For the Spring 2022 semester, as a member of the Chicago team, I was onboarded with the continued work on the mapping of Bronzeville, Illinois. At the beginning of this semester, team Chicago continued to focus on mapping the relationship between the Chicago World Fair of 1934 to the social-political atmosphere of the Bronzeville community throughout this time period. Using Neatline and Omeka, our team mapped historic events as recorded by the Chicago Defender, a Chicago-based historical African American newspaper that is deemed to be reflective of the African American community, specifically the Bronzeville community. Combining the spatial data with historical event information, we aimed to create an interactive Omeka exhibit. As a member of the Chicago team, I focused on monuments and memorials within the Bronzeville community. I wanted to explore African Americans’ representation in the commemoration of the Civil War and the First World War.
In my research, I specifically focused on researching the Chicago Victory Monument, a marble and bronze structure erected at the intersection of 35th Street and King Drive, the heart of Bronzeville in 1927. What was especially interesting about this particular monument is how the bronze panels surrounding the marble and the soldier atop the monument were added 9 years later in 1936. The Victory Monument is culturally significant in that the Bronze Panels and the soldier that were added later were the first government effort in honoring African Americans’ contribution to the World War. More specifically, the monument honors the meritorious achievements of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, an African American unit that served during World War I in France as part of the 370th U.S Infantry. At the second dedication ceremony of the Victory Monument, Representative Charles J. Jenkins and Chicago mayor Edward J. Kelly praised soldiers’ deeds. During the Chicago World Fair, an exposition aimed to recognize the American progress, the dedication of the Victory Monument, and the recognition of African American achievement paralleled the progressive atmosphere in Chicago in the time of 1933 to 1945. While my research surrounds the topic of African American progress, my peers have focused on instances of race riots, voting suppression, and discrimination targeting the Bronzeville community. Our research revealed an interesting contrast between the community’s continued social issues and the progress it has made. This concept of contrast spring-boarded team Chicago’s later focus on expanding the project scope beyond the Chicago Defender and looking at Bronzeville through the lenses of community, conflict, and context. Working within the conflict team, I focused on exploring ways the community progressed that juxtapose the tension and setbacks. For example, the success of the first world fair took place in the Chicago Coliseum which focused on noting the accomplishments of African Americans in 1940.
Throughout this semester as a part of the Chicago team, I learned a lot about Bronzeville’s history and social culture through the lenses of the Chicago Defender. More importantly, I learned how to recount a story using spatial data. I’m excited to see how our exhibit develops if we have more time to add more resources and pieces of information.
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