Great Migration Centennial Celebration

In 2016 Chicago’s cultural community is celebrating The Great Migration Centennial. The Great Migration, a long-term movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, transformed Chicago between 1916 and 1970. Chicago attracted slightly more than 500,000 of the approximately 7 million African Americans who left the South seeking the promise of economic opportunity during these decades. What had been a largely southern and rural African American culture in the 19th century became a culture deeply infused with urban sensibility. Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood became home to a tremendous number of African Americans during the Migration.

As one of the most significant landmarks of the Great Migration, this South Side neighborhood is shrouded in a glowing, African American cultural allure. Bronzeville's 20th century resurgence, which rivaled the Harlem Renaissance, is responsible for tremendous cultural and social advances. Pulitzer Prize recipient Gwendolyn Brooks, civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, and legendary musicians Louis Armstrong, Nat “King” Cole, and Muddy Waters to name a few were profoundly responsible for the area's development and subsequent cultural crusade, which included advances in civil rights, business opportunities, and jazz, blues and gospel music.

Below you will find information on various events, tours and exhibits across Chicago to help you celebrate the Great Migration Centennial.

Neighborhood Tours

Bronzeville Great Migration Statue

Black Metropolis/Pullman Porter/Great Migration/Blues Trail Tour

Tours depart from Buddy Guy's Legends, 700 S Wabash Avenue Daily tours: 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $60 Travel Chicago’s Great Migration Trail and explore the destinations lived and experienced by more than a half million people who migrated to Illinois’ Black Metropolis neighborhood of Bronzeville, Chicago's legendary city-within-a-city. During this half-day tour, guests experience the hospitality in the proud tradition of the Pullman Porters, known as the ambassadors of service, who functioned in the dual role of railroad workers and national distributors of the Chicago Defender newspaper; providing insight and information on the possibilities of the north. On the route that follows the Mississippi Blues Trail, you’ll discover how the blues became electric. Stops include Bronzeville Historic District, Chess Record Studio, Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, the former home of Muddy Water's, President Obama’s house, and the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.
Bronzeville Mural

Bronzeville Summer Nights Art District Trolley Tours

June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16 Various locations in Bronzeville neighborhood 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. FREE Explore the historic Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago through the Bronzeville Summer Nights Art District Trolley Tours. Continuous rotating trollies will stop at each participating art gallery in 15 minute intervals with periodic stops at local establishments to bring the arts and culture of the neighborhood to the streets. The event will feature a series of live performances, interactive art displays and culinary experiences.
Hyde Park

Hyde Park InstaGreeter

July 7, August 4, September 1, October 6 Tours depart from Ancien Cycles and Cafe, 1558 E 53rd St FREE Chicago InstaGreeter gives visitors the stellar Chicago Greeter experience without the need to pre-register. These hour-long guided walking tours are perfect as a last minute alternative if you didn't register in advance or don't have time for a full Greeter visit. Just drop into the meeting locations on the first Thursday of the month. Tours begin at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. and are limited to 6 people per walk.

Special Events, Festivals, & Performances

DuSable Jazz

2016 Sounds of History Jazz Concert Series

June 15 - August 17 DuSable Museum, 740 E 56th Place FREE Come out and enjoy a night out under the stars with the DuSable Museum’s Sounds of History Jazz Concert Series. The free concerts happen right outside the museum on their front lawn or in the museum’s theater in the event of rain. • June 15: “Swingin it with Count Basie & Duke Ellington”, music of Count Basie & Duke Ellington presented by The Morris Ellis Orchestra under the direction of Diane Ellis • July 20: “The Baritones of Jazz”-Nat King Cole, Arthur Prysock, Lou Rawls, Will Downing, Billy Eckstine, & Brook Benton featuring Marcus Gentry • August 17: “The Vibe is on with Milt Jackson, Roy Ayers & Lionel Hampton”, featuring the vibraphone sounds of Thaddeus Tukes, Di’Kobie Berry & Joel Ross
Black Ensemble

