Last week, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) reintroduced the Bronzeville Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act, which would create a National Heritage Area to provide funding and national recognition to the significant contributions made to the City of Chicago by the African-American community.
The Heritage Area will help bring to life the well-documented impact of the African-American community to Chicago’s culture and economy since the Great Migration, when thousands of African-American migrants moved north to escape oppression in the South. The legislation authorizes up to $1 million dollars in federal matching funds per year, designates the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission as the Local Coordinating Entity, and establishes requirements for a management plan.
“The African diaspora has resulted in significant contributions to civilization both here in the United States and abroad. And, there are few places in the world that are so touched by the influence of African-American culture than right here in Chicago. From Ida B. Wells to Nat King Cole, our culture is a ubiquitous feature of this city and is inseparable from the soul of Chicago.
“My bill, the Bronzeville Black Metropolis National Heritage Act, recognizes these contributions by authorizing $10 million dollars to create a Heritage Area. This funding will be used to preserve more than 200 historical assets in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood in order to bring life to the well documented influence this Black community had on the city of Chicago and the greater state of Illinois.
“As a Bronzeville resident myself, I see its beauty and majesty on a regular basis, and its need for landmark recognition cannot be overstated. This neighborhood is the birthplace for much of the African-American community’s ingenuity, poetry, artistry and contributions to the city of Chicago,” said Rep. Rush.
The City of Chicago’s Black Metropolis offers historical recognition to African-American achievement in all segments of society, from business, to the arts and politics. The historical significance of the region is also tied to the Great Migration of 1910–1970, when approximately 500,000 African Americans migrated north to Chicago for new opportunities. The introduction of the legislation coincides with the efforts of the Great Migration Centennial Commission, which the Illinois legislature created in 2010 to promote a deeper knowledge, understanding and engagement in the life and time of the African American migration experience. The Illinois legislation requires the Centennial Commission to work in coordination with the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Project Steering Committee to broaden outreach and voluntary assistance to the effort.
The Bronzeville Black Metropolis National Heritage Area is home to more than 200 historical assets, including:
- Camp Douglas: Union Army Recruitment and Training Camp.
- Eighth Regiment Armory: First armory in the U.S. built for an African-American regiment.
- Abbott House: A National Historic Landmark, home of the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper.
- Liberty Life/Supreme Life Insurance Company: Headquarters of the most successful early African-American owned and operated insurance company in the Northern U.S., founded in 1919.
- Bronzeville Walk of Fame: Monument to the Great Migration.
- Bud Billiken Parade: Celebrating Chicago’s youth since 1929.