Some of author Richard Wright’s most famous works, such as Native Son, are set in Chicago. He moved here in 1927, at the age of nineteen, but it wasn’t until two years later that Wright was able to afford a home with space for his writing: a four-room apartment in a two-flat at 4831 South Vincennes Avenue.
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Historically, Bronzeville is known for its high volume of Black residents, many of whom originally came to Chicago during the Great Migration, between 1910 and 1920. I know Bronzeville best for what these residents did once they got here, making the neighborhood a mecca for arts and culture. Colorful tributes made through murals, statues, and structural art can be seen driving along popular boulevards and avenues. The architectural structures found in Bronzeville are just as breathtaking as its tribute to art and culture, with many mansions, three-flats, and greystone homes to admire as you make your way along the streets. Many valued and well known contributors to African American history have called these buildings and this neighborhood home: Gwendolyn Brooks, Ida B. Wells, Nat King Cole, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Bessie Coleman, Louis Armstrong, Robert Abbott, and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams top a constantly growing list of brilliant people.
This investigation is the first in a series of projects that will document and explore public housing on the South Side. If you have tips or suggestions about coverage, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wide boulevard where the Elam Home sits in Bronzeville has had many names, and the mansion, in place since 1903, has known all of them. The ornately carved windows—these days shuttered by gray boards—have peered out at over a century of history in an ever-changing city, watching as Grand Boulevard become South Park Way in 1923 and then Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in 1968. As the neighborhood became majority Jewish and then quickly became majority black; as the surrounding area earned a new moniker, Bronzeville, and a new reputation as a thriving black cultural center.
Abuilding’s design tells you a lot about who it’s for. The new faux-Parisian townhomes in Lincoln Park appeal to people who want to imitate the prestige and sophistication of a European capital. The large, bright windows of a traditional commercial storefront ask everyone in the neighborhood to come in and check out the merchandise.
The flood is a story about community building, of community won and community lost.
Ravyn Lenae’s demands for her audience were simple. In between the R&B singer’s spacey electro-soul verses, she would say: “Dance,” or, “Y’all can just close your eyes, okay?” She electrified the crowd—all from onstage while sitting down. Listeners mumbled “okay” in response, and started moving their bodies; people who had been sitting on the ground to just listen became active participants in the performance.