In February 2018, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close Englewood’s remaining four neighborhood high schools. Three of them would be dissolved over the next three years, but Paul Robeson High School, which opened in 1977, would be demolished in the summer of 2018, and in its place, a new high school built. The New Englewood STEM High School will open its doors to Englewood freshmen this fall.
Robeson High School was an Englewood staple, garnering community pride and supporting student growth. It was also a place that experienced disinvestment, neglect, and fallout from several failed education policies. Its closure leaves a hole in the hearts and minds of the many students, staff, parents, and community members who interacted with Robeson High School over the years.
At the start of 2018, South Side Weekly Radio members Erisa Apantaku, Olivia Obineme, Bridget Vaughn, and Bridget Newsham began collecting stories from former Robeson students, staff, parents, and community members. We created an hour-long documentary and an online archive of those four decades of Robeson High School history through the memories of people from the Robeson community.
In this print issue of South Side Weekly, we’ve excerpted some of those oral histories and visual memories of the school. While Robeson High School is physically gone, this issue and the archive seeks to preserve its legacy.
For the complete Robeson High School oral history archive, including photos, videos, and the unedited oral histories of the Robeson community, visit robeson.southsideweekly.com. If you have a story of Robeson High School you’d like to share, visit bit.ly/SSWrobeson
Ain’t You Heard → A photo essay explores migration and belonging in the ruins of a school closing.
Community. Family. Everything. → Stories of support and resilience from members of the Robeson High School community throughout its forty-year history.
More Than a Building → “You think that wrecking ball was gonna come through the classroom because that’s how loud the construction was.”
Regina Lee → “Robeson was like going to a grandma’s house, or going to a cousin’s house, or an aunt’s house where you saw all your cousins.”
The Playground → Robeson-themed games and activities for folks of all ages.
Hear the history of Robeson High School through the stories of the students, teachers, parents, and others who were apart of the Robeson community at robeson.southsideweekly.com