Crafting Your Experience

CAC Open House

Performance Spaces in Bronzeville's Black Metropolis

From the turn of the 20th century until after World War II, thousands of African Americans fled white racial terrorism in the American South for Chicago, bringing with them musical and cultural traditions that would continue to evolve in the urban North. Upon their arrival, discriminatory practices by banks and insurance companies, including redlining and restrictive covenants, forced these new Chicagoans to settle in a narrow corridor between 22nd and 31st streets along State Street. These boundaries gradually blurred as the city's black population expanded during the second Great Migration in the years after World War II. With a limited amount of space in the neighborhood, several buildings operated both as practical community gathering points and as musical performance venues. Large social halls like the Forum hosted union meetings, dance classes and gigs by Nat “King” Cole and Muddy Waters, among many others. Private dwellings like musician Lil Hardin’s greystone on 44th Street doubled as a rehearsal space for the Hot Five, the pioneering jazz combo led by Hardin’s then-husband Louis Armstrong. Houses of worship including Ebenezer Baptist Church and First Church of Deliverance nurtured singers and composers as they conjured an energetic new form of spiritual music known as gospel. As the neighborhood evolved and the first generation of its homegrown musical heroes moved on, multipurpose venues including the Parkland Ballroom, and eventually, the Harold Washington Cultural Center, have continued the tradition of community-owned spaces where neighbors gather and emerging talents are cultivated, and where national touring acts receive warmly familial receptions in Chicago’s “Black Metropolis.” This trail includes audio commentary by Bernard Loyd, president of Urban Juncture and owner of the Forum, and Robert M. Marovich, gospel music historian. "Performance Spaces in Bronzeville's Black Metropolis" is sponsored by ComEd.

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