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Courtesy the National Trust for Historic Preservation/Jacob Hand

Celebrate Black History Month in Chicago by getting to know these 10 landmarks

Famous African-American churches, newspapers, and cultural sites

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Black history and Chicago history go all the way back to the city’s founding. Haitian-American pioneer/trader John Baptiste Point DuSable is known as the Father of Chicago because he established a trading post in the 1780s near where the Tribune Tower currently stands. He left in 1800, but nearly a half-century later, that former trading post would officially became Chicago.

Thousands of black southerners first made their way north to Chicago during Reconstruction after the Civil War. Then in the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans settled in Chicago as part of “The Great Migration”—many attracted by Chicago’s abundant need for work in the stockyards, steel mills, and factories.

As a result, Chicago has a number of different Black historic landmarks to see during Black History Month that range from churches, newspapers, cultural sites, and the houses of civil rights leaders.

Here are 10 sites to see this February.

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1. Johnson Publishing Company Building

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820 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605

This 11-story South Loop building is the former home of Johnson Publishing and Jet and Ebony magazines, which were amongst the most important and influential Black media of the 20th century. The building—which was redeveloped as luxury apartments—was also designed by Black architect John Warren Moutoussamy.

2. Chess Records

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2120 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-1286
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Over the course of the ‘50s, Motor Row evolved into Record Row—a stretch of South Michigan Avenue where popular jazz, blues, and soul albums were recorded and distributed. This building at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue (also the title of a 1964 Rolling Stones song recorded there) became Chess Records in 1956, the legendary music label that featured Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.

3. Chicago Defender Building

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2400 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

One of nine buildings in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District, this former synagogue was home to the Chicago Defender newspaper during Chicago’s midcentury Black Renaissance. Once the largest African American newspaper in the world, the Defender—currently located at 4445 South King Drive—went to digital-only publication in 2019.

4. Quinn Chapel AME

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2401 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 791-1846
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This 1892 building wasn’t the first for Chicago’s oldest African-American congregation. The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the original building, so the church met in temporary locations until purchasing a lot at 2401 South Wabash Avenue. Named for Bishop William P. Quinn, this church was a stop on the underground railroad and was visited by Martin Luther King Jr. An original pew of the church was donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

5. Ida B. Wells-Barnett House

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3624 S Martin Luther King Dr
Chicago, IL 60616

This Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne style house is the only direct physical link to Ida B. Wells’ life in Chicago. It was the home for the writer and civil rights activist and her lawyer-journalist husband Ferdinand Lee Barnett from 1919 until 1930. In early 2019, the city renamed Congress Drive for Ida B. Wells.

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Slave turned activist, Ida B Wells' home

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6. South Side Community Art Center

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3831 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 373-1026
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Originally built in 1893 for a grain merchant, this Georgian Revival-style structure at 3831 South Michigan Avenue was remodeled in 1940 and converted to the South Side Community Art Center. Eleanor Roosevelt opened the center on behalf of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, and it’s now the only survivor of more than 100 centers established nationwide by the WPA during the ‘30s and 40s.

7. First Church of Deliverance

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4315 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 373-7700
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Designed in 1939 by Walter Bailey, the city’s first African-American architect, this Art Moderne style building was striking even before Kocher Buss & DeKlerk added a pair of towers to the terra cotta facade in 1946. The church is notable for its history in the development of gospel music and Christian radio broadcasting.

8. Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church

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4600-22 S King Dr
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 373-0070

This neoclassical revival-style building designed by the notable architect Alfred Samuel Alschuler got preliminary landmark status in December. Originally, the Sinai Temple, the Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church is most famous for being the site of the 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. sermon “Why Jesus Called Man a Fool.”

9. DuSable Museum of African American History

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740 E 56th Pl
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600
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Named after Chicago’s founder, DuSable is the first African American museum in the United States. Opened by art historian Dr. Margaret Burroughs in 1961, this Hyde Park building contains over 15,000 sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts of Black history and culture.