Black Ensemble Theatre

4450 N Clark Street Black Ensemble Theater, founded in 1976 by the phenomenal actress, producer, and playwright Jackie Taylor, has grown from a small community arts organization to a vibrant nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. A leader and innovator in the African American and mainstream arts communities, Black Ensemble Theater is recognized as one of the most diverse theaters in the country, producing excellent musical theater. Black Ensemble Theater’s 40th Anniversary Season is something to celebrate in 2016 with seven of their most critically-acclaimed and popular productions. Together with the Black Ensemble musicians, performers and designers, they look forward to a season full of some of the greatest stories ever told: • June 4 – July 10: The Marvin Gaye Story (Don't Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend) • July 30 – September 4: The Jackie Wilson Story • September 24 – October 30: I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) • November 26 –...
Dr Watts Davis

Vivian G. Harsh Society, Black Music Month Breakfast: Celebrating the Music of the Great Migration

June 25 Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, 4859 S Wabash Ave 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Tickets: $50 Celebrate black music of the Great Migration in Chicago. Vivian G. Harsh Society will honor the inestimable Gospel singer, conductor, and educator Dr. Ollie Watts Davis as the Charles E. Walton award recipient and our keynote speaker on “The Power of Black Sacred Song in Secular Social Context.” The smooth, resonant voice of Dr. Watts Davis has endeared audiences in our nation’s greatest concert halls and abroad. A superb educator as well as performer, Dr. Watts Davis was named a University Scholar, the highest recognition bestowed upon their faculty, as a professor at the University of Illinois in 2008. Her expertise of black music history and stunning vocal prowess will be sure to enthrall at our event.
International Festival of Life & the 35th Anniversary of the Chicago Music Awards

International Festival of Life & the 35th Anniversary of the Chicago Music Awards

July 1 - 4 Union Park, 1501 W Randolph St Adult tickets start at $15 African Caribbean International Festival of Life (IFOL) is a diverse community summer event that attracts visitors from around the country and beyond and is widely embraced by all nationalities since its inception in 1993. IFOL showcases, the many diverse cultures and music from many nations. A special Earth, Wind and Fire tribute in memory of R & B legend Maurice White will be performed among the many live concerts, an array of food vendors, cultural performances, contests, and celebrity guests. The 35th Anniversary of the Chicago Music Awards will be combined with the IFOL on July 1st.
Chosen Few

Chosen Few House Music Festival

July 2 & 3 Jackson Park, 63rd Street & Hayes Drive Adult tickets start at $30 The Chosen Few Picnic is a must experience for anyone who loves house music! House Music, a genre of dance music known around the world was born, developed and nurtured in Chicago in the late 1970s and early 80s. The event that started as a small reunion of friends in 1990 is now the world’s oldest and largest dance music party. Expanding from the one-day Chosen Few Picnic, the two-day Chosen Few Music Festival will draw in nearly 40,000 dance music fans. Nicknamed the “Woodstock of House Music” for its family reunion vibe, ‘tent city’ spectacle, and giant grass dance floor, the Chosen Few House Music Festival will entertain with music from the Chosen Few DJs collective, renowned dance music artists, singers and guest DJs guests.
Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago

July 6 - 10 Grant Park, Columbus Drive & Jackson Boulevard FREE admission The five-day festival is the nation's premier FREE outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago's dining community. The delicious array of food served at Taste of Chicago is complemented by music and exciting activities for the entire family. Every summer since 1980, Chicago's beautiful Grant Park on the city's magnificent lakefront has been home to the world's largest food festival. The Great Migration’s influence in America’s culinary scene is felt throughout Chicago. As southern migrants traveled north so did their family recipes and cooking techniques. There is no better place to sample a variety of food from Chicago’s neighborhoods than the Taste of Chicago.
Soulful Book Fair

Soulful Chicago Book Fair

July 16 61st St from Cottage Grove Ave to King Dr FREE The Soulful Chicago Book Fair is a free outdoor celebration of literacy and literary arts found throughout the African Diaspora. It is Chicago’s only living “author-centric” festival, filled with stories told through books, spoken word, storytelling, songwriting, play writing and art!
Bud Billiken Parade

