft it features heroic bronze figures symbolizing the tragedy and glory of war, while a fourth panel is inscribed with the names of 137 fallen soldiers of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard. From atop the column, a bronze doughboy statue stands tall and strong.

RESTAURANTS, CLUBS & COCKTAILS

Green Mill Lounge

With its more than 100-year-long history, Green Mill Cocktail Lounge (4802 N. Broadway Ave.) is famous (or infamous) for hosting iconic jazz musicians and notorious mobsters alike. During Prohibition, the club was a favorite hangout for Al Capone and his Chicago outfit. After the Depression-era, the location developed a reputation as one of the country's top jazz venues.

Chicago's River North neighborhood is laden with trendy nightclubs, stylish boutiques and ballyhooed restaurant openings, but Andy's Jazz Club (11 E. Hubbard St.) is an institution that's been around for more than a half century. As arguably the city's most prominent jazz venue, this place is a must-visit for fans of swing notes and saxophone solos.

With live music and a high energy dance floor seven nights a week, Kingston Mines (2548 N. Halsted St.) is a must-visit destination for Blues fans. This Lincoln Park mainstay attracts nationally recognized recording artists and boasts an award-winning menu of barbeque dishes. As the city's oldest and largest Blues club, Kingston Mines offers a charmingly authentic Chicago music experience.

The story of this Sweet Maple Café (1339 Taylor St.) is as sweet as its Vermont Syrup-topped pancakes. This restaurant in Little Italy is the brainchild of Laurene Hynson who wanted to open a ‘40's-era diner that prepared its food with love and care. 15 years later, Sweet Maple Café's fast become one of the city's trademark breakfast spots and you don't want to leave Chicago without sampling their signature biscuits.

Wishbone (1001 W. Washington St.) is Chicago's go-to restaurant for southern-style soul food. With distinctive artwork, a family-friendly atmosphere and, of course, amazing shrimp and cheese grits, this place offers unique country charm in the big city.

MUSEUMS, THEATERS & GALLERIES

DuSable Museum of African American Heritage

As the country's first independent museum dedicated to the history of African and African American culture, the DuSable Museum (740 E. 56th St.) has developed into one of Chicago's principal cultural institutions. This Hyde Park staple boasts more than 15,000 artifacts and includes priceless paintings, sculptures and historical memorabilia.

Located in the historic Supreme Life Building, the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center (3501 S. Martin Luther King Dr.) is an invaluable resource for African American culture in Chicago. With their in-house exhibition space and information about this charming South Side neighborhood, the BVIC is an essential stop for anyone looking to explore Bronzeville.

Gallery Guichard (3521 S. King Dr.) is a sophisticated art gallery, specializing in works of the African Diaspora. Since opening in 2005, this inviting space has grown into a cornerstone of the Bronzeville community. Gallery Guichard features a new artist every six to eight weeks and hosts both international and national exhibitions. All of the artwork displayed is original and represent multiple mediums including paintings, sculpture and even furniture.

Displaying works by recognized and emerging artists alike, the South Side Community Art Center (3831 S. Michigan Ave.) is a catalyst for creativity in Chicago. For almost 80 years, this Bronzeville institution has been a prevailing leader in arts education. You will find every medium, from dance to the visual arts, when you visit this South Side gem. 

Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center (1060 E. 47th St.) is a thriving nonprofit that's developed a reputation for its strenuous and incredibly successful youth education programs. Besides its carefully curated set of artistic initiatives, LBP also boasts a lively calendar of events that features live poetry, musical performances and artistic events.

In 2011, the Black Ensemble Theater (4440 N. Clark St.) opened its first permanent home, an architecturally stunning cultural center in the Uptown neighborhood. With a lively calendar of show premieres, some of the city's most talented up-and-coming performers and a beautiful venue, this North Side jewel is a must-visit for theater lovers.

HISTORICAL PLACES

Muhammad Ali's Former Home

Kenwood was once a retreat for wealthy Chicagoans who, to escape the industrial noise of downtown Chicago, built palatial homes on the Lake Michigan shoreline. One of those homes is of former heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali (4944 S. Woodlawn Ave.) who lived one block away from Elijah Muhammad, a religious leader in the Nation of Islam.  

Before moving into The White House, the 44th President of the United States called Chicago home. Barack Obama's Georgian revival mansion (5046 S. Greenwood Ave.) is under heavy security and often blocked off in four blocks from every direction. But the residential pocket of his Hyde Park neighborhood is lined with beautiful family homes and striking Prairie-style architecture.

Founded by Oprah Winfrey, Harpo Studios (110 N. Carpenter St.) is a multimedia production company located just west of Chicago's downtown area. Winfrey is an entertainment industry titan, a Chicago treasure and one of the most successful television personalities of all time. Harpo Studios is ground zero for many of Winfrey's incredible accomplishments, including the nationally syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show, which, for years, was produced in the complex's TV studio.

Johnson Publishing Company (former headquarters at 820 S. Michigan Ave. and now currently located at 200 S. Michigan) is the largest African American owned publishing company in the United States. JPC is led by its flagship publications Ebony and Jet magazines. In addition to its media holdings, Johnson Publishing Company produces Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the prestige cosmetics line for women of color. It is also home to an archive of more than 5 million pictures of African Americans and is known for hosting the Ebony Fashion Fair, a traveling fashion show famous for raising money for African American charities throughout the country.


Kingston Mines
2548 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 544-5442
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Pl.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600
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