Chicago, the “city of big shoulders,” has had and continues to have a major impact on the social, cultural, and spatial development of the modern city. Starting out as a portage site for the Potawatamis, it grew from the first non-indigenous settlement of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable near the mouth of the Chicago river to become the “Second City” in 19th-century America after New York and then a global center of finance and culture in the 20th. Just as capital and culture have flowed through the city through the centuries, so too has it been a major migration center with huge movements of people and groups from within the U.S. and beyond. As a result, Chicago is one of the most exciting laboratories for exploring the social and cultural history of modern America as it became manifest in an urban environment.

Team Chicago takes up the challenge of visualizing that social and cultural history in the spaces of the city. We are beginning with investigations of key Chicago neighborhoods by gathering information on their social history, migration patterns, institutions, and spatial development. We are interested in the history of these spaces but also how they have become imagined and represented culturally. While the long-term goals of the team are to be comprehensive in its approach to history and culture, in the short term we will especially emphasize Chicago 1920-1975, as years in which urban migration as well as architecture and housing were especially relevant to the city. We will look at questions of class and race as they intersect with a political economy of architecture and cultural history. In addition, we will think about how visualizing our datasets and cultural evidence through digital means may help us to explore a more complex social and spatial history from this period. The visualizations will especially be planned in relation to the architectural and cultural development of and around Bronzeville and other Black communities in the city, in order to coordinate evidence and materials for planned undergraduate and graduate courses on African American art and architecture in Chicago.