Bronzeville History

‘In the early 20th century, Bronzeville was known as the “Black Metropolis,” one of the nation’s most significant landmarks of African-American urban history. Between 1910 and 1920, during the peak of the “Great Migration, “the population of the area increased dramatically when thousands of African-Americans fled the oppression of the south and emigrated to Chicago in search of industrial jobs.

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Following World War II, decades of economic disinvestment and social change, Bronzeville’s luster diminished. Businesses shut their doors and African Americans moved further south due to the elimination of restricted housing covenants. This resulted in nearly one-third of Bronzeville’s housing stock becoming vacant or abandoned.

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During the 1950s and 1960s, a decision was made to replace the “slums” with several straight miles of high-rise public housing projects, managed by the Chicago Housing Authority, essentially isolating and simultaneously concentrating the poor black population in this section of the city. The largest complex was Robert Taylor Homes.

The last of the buildings at Robert Taylor Homes was demolished in 2006, with many residents relocated under the newly created federal Hope VI program. Had Chicago won its bid for the 2016 Olympics, Bronzeville would have housed the Athletes’ Village. Rehabbing of existing brownstones and new development were already progressing with the expectation of Bronzeville’s Olympic rebirth; however the Olympic bid failed in 2009, and coupled with the national recession, activity in Bronzeville came to a halt.

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Because of its proximity to Lake Michigan, Downtown, the University of Chicago and IIT, and in light of its vibrant history and transit accessibility, Bronzeville has tremendous strategic importance to the city and significant potential for redevelopment. As a result, Bronzeville has been one of the most studied neighborhoods in Chicago. Today, political will and the availability of TIF dollars finally place Bronzeville on the cusp of realizing its potential.

- Bronzeville Area Residents & Commerce Council