Chicago Freedom Movement Sites

scott @ Mon, 2005-01-17 16:51

Chicago Freedom Movement Sites

(N.B. This list of places in alphabetical order does not list all of the significant sites of the Chicago Freedom Movement. It does try to offer a range of important places that marked various dimensions of the Chicago Freedom Movement. In some cases, the original buildings are no longer standing. May 2005)

American Friends Service Project House, 3543 W. Jackson Boulevard, East Garfield Park

This is where Bernard LaFayette led AFSC’s Urban Affairs program; the work of this program was one reason why the organizing effort of the Chicago Freedom Movement in the fall of 1965 and through 1966 was concentrated on the West Side.

Belmont Cragin Neighborhood

The site of a number of open-housing demonstrations in July and August 1966. The hostile reception by local residents proved that housing discrimination was a Chicago problem, not just a Southwest Side problem.

Chicago Urban League, 4500 South Michigan Avenue (This is not the current location of the Chicago Urban League.)

Under the leadership of Bill Berry, the Chicago Urban League was one of the strongest Urban League chapters in the country. The Chicago Urban League was a charter member of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. Its South Side office was where many important strategy sessions took place, including during the open-housing campaign in July and August 1966.

Christ United Methodist Church, 6401 S. Sangamon Englewood (presently Greater Englewood Methodist Church)

The Reverend Kwame John Porter turned this church into a movement church. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke here twice and met here three or four times. Scores of meetings and rallies for civil rights took place here. The church served as the headquarters for the first Chicago SCLC chapter. There is as well a vintage historical mural featuring leaders of the struggle for African-American freedom.

Fellowship Baptist Church, 4543 S. Princeton Avenue

The Reverend Clay Evans opened his church to civil rights activists. Jesse Jackson was an associate pastor, and he oversaw the development of Operation Breadbasket which ultimately became Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s only major address in the fall of 1965 was delivered at this church. And early weekly meetings of Operation Breadbasket were held here.

Greater Mount Hope Baptist Church, 6035 Princeton Street, Englewood (presently Mount Hope Baptist Church)

The Reverend William Lambert was part of the Chicago delegation to Albany, Georgia, in 1962, and then was a leader in the Clergy Alliance of Chicago which advocated a selective buying campaign by blacks. Not surprisingly, the Reverend Lambert supported the development of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago. In August 1966, this church became the South Side Action Center of the Chicago Freedom Movement.

Headquarters of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, 366 East 47th Street (The Wells Building, presently boarded up, but across from a new park and the Harold Washington Cultural Center and in the Chicago Blues District)

This was one of the command posts of the Chicago Freedom Movement; the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) had emerged in 1962 and had fashioned a strong local civil rights movement. It merged with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to form the Chicago Freedom Movement. Al Raby was the convenor of the CCCO.

Marquette Park, Chicago Lawn

The site of the most violent reactions by local white residents toward open-housing demonstrators. The cars of demonstrators were set on fire on July 31, 1966. Martin Luther King, Jr., was struck by a rock on August 5, 1966.

New Friendship Baptist Church, 854 West 71st Street, Englewood

This church served as the first major staging area for Chicago Freedom Movement rallies and marches on the South Side. The Reverend Stroy Freeman had helped lead a Chicago delegation to Albany, Georgia, to aid Martin Luther King’s and the SCLC’s civil rights campaign in 1962. He was also one of the early supporters of Operation Breadbasket. Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech, “My place is in Gage Park,” on August 4, 1966 in this church.

Warren Avenue Congregational Church, 3101 West Warren Boulevard, East Garfield Park (presently New Greater St. John Community Missionary Baptist Church)

This was the headquarters of the SCLC team as it sought to organize West Side black Chicagoans to “end slums.” James Bevel and Bernard LaFayette were the critical leaders in devising a plan of action.

1321 South Homan Avenue Apartment Building, North Lawndale

This building was seized by SCLC, CCCO, and the West Side Federation when activists learned of the mistreatment of its tenants. It was taken into “trusteeship” to send a message that the exploitation of ghetto residents was not acceptable. Al Raby, Martin Luther King, and other activists spent time cleaning the decrepit building.

1550 South Hamlin Avenue, North Lawndale (presently an abandoned lot, but near the Chicago Youth Center at 1530 South Hamlin)

The Chicago home for Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. It was leased in January 1966. Mrs. King describes the apartment in her memoir, My Life with Martin Luther King. (The original building has been demolished.)