The History and the Life of African Americans in Chicago

Topics: America

African Americans in Chicago

America, in particular; Chicago is among the most diverse states which host a number of ethnic groups. Among the enclaves in Chicago include the native Americas, Chicano, Assyrians, Germans, Latino and African Americans. According to the 2010 census, The African Americans, also referred to as Black Americans comprised of 32.9% of the Chicago community, being the second largest ethnic group after the Native Americans – 45% (Hunt & Whitman 2015). The Chicago city was founded by Du Sable, whose place of origin was never discovered, although most scholars associate him with African origin.

Du Sable’s trading activities during the 1780s attracted settlement in Chicago, with the first black community bee established in 1840s (Eyerman, 2001).

As the name states, African Americans are the people living in America but have their roots in Africa. Apart from the current immigration for education or employment, the emergence and establishment of African American community in Chicago are dated back to the slave trade era. Industrialization took its first phase in Europe.

With the emergence of the tobacco and cotton ginneries, a lot of plantations were established to provide raw materials for the new industries. The European nations turned to Africa, where they could get cheap labor from the slaves. The Africans were taken to offer labor within the tobacco and cotton plantations in the 1700s. Mechanization in the production sector reduced the demand for human labor. The call for human rights ended slavery in the 1800s, and the slaves from Africa opted to settle in America and survive on blue collar jobs.

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However, the new wave of discrimination and racism worsened the situation. African Americans were discriminated from employment and social amenities across American. However, the discrimination degree seemed to be severe in south but lesser in the North. Chicago, in particular, had established anti-discrimination legislation that outlawed segregation. For instance, school segregation was first outlawed in 1874. This spurred the Great migration (Duncan & Duncan, 1957).

After the World War I, most industries sprung up in North America, with the emergence of steel industries, meet packaging and railroads. The African Americans living in the sub herbs faced school segregation, where they lacked the quality education to secure white collar jobs. They ended up migrating to the south to seek jobs within the industries. Between 1910 and 1940 (Great Migration), the African American population in Chicago grew from 40,000 to 278,000 (Burgess & Newcomb, 1931). The cotton plantations had also been invaded by the boll weevil, leaving most blacks jobless. They opted to migrate to the North for freedom, jobs, and education for their children. By 1940s, most Africa Americas were urbanized. Those who had made their early settlements in Chicago attracted their friends. In the second wave of the great migration, Chicago witnessed the arrival of over 3,000 Africa Americans weekly. The railway and Chicago Defender created awareness of the new opportunity for blacks in Chicago, where the meatpacking industries were offering jobs to the blacks (Pinderhughes, 1987).

The black belt of Chicago was established in the 1900s. Lack of housing confined the African Americas to the south of Chicago. The African Americas were restricted from renting houses within some regions of the Chicago city. These restrictive covenants led to the formation of the black belt. The Afro Americans rented around State Street, covering approximately 30 blocks along the street and 7 blocks width (Pinderhughes, 1987). This, although not much documented was another form of segregation. Although the settlements were decent, there was overcrowding in the black belt, with the core of the belt being a slum (Duncan & Duncan, 1957). The migration and settlement of the blacks within Chicago has continued to grow over the years. The establishment of the Afro-American community took place with all the social, political and cultural elements of a community. These elements were evident through the creation of churches, business, organizations, and music among other forms of literature. The development of the African American community was however faced with extremities of challenges, above all being racial discrimination.

Because of the limited education, the African Americans formed a social class of poor society, with the few elites ranging in the middle class. Most of them were domestic and manual laborers in the meatpacking and steel industries. Job discrimination limited the African American workers from good wages and promotions (Pinderhughes, 1987). Establishment of more companies over years opened opportunities for the Africa Americans to establish their own business, starting from small scale business such as barber shops, restaurants, and pool rooms. With most of the workers in the meatpacking industries being Africa Americas, they united to form the United Meatpacking Workers of America which articulated for better wages, lifting of segregation and job discrimination. They succeeded in fighting for their position within the industrial sector, leading to establishing an economically stable African American community.

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The History and the Life of African Americans in Chicago. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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