Skip to main content

POLIT/AFCNA 234 Black Metropolis: From MLK to Obama: Black Chicago Timeline


1779: Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a free African man of Haitian descent, settles in as the first permanent non-Native settler and founder of what would become Chicago. du Sable settled on the north bank of the Chicago River


1817: Illinois' northern border is moved north placing Chicago in Illinois


1818: Illinois is admitted into the Union as a free state


1819 (to 1865): Black Codes are enforced


1833: Chicago is incorporated as a town


1837: Chicago is incorporated as a city (LITS Tip: the same year that Mount Holyoke was founded)


1840: Fugitive slaves and freedmen establish the first Black community in Chicago


1844: Quinn Chapel AME Church is established


1848: Illinois and Michigan Canal is completed


1865: Union Stockyards open


1871: John Jones, the first Black Cook County commissioner, is elected into office 


1871: The Great Chicago Fire kills close to 300 people, destroys almost four square miles, and leaves many residents homeless


1874: School segregation is outlawed in Chicago


1878: Ferdinand Barnett founded The Conservator (first Black newspaper in Chicago)


1885: Segregation is outlawed in public spaces in Chicago


1885: First signs of policy game emerge


1889: Jane Addams establishes Hull House


1891: Provident Hospital opens on the South Side (first Black hospital in Chicago)


1893: Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair)


1893: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (a Black man) performs first successful open heart surgery in America at Provident Hospital


1894: Ida Platt becomes the first Black woman to earn her law license in Illinois


1895: Ferdinand Barnett sells The Conservator to his wife Ida B. Wells


1900: Flow of the Chicago River is reversed


1904: Old Settlers Social Club is formed


1905: Publisher and editor Robert Sengstacke Abbott debuts The Chicago Defender


1908: Jesse Binga opens Binga State Bank (the first Black owned bank in Chicago)


1909: Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett introduce the "Plan of Chicago"


1911: The Chicago American Giants (an all Black baseball team) is founded


1915: Onset of the Great Migration (first wave)


1915: Jazz debuts in Chicago


1915: Oscar Stanton De Priest is elected as the first Black alderman in Chicago


1916: Thomas Andrew Dorsey (father/creator of gospel music) migrates to Chicago


1916: The Chicago Urban League is established


1919: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 (23 Black people were killed)


1919: Joseph Bibb debuts the Chicago Whip ("Don’t Spend Your Money campaign" in the Black Belt)


1919: Claude Barnett forms the Associated Negro Press


1920: Mississippi Delta Blues arrives in Chicago


1924: Vivian Harsh becomes the Chicago Public Library’s first Black librarian


1925: Pullman Porters: Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters Union is formed (first all Black union)

1926: Anthony Overton debuts The Chicago Bee (coins the term "Bronzeville")


1926: Harlem Globetrotters is established in Chicago


1926: Carter G. Woodson launches Negro History Week, which eventually becomes Black History Month


1927: Richard Wright arrives in Chicago


1929: The Bud Billiken Parade debuts in Bronzeville


1933: A Century of Progress (World’s Fair)


1933: Cornelius Coffey and John C. Robinson establish the Challenger Aero Club (airfield to teach Black aviators how to fly at Robbins Airport)


1933: William L. Dawson is elected to second ward alderman


1937: Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) is established


1938: First housing projects in Chicago are built (Jane Addams Houses, Lathrop Homes, and the Trumbull Park Homes)


1940: Onset of the Great Migration (second wave)


1942: Robert Rochon Taylor (great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett--senior advisor to President Barack Obama) is appointed as the first Black Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority


1943: Eric Monte is born (creator of the movie Cooley High and television shows Good Times and What’s Happening!)