10. National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

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10406 S Maryland Ave
Chicago, IL 60628
(773) 850-8580
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On the north end of the Pullman National monument site, you can visit the first Black labor history museum in the United States. It tells the story of the African-Americans who worked as railroad porters for the Pullman Company. In 1894, the company town was ground zero for a two-month-long nationwide rebellion of workers on strike.

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1. Johnson Publishing Company Building

820 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

This 11-story South Loop building is the former home of Johnson Publishing and Jet and Ebony magazines, which were amongst the most important and influential Black media of the 20th century. The building—which was redeveloped as luxury apartments—was also designed by Black architect John Warren Moutoussamy.

820 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605

2. Chess Records

2120 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

Over the course of the ‘50s, Motor Row evolved into Record Row—a stretch of South Michigan Avenue where popular jazz, blues, and soul albums were recorded and distributed. This building at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue (also the title of a 1964 Rolling Stones song recorded there) became Chess Records in 1956, the legendary music label that featured Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.

2120 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

3. Chicago Defender Building

2400 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

One of nine buildings in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District, this former synagogue was home to the Chicago Defender newspaper during Chicago’s midcentury Black Renaissance. Once the largest African American newspaper in the world, the Defender—currently located at 4445 South King Drive—went to digital-only publication in 2019.

2400 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

4. Quinn Chapel AME

2401 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

This 1892 building wasn’t the first for Chicago’s oldest African-American congregation. The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the original building, so the church met in temporary locations until purchasing a lot at 2401 South Wabash Avenue. Named for Bishop William P. Quinn, this church was a stop on the underground railroad and was visited by Martin Luther King Jr. An original pew of the church was donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

2401 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

5. Ida B. Wells-Barnett House

3624 S Martin Luther King Dr, Chicago, IL 60616

This Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne style house is the only direct physical link to Ida B. Wells’ life in Chicago. It was the home for the writer and civil rights activist and her lawyer-journalist husband Ferdinand Lee Barnett from 1919 until 1930. In early 2019, the city renamed Congress Drive for Ida B. Wells.

3624 S Martin Luther King Dr
Chicago, IL 60616

6. South Side Community Art Center

3831 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60653

Originally built in 1893 for a grain merchant, this Georgian Revival-style structure at 3831 South Michigan Avenue was remodeled in 1940 and converted to the South Side Community Art Center. Eleanor Roosevelt opened the center on behalf of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, and it’s now the only survivor of more than 100 centers established nationwide by the WPA during the ‘30s and 40s.

3831 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60653

7. First Church of Deliverance

4315 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60653

Designed in 1939 by Walter Bailey, the city’s first African-American architect, this Art Moderne style building was striking even before Kocher Buss & DeKlerk added a pair of towers to the terra cotta facade in 1946. The church is notable for its history in the development of gospel music and Christian radio broadcasting.

4315 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60653

8. Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church

4600-22 S King Dr, Chicago, IL 60653

This neoclassical revival-style building designed by the notable architect Alfred Samuel Alschuler got preliminary landmark status in December. Originally, the Sinai Temple, the Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church is most famous for being the site of the 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. sermon “Why Jesus Called Man a Fool.”

4600-22 S King Dr
Chicago, IL 60653

9. DuSable Museum of African American History

740 E 56th Pl, Chicago, IL 60637

Named after Chicago’s founder, DuSable is the first African American museum in the United States. Opened by art historian Dr. Margaret Burroughs in 1961, this Hyde Park building contains over 15,000 sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts of Black history and culture.

740 E 56th Pl
Chicago, IL 60637

10. National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

10406 S Maryland Ave, Chicago, IL 60628

On the north end of the Pullman National monument site, you can visit the first Black labor history museum in the United States. It tells the story of the African-Americans who worked as railroad porters for the Pullman Company. In 1894, the company town was ground zero for a two-month-long nationwide rebellion of workers on strike.

10406 S Maryland Ave
Chicago, IL 60628