Skip to Main Content

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

Please Note:

This is a "living" temporal archive of Black Chicago so we are constantly adding more to the timeline. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, please contact april l. graham-jackson


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 (the same year that Mount Holyoke College 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 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 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: Writer and poet Richard Wright (Native Son, Black Boy) arrives in Chicago


1929: The Bud Billiken Parade debuts in Bronzeville


1931: Cornelius Coffey and John C. Robinson establish the Challenger Aero Club (airfield to teach Black aviators how to fly at Robbins Airport)


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


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)


1940: Photographer and writer Gordon Parks moves to the South Side and opens a portrait studio at the South Side Community Art Center


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 co-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


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 and Mark Clark (a member) of the Black Panther Party are savagely murdered


1970: Don Cornelius debuts Soul Train in Chicago


1970: Onset of the new Great Migration (third wave reverse)


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


1991: The Chicago Bulls win the NBA championship, which marked the beginning of one of the greatest basketball dynasties in history (six championships and two three-peats)


1992: DJ Ron Hardy passes away


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


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


1994: Common Sense (BKA Common) releases his second album Resurrection introducing Chicago hip hop to a broader audience


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


2009: Theaster Gates establishes Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit that utilizes cultural initiatives to transform neighborhoods and buildings on the South Side, stressing that: Black people matter, Black spaces matter, and Black objects matter


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


2011: Rahm Emanuel is elected 55th 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: 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


2019: Lori Lightfoot is elected 56th Mayor of Chicago. She is the first Black and openly gay woman to be elected to office. She is also the second woman and third Black American to be elected Mayor in Chicago. 

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form