A Proud Heritage

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"We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements." Carter G. Woodson, ca. 1926

African Americans in Illinois faced continued discrimination and violence throughout the early 19th century. Yet Illinois' black citizens worked together to create communities in which they could thrive. In Chicago, African Americans carved out their own commercial, social and political establishments. By 1900, Chicago's South Side boasted more than 30,000 black inhabitants. A city-with-a-city, this growing black metropolis, called Bronzeville, enjoyed an unparalleled period of prosperity.

Historian, author and educator Carter G. Woodson stayed at the Wabash Avenue YMCA during his frequent visits to Chicago. The son of former slaves, Woodson was awarded a master's degree from the University of Chicago and was the second African American to receive a doctorate in history from Harvard University.

In 1915, Woodson participated in a national celebration in Washington, D.C., marking the 50th anniversary of the end of slavery. The occasion included exhibits that highlighted the advancements of blacks since the end of the Civil War. Woodson created a black history display for the event and was inspired by the crowds (estimated between 6,000 and 12,000) who waited to see the exhibits.

Woodson recognized the importance of documenting and teaching black history. Upon his return to Chicago, he met with other black leaders and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson has become known as the "father of African American History."

"The struggle of today, is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also.'" Abraham Lincoln, 1861

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