For nearly a quarter of a century beginning around 1915, a strip of Chicago centered on south State Street (from Van Buren Street in the Loop to 39th Street) developed into an historically significant district known as the Black Belt, part of the present-day Bronzeville community. In search of good jobs, decent housing, and basic freedoms, African Americans traveled from the South to points north and west in what is known as the Great Migration. According to the City of Chicago, the city’s African-American population grew nearly 150 percent from 1910 to 1920, reaching a population of 110,000 by 1920. The Black Belt became a largely self-sufficient and thriving area.
During its zenith in the 1920s, the area on and east of present-day IIT Main Campus was a city in miniature, sustained by successful businesses, entrepreneurship, political leadership, and cultural creativity. Although migration from the South continued until around 1970, the original Black Belt began to decline in the early 1930s under the impact of the Great Depression. Additionally, the striking down of racially restrictive covenants by the United States Supreme Court in 1948 provided opportunities for upwardly mobile residents of Bronzeville to move beyond its historic boundaries.
Today’s Bronzeville (whose southern border extended over the years to 47th Street) remains a hub of African-American life. Community organizations and the City of Chicago have been working to revitalize the area through rehab projects, mixed-use development, and new business ventures.
In 1998 the City of Chicago accorded Chicago Landmark status to nine Bronzeville structures: Unity Hall, the Chicago Defender Building, Sunset Café, the Eighth Regiment Armory, the Liberty Life/Supreme Life Building, Victory Monument, the Overton Hygienic Building, the Chicago Bee Building, and the Wabash Avenue YMCA. For more information about these landmark structures, click here. Additionally, in 1994, the city accorded Chicago Landmark status to the South Side Community Art Center.