North Lawndale History
North Lawndale was annexed into Chicago in 1869, and was settled by Eastern Europeans and Swedes. Two years later, it became home to a large part of the working-class Jewish community, fleeing the destruction of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
We were home to titans of commerce, jazz innovators, and even another country’s founding philosophy.
Starting in the late 1940’s, North Lawndale became home to working-class Blacks, fleeing the horrors of the Jim Crow South, and the overcrowded slums of the segregated Southside.
In 1966, Dr. King’s family adopted North Lawndale as its first and only home in a northern state. Two years later, following Dr. King’s assassination, North Lawndale became one of the many communities across the country that nearly destroyed itself in the fire of riots.
Despite almost 60 years of abandonment, disinvestment, and hopelessness, North Lawndale lives on, and is starting to rebuild.
As a community, North Lawndale stakeholders came together in 2014 to form the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee (NLPLC), to develop and submit a bid for President Obama’s library. After developing that bid, we formed an alliance with the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). Out of 13 bids, from Hawaii to New York, North Lawndale’s bid is the only community-based bid to make the Final Four! As a community, we dared to stand proud; and we continue to stand proud.
Today, North Lawndale is home to world-renowned institutions housed in the newly renovated, 1905 Chicago landmark, Sears (Nichols) Tower, and we are the background scene for some of America’s most popular TV shows.
We have Route 66, and 218 acres of Chicago’s world famous park/boulevard system. We have one of the largest Historic Districts in the city, and one of its largest movie studios.
But more important than the structures of North Lawndale, are its people.
From 1869 until today, we have produced great, accomplished, and/or famous people. But it’s the people that are not famous that made and makes us who we were, who we are, and who we will be.
It was the working-class, the middle-class who built the grand synagogues of the early 20th century, and the strong block clubs and organizations of the late 20th century. Those working-class ethics never died, and has continued to strive toward greatness, even in the shadow of despair. We are North Lawndalians.
The Power of Community, Build it in North Lawndale