Tag Archives: Black Business

Vintage Portraits of Black Chicago: Sidewalk Fruit Vendors

black_sidewalkBlack sidewalk salesmen arranging their fresh fruits and vegetables on Chicago`s South Side. Photographed by John H. White, June 1973

“…Many of the city`s black businessmen started small and grew by working hard. Today Chicago is believed to be the black business capital of the United States. Black Enterprise Magazine reported in 1973 that the city had 14 of the top 100 black owned businesses in the country, one more than New York City**.”  caption by John H. White.

** in 2008, Black Enterprise named its 35th annual list of Top Black-Owned Businesses in America.  Illinois had 17 companies on the list, including Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo and Johnson Publishing Co.  Only Michigan had more, with 23 (out of 100).  Black Enterprise’s list back in 1973 was a first for the magazine.

from the National Archives website:

From June through October 1973 and briefly during the spring of 1974, John H. White, a 28-year-old photographer with the Chicago Daily News, worked for the federal government photographing Chicago, especially the city’s African American community. As White reflected recently, he saw his assignment as “an opportunity to capture a slice of life, to capture history.”

Today, John White is a staff photographer with the Chicago Sun-Times. He has won hundreds of awards, and his work has been exhibited and published widely. In 1982 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

(taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Website)

I am a big fan of John H. White’s photography.  He has that magic ability to tell a whole story with one frame.  click here for his website

NOTE: I included his original captions here; but I also included my own updates of said captions.


We the People (Who are Darker than Blue)

Curtis Mayfield performing “We the People” and “Gimme Your Love”, plus archival tape of folks vibin’ in various Chicago parks back-in-the-day.  From the classic film “Save the Children” (1972).  The film chronicled PUSH Expo ’72 (at the International Amphitheatre** in Chicago), touted as the biggest gathering of black business in history.  When black power was green!

from TIME magazine:

Black Expo in Chicago

Monday October, 11, 1971

“Black Expo in Chicago Black Expo was billed as the largest gathering of black businessmen in history. When the five-day trade fair opened in Chicago last week, there were representatives of nearly 400 black firms on hand to prove the premise. But before the week was out, Black Expo proved to be more than a display of the products of America’s fledgling black capitalism. It turned out to be an unofficial convention of entrepreneurs and politicians in search of power at the polls as well as in the marketplace.

the Rev. Jesse Jackson, black businessmen from 40 states gave their backing to Jackson’s assertion that economic development —”green power”—is the way to black power. Self-sufficiency, Jackson said during the opening-day ceremonies, is the first step in breaking out of the ghetto. Said Jackson: “We do not want a welfare state. We have potential. We can produce. We can feed ourselves.” Despite the enthusiastic speeches, however, black capitalism is still in an initial stage of development. Aware of that, Jackson proposed a “domestic Marshall Plan” to help black neighborhoods develop their economic potential….”

**the Ampitheatre was also where the Democratic National Convention took place (in 1968) as well as countless concerts.