Bud Billiken Parade

August 13 Route: Martin Luther King Dr from Oakwood Blvd South to 51st into Washington Park FREE The Bud Billiken parade is the second largest parade in the United States featuring dozens of bands, drill teams, marching units, floats and more. Hundreds of thousands have lined the parade route with millions viewing the festivities on live TV. The parade also has its roots in African American history. The Chicago Defender newspaper was founded in 1905 to address African American issues. In 1921, the Chicago Defender Jr., a section for children in the newspaper was established as well as the Bud Billiken Club. It was named after the Billiken, the guardian angel of little children according to Chinese legend. In 1929, the Bud Billiken concept expanded to include a parade. Its purpose was to provide underprivileged youth with the chance to be in the limelight. It has grown into an institution with participation from across generations and across the country.
Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago Jazz Festival

Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 2019​

Known for its artistic creativity, the Chicago Jazz Festival is a favorite Labor Day Weekend tradition. It promotes awareness and appreciation for all forms of jazz through free, quality live musical performance. Since 1979, the festival's mission is to showcase Chicago's vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages. Don’t miss opening night in Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion featuring Orbert Davis’ Soul Migration which was commissioned for the Great Black Migration Centennial Celebration.

African Festival of the Arts

African Festival of the Arts

September 2 - 5 Washington Park, 5100 S Cottage Grove Avenue Adult tickets start at $15 During Labor Day Weekend, the Festival grounds in Chicago’s Washington Park come alive in a simulated African village. Attendees are transported across the Diaspora with interactive engagements, vibrant drumming, artifacts, colorful and rich handwoven fabric and textile, and other interactive programming spaces including: Drum & Afro-folk Village, Children and Family, African Heritage, African Spirituality, Wellness (Health) Village, Books and Authors, Fine Art, Film and Video, Food Court, Seniors and Quilting, and the African Marketplace
World Music Festival

Chicago World Music Festival

September 9 - 25 Various locations city-wide FREE Enjoy global grooves by award-winning artists from around the world at the free city-wide, multi-venue, eleven-day festival that has attracted over 650,000 concertgoers and has presented more than 650 artists and ensembles from over 80 countries since it began in 1999.
Chicago Football Classic

Chicago Football Classic

September 10 Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive Kickoff at 3 p.m. Adult tickets start at $17 The 19th Annual Chicago Football Classic features Atlanta Clark University versus Central State University. In 1997, a small local group of African American businessmen formed the Chicago Football Classic organization dedicated to encouraging African American youth to achieve their personal best in school and beyond. Their initiative empowers youth to not only complete high school, but also attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities. With a scholarship program in place, the group knew that a platform was needed for the following: showcase the talents, potential, and accomplishments of scholarship recipients as well as the benefits of attending HBCUs; and encourage African American students and their families to lift the bar of excellence and achievement. That platform became known as the Chicago Football Classic, a weekend-long itinerary of cultural, educational and other...
Hyde Park Jazz Fest

Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 24 & 25 Various venues in Hyde Park $5 donation suggested The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is a free two-day festival featuring the finest local, national and international jazz artists. Now in its 10th year, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival will be bigger than ever with a global narrative. Attendees can stroll among the 13 stages throughout the historic neighborhood to hear the sounds made famous in Chicago. In addition, the festival has partnered with the Hyde Park Art Center in commissioning visual artists to create installations along the Midway Plaisance, where the fest's biggest outdoor performances take place. Beyond the music, enjoy the food and beverage vendors, picnic areas, artisan vendors, and family friendly programming.
Open House Chicago

Open House Chicago

October 14-15, 2017 Various sites across Chicago FREE The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago is a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to hundreds of buildings across Chicago. Explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods all for free. Neighborhoods of interest for The Great Migration Centennial celebration include Bronzeville, Hyde Park, South Shore, and Pullman. Among these neighborhoods you can visit legend music venues like The Forum, Grand Ballroom (Cinderella Ballroom), Sunset Café (currently Meyers Ace Hardware), and the New Regal Theatre.
Muntu Dance

Rhythms, Movements & Spoken Truths

December 11 & 12 The Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago will celebrate The Great Migration Centennial and Oscar Brown Jr.’s 90th birthday with their Rhythms, Movements & Spoken Truths performance. Founded in 1972, The Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theatre performs authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and ancient African and African American dance, music, and folklore. A colorful and dynamic company, Muntu brings its audiences out of their seats and into the aisles with its unique synthesis of dance, rhythm and song.

