Tag Archives: photography

Portraits of Black Chicago: Cool Off

black_youngstersBlack youngsters cool off with fire hydrant water on Chicago’s South Side in the Woodlawn community… June 1973

“…The kids don’t go to the city beaches and use the fire hydrants to cool off instead. It’s a tradition in the community, comprised of very low income people. The area has high crime and fire records. From 1960 to 1970 the percentage of Chicago blacks with income of $7,000 or more jumped from 26% to 58%.”*  caption by John H. White.

* according to Paul Louis Street’s Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis, the median income for Blacks in Chicago in 2000 was “more than $6,000 less than the Economic Policy Institute’s “basic family budget”…for even a small family of one parent and two children ($35,307).  On the flip of this, the median white income in the city was $11,000 more than the that basic family budget.

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.

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


taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Website


Portraits of Black Chicago: The Fruit of Islam

the_fruit_of_islam

The Fruit of Islam,’ a special group of bodyguards for Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad, sits at the bottom of the platform while he delivers his annual Savior’s Day message in Chicago. March 1974.

“….The city is headquarters for the Black Muslims. Their $75 million dollar empire includes a mosque, newspaper, university, restaurants, real estate, bank, and variety of retail stores. Muhammad died February 25, 1975.” – caption by John H. White

UPDATE:  Since 1978, Louis Farrakhan has been the leader of a reconstituted Nation of Islam.  The Nation of Islam’s headquarters is still located in Chicago, Illinois, and its flagship Mosque No. 2, Mosque Maryam is on South Stony Island Avenue.

according to Wikipedia:

In an interview on NBC‘s Meet the Press, Louis Farrakhan was asked by Tim Russert to explain the Nation of Islam’s view on separation:

“Tim Russert: Once a week, on the back page [of your newspaper] is The Muslim Program, “What the Muslims Want,” [written in 1965]. The first is in terms of territory, “Since we cannot get along with them in peace and equality, we believe our contributions to this land and the suffering forced upon us by white America justifies our demand for complete separation in a state or territory of our own.” Is that your view in 1997, a separate state for Black Americans?”

“Minister Louis Farrakhan: First, the program starts with number one. That is number four. The first part of that program is that we want freedom, a full and complete freedom. The second is, we want justice. We want equal justice under the law, and we want justice applied equally to all, regardless of race or class or color. And the third is that we want equality. We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society. If we can get that within the political, economic, social system of America, there’s no need for point number four. But if we cannot get along in peace after giving America 400 years of our service and sweat and labor, then, of course, separation would be the solution to our race problem.”

For more on the Nation, click here.

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.

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


of pigeons, pidgins, and pop

pigeon-by-scaleagencyAbove is a photo of pigeons originally posted on local photographer scaleagency’s blog entitled “Assignment Photography”. Very interesting.  It reminded me of a shot I took in Pilsen some time ago (see below).  On both, I wonder what the birds must be thinking, and what they would utter at that moment, if given the chance.  My theory is that they are much brighter than we give them credit for (and I do not agree with the whole “rats-with-wings theory [Michael]).  For more from scaleagency (Paul Muhammad), click here.

Another thing that interests me is language (more specifically, Linguistics [the sources of languages]).  One group of anomalies I love is the band of pidgins that exists out there (see, this rant is related… kind of).  Pidgins are languages that are broken down, impure, and/or simplified versions of their parent tongue (like street style versus runway fashion).  An example is Nigerian Pidgin, which contains bits of English, Yoruba, and Portuguese among other languages.   An example of the Pidgin is:

The babe dey do nyanga or the girl is playing hard to get

…or, you could simply listen to almost any Fela Kuti track.

Ironically, according to Wikipedia, “The origin of the word pidgin is uncertain. The first time pidgin appeared in print was in 1850, [but] there are many sources from which the word may be derived. For example:

  • A Chinese mispronunciation of the English word business.
  • The Portuguese word ocupação (business).
  • The Hebrew word pidjom (barter).
  • A Yayo word pidians, which means people.
  • English pigeon, a bird sometimes used for carrying brief written messages, especially in times prior to modern telecommunications”

To me, such languages express the living quality of languages… Their ability to grow with the people who use them.  But, they also reflect the history of a community; they carry bits of language left like scars, or testaments, from every intersection of divergent cultures.

contemplating pigeon

NOTE: To explain Pidgins another way, I’ll break down what I call the Pidgin of Pop: Malta.  Malta is a dark brown malt beverage, like stout, but it tastes sort of like molasses and is non- alcoholic.   What’s compelling to me about malta is it is popular throughout the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, but is also popular in areas of Africa like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and in the Indian Ocean (even though it started out in Germany).  Each of these seemingly divergent cultures have their own spin on the soda:

Many Latin Americans serve Malta with condensed or evaporated milk while Africans often serve it with ice (unlike beer).

Either way, it’s delicious (and a hard-core part of multiple cultures).

malta-india2


Portraits of Black Chicago: High School Student

westinghouse_student2A student at the Westinghouse Industrial Vocation School on Chicago’s West Side. May 1973

“…A student at the Westinghouse Industrial Vocation School on Chicago’s West Side*. She is one of the nearly 1.2 million black people who make up over a third of the population of Chicago**. It is one of the many black faces in this project that portray life in all its seasons. The photos are portraits that reflect pride, love, beauty, hope, struggle, joy, hate, frustration, discontent, worship, and faith. She is a member of her race who is proud of her heritage.”  caption by John H. White

*Westinghouse was demolished in 2009, and a new campus was completed at 3223 West Franklin Boulevard.  No longer a Vocational School; it is now a selective enrollment, college preparatory high school.  The former location of Westinghouse was a former candy factory, listed in the American Institute of Architects’ Guide to Chicago.

**as of the 2000 U.S. Census, the City of Chicago’s Black Population is 1.1 million, a very similar statistic to back in 1973.  However, this data excludes suburban areas (whose African-American populations, in many cases, have swelled).    Also of note:  the 1970 population of Chicago was 3,620, 962.  As of 2000, it was 2,896,016 people

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

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.

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



taken from the National Archives and Records Administration Website


Life and Death of the West Side

chiriot07nLife And Death of the West Side: a Communiversity Course

Dates:  March 12 – April 30 (8 weeks)

A Community Theatre Project

In this course, participants will create an original theatrical stage production based on the Chicago West side Riots of April 6-8, 1968 (that were in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr). Participants concentrate on script writing, research, production, and set design. The project will end with a live community performance.


Facilitators: Sabrina Miller and Clarice Mills have over 20 years of collective experience in dramatic theatre and community activism.



Time:  Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Place:  Franklin Park Fieldhouse, 4320 W. 15th St.

Fee:  8 sessions, $25 for 21 and over, free for under 21

photos, Chicago Riots by Jo Freeman.

About the Communiversity:

According to Mia Henry, Communiversity events, facilitated by the Chicago Freedom School, seek to engage intergenerational audiences in the study of past movements and discussions on what we can learn from them…


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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.


Just one Look: the photography of Donnie Seals, Jr.

eric-1996

Eric (1996)

by Donnie Seals, Jr., a local photographer and friend, who has now made his way to Nevada.  For more of his work, click here.