Tag Archives: west side

Hey, White Girl! Susan Gregory’s Chicago Story


The intersection of race and class. In Chicago. In the late 1960s.  That’s the backdrop of a memoir (rather cheekily) titled “Hey, White Girl!” written by Susan Gregory (Norton, 1970). 

In the book, teenage Susan transfers from well-heeled, suburban New Trier High School to attend infamous-even-then Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side for her senior year.

What’s notable about this book is that save certain specificities (slang, style of dress, et al), the story would probably play out identically today: that’s how little race and class lines have shifted since then in the Windy City.

There are many notable moments in the book: some poignant, some funny, some perfect slices of Sixties Chicago.

“What jam can I mash on you?” the disc jockey asked… The words, the phrases were endless.  But I learned them, and slowly they became my own…

…A “humbug” was a fight. A “box” was a record player.  “The hawk” referred to the wind… Marshall and WVON helped me build my vocabulary.   — from Hey, White Girl

Find a copy, if you dare.  Definitely worth the search.  It’s wild.

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

JB Monorail by Theaster Gates

a bit about the residual effects of 1968 in Chicago (specifically on the West Side).

Published in 68/08 on Dec. 6, 2008 in AREA/Chicago
by Theaster Gates

There are moments when I think that my life on the Westside of Chicago had no real relationship to the history of political struggle. I had not yet been born, the trophies of that era that hung around my house in the form of handmade protest signs, banners and buttons, not to mention Afro wigs, fake eyelashes and pleather had all become trunk filler or so dusty that they read as insignificant memorials to my eight sisters’ high school days. But there were moments in my youth when the cultural residue of ’68 makes itself very clear. James Brown for me was an extremely important part of how I understand and, in some ways, get to anachronistically connect to that moment when my sisters say Black folk had reasons to live and they weren’t just about making money, but uplift and cultural pride… read more

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…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Re-Thinking the Soup Kitchen

Re-thinking Soup
, at Jane Addams Hull House Museum, serves up bowls of soup and, hopefully, change.

soup-kitchenAccording to Kelly Saulsberry, Hull House Museum Project Coordinator, Re-thinking Soup serves free lunch on Tuesdays — healthy soup (made in their on-site kitchen) and organic bread — inside the historic Hull House Residents’ Dining Hall on UIC’s campus. Meeting in the hall where author Upton Sinclair sat each night to write The Jungle, the weekly event’s goal is to bring together the community for a discussion on changing food policy in the city.

In the past few years, supermarket erosion has deeply effected the South and West Sides of the City (the closings of Dominick’s at 79th & Dan Ryan, 3300 W Belmont Ave., and 5829 S. Archer Ave., for example).

Coupled with the disproportionate number of fast-food joints and corner stores to places carrying fresh produce and meats, the problem leaves “an estimated half million people without access to affordable, nutritious food,” according to In These Times. The cost of this is higher instances of diabetes, obesity, and other health-threatening issues.

If you are interested in joining the discussion, visit: 

Re-Thinking Soup

Hull-House Museum (at UIC)
800 S. Halsted
Tuesdays at Noon


To Feed Our Children: The Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program

“The Free Breakfast for School Children is about to cover the country and be initiated in every chapter and branch of tile Black Panther Party. This program was created because the Black Panther Party understands that our children need a nourishing breakfast every morning so that they can learn.

These Breakfasts include even nutrient that they need for the day. For too long have our people gone hungry and without the proper health aids they need. But the Black Panther Party says that this type of thing must be halted, because we must survive this evil government and build a new one fit for the service of all the people. This program is run through donations of concerned people and the avaricious businessmen that pinch selfishly a little to the program. We say that this is not enough, especially from those that thrive off the Black Community like leeches. All of the avaricious businessmen have their factories etc. centered in our communities and even most of the people that work in these sweat shops are members of the oppressed masses.

It is a beautiful sight to see our children eat in the mornings after remembering the times when our stomachs were not full, and even the teachers in the schools say that there is a great improvement in the academic skills of the children that do get the breakfast. At one time there were children that passed out in class from hunger, or had to be sent home for something to eat. But our children shall be fed, and the Black Panther Party will not let the malady of hunger keep our children down any longer.

The Breakfast Program has already been initiated in several chapters, and our love for the masses makes us realize that it must continue permanently and be a national program. But we need your help and that means money, food, and time. We want to turn the programs over to the community, but without your efforts and support we cannot.” –Huey Newton

Written: March 26, 1969
Source: The Black Panther

below is an Audio clip of Huey Newton speaking on the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program:

The Breakfast program