Museums & Exhibits Celebrating the African American Experience

DuSable Musuem Art

The DuSable Masterworks Collection Series 1: Paintings

Now through January 16, 2017 DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E 56th Place Adult Admission: $10 (FREE on sundays) The exhibition highlights the works of some of the greatest and most prolific African American artists. Included in the exhibition are paintings by Henry Ossawa Tanner, William A. Harper, William Edouard Scott and Archibald Motley, Jr., among others. This unique, diverse and beautiful collection of work is the first in a series which will allow visitors to engage with the DuSable Museum’s world-class Fine Arts Collection. The depth and breadth of these accomplished artists will provide the public and the City of Chicago with a thirst and desire to see more.
Pullman Porter Museum

National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

April - December 1 10406 S Maryland Ave Admission: $5 The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum was founded in 1995 and is now part of Pullman National Monument, part of the National Park Service. The museum is named after men who made history – Asa Philip Randolph and Pullman Porters, the men who made up the membership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) union, the first African American labor union in the country to win a collective bargaining agreement. Their pioneering efforts created the first bona-fide union for the African American worker. This victorious struggle in America’s early labor movement was also the doorway through which many civil rights gains were made. The Pullman Porters had a direct role in The Great Migration as they passed out the Chicago Defender, a locally-owned African American newspaper, along their routes in the Southern States promoting Chicago as a destination for African Americans looking for jobs even after the newspaper was...

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry

April 23 - September 25 Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago Avenue Adult admission: $12 The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is honored to present a major museum survey of Kerry James Marshall, one of America’s greatest living artists. The exhibition focuses primarily on Marshall’s paintings made over the last 35 years, from his seminal inaugural statement "Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self" (1980) to his most recent explorations of African American history. Born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in Birmingham, Alabama, and witness to the Watts riots in 1965, Marshall has long been an inspired and imaginative chronicler of the African American experience. Best known for his large-scale paintings featuring black figures, defiant assertions of blackness in a medium in which African Americans have long been “invisible men,” Marshall’s interrogation of art history covers a broad temporal swath stretching from the Renaissance to 20th-century American...
Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

Invisible Man: Gordon Parks & Ralph Ellison in Harlem

May 21 - August 28 Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Avenue Adult admission: $25 Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison are both recognized as major figures in American art and literature: Parks, a renowned photographer and filmmaker, was best known for his poignant and humanizing photo-essays for Life magazine. Ellison authored one of the most acclaimed—and debated—novels of the 20th century, Invisible Man (1952). What is less known about these two esteemed artists is that their friendship, coupled with a shared vision of racial injustices and a belief in the communicative power of photography, inspired collaboration on two projects, one in 1948 and another in 1952. Both projects aimed to make the black experience visible in postwar America, with Harlem as its nerve center. This exhibition reunites for the first time the surviving photographs and texts intended for the two projects, including never-before-seen photographs by Parks from the collections of the Art Institute and the...
Gallery Guichard

Echoes of Our Journey: Bronzeville & The Great Migration

July 14 - September 30 Gallery Guichard, 436 E 47th St FREE This historic art exhibition celebrating the centennial of The Great Migration features six artists who live and work at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts in the heart of the neighborhood. The artists will use the original doors from their historic residence, the renovated building that housed the Ben Franklin Store, known as the world’s first black owned and operated department, to create art. By re-purposing these landmark artifacts, the artists reawaken the spirit of this historic period in Black History and contemporize these stories for a new generation. As a collective, the artists talked about the doors as conduits, containing the spirit or echoes of the many people who passed through them. They wanted to give those voices life again by creating works that not only acknowledged the triumphs and tears of the great travels that they took, but to also celebrate their humanity and the community they built in Bronzeville, which...
South Side Community Center

The Great Migration: The Journey & New Beginnings

July 16 - September 10 South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S Michigan Avenue Admission: $5 donation In 2016, the South Side Community Art Center continues its celebration of its 75th Anniversary Year. The Center continues in its original mission to preserve, conserve and promote the legacy and future of African American art and artists. Today, the South Side Community Art Center is one of the last surviving Work Progress Administration Federal Arts Project centers and the oldest African American community art center in the country.