1945: John H. Johnson debuts Ebony Magazine


1945: Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City is published (by Black authors Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake)


1947: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is established


1948: Destination Freedom (radio drama that highlighted achievements of African Americans) debuts on NBC/WMAQ


1950: Founding of Chess Records


1951: John H. Johnson debuts Jet Magazine


1955: Emmett Till is murdered in Money, Mississippi


1959: Lorraine Hansberry’s, A Raisin in the Sun, debuts on Broadway


1955: Richard J. Daley takes office as mayor


1960: The Woodlawn Organization is formed


1961: DuSable Museum of African American History is established


1964: Jesse Jackson Jr. arrives in Chicago


1965: Onset of the new Great Migration (third wave reverse)


1966: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King move to/march in Chicago


1968: Democratic National Convention (Mayor Daley issues "shoot to kill" order)


1968: AfriCobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), a collective of Black artists, is established


1968: Afro American Patrolmen’s League, consisting of Black police officers to protect Black communities after Mayor Daley’s shoot to kill order, is established


1968: Riots due to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. break out specifically on the West Side


1969: Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party is savagely murdered


1970: Don Cornelius debuts Soul Train in Chicago


1971: Union Stockyards close


1971: Tom Burrell founded Burrell Communications (the nation's largest African American-owned marketing firm)


1971: Anna Langford becomes the first Black woman elected to Chicago City Council


1971: Reverend Jesse Jackson Jr. starts Rainbow/PUSH on the South Side


1972: The first iteration of house music and house culture emerge in the Black gay and bisexual community in South Shore 


1972: Mosque Maryam (Temple #2-headquarters of the Nation of Islam) is established in Chicago


1972: Hills v. Gautreaux landmark case is decided


1973: John H. White is hired by the EPA to take photos of Black Chicago for DOCUMERICA


1974: Good Times (TV show about a Black family in Cabrini Green projects) debuts

1974: 974 murders are recorded in Chicago (still the highest number in a calendar year in the city’s history)

1974: Robert Williams, owner of the Warehouse and the Muzic Box, arrives in Chicago


1975: Whitney M. Young Magnet High School opens as the city’s first public magnet high school (Former First Lady Michelle Obama's alma mater)


1976: Mayor Richard J. Daley dies in office

1977: Frankie Knuckles debuts at US Studios (The Warehouse), the first all-Black and gay club, in Chicago


1979: Jane Byrne elected first female mayor of Chicago


1979: First jazz fest takes place


1979: Disco demolition occurs at Comiskey Park


1983: Harold Washington elected first Black mayor of Chicago


1984: First blues fest takes place


1984: Michael Jordan is drafted to the Chicago Bulls


1984: Ben “Benjy” Wilson is murdered


1985: Barack Obama arrives in Chicago


1986: The Oprah Winfrey Show (filmed in Chicago) debuts nationally


1987: Mayor Harold Washington dies in office


1987: Juice bar ordinance is passed impacting nightlife culture especially the Black house music and cultural community


1987: Eugene Sawyer takes over mayoral office becoming the second Black man to hold the position of mayor of Chicago


1989: Richard M. Daley becomes mayor of Chicago


1992: DJ Ron Hardy passes away


1992: Carol Moseley Braun is elected as the first Black woman to the United States Senate


1992: Black youth Dantrell Davis is murdered in Cabrini Green Projects


1994: Robert “Yummy” Sandifer is murdered by Black Disciples street gang


1994: Common Sense (BKA Common) releases his second album Resurrection putting Chicago hip hop and rap on the map


1997: Black youth Girl X is sexually assaulted and brutally beaten in Cabrini Green Projects


2000: CHA’s Plan For Transformation is announced to redevelop public housing in the city


2008: President-elect Barack Obama delivers acceptance speech in Grant Park


2010: McDonald vs. City of Chicago argued, which overturns city handgun ban


2011: Rahm Emanuel is elected 44th Mayor of Chicago putting an end to the Daley family regime. He is also the first Jewish mayor of Chicago


2011: The last building in the Cabrini Green projects is demolished


2013: Mayor Rahm Emanuel closes 50 Chicago Public Schools in predominantly Black and Latinx communities


2013: Hadiya Pendleton is murdered a few blocks from President Obama’s home in the Kenwood neighborhood (Michelle Obama attends her funeral)


2014: 82 people shot, 14 fatally over July 4 weekend prompting the usage of the term "Chiraq" in mass media to describe violence in the city     


2016: Construction begins on new South Side trauma center after 25 years of community protesting


2016: CTA announces plans to extend red line train to 130th street providing public transportation to residents on the far South Side of Chicago


2016: The Barack Obama Foundation announces plans to build the Barack Obama presidential library in Jackson Park on the South Side

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form