Chicago’s Historic South Side

Chicago’s Historic South Side

During the 1940s, the South Side of Chicago, and especially the creatively teeming area called Bronzeville, was home to poet Gwendolyn Brooks, playwright Richard Wright and dancer Katherine Dunham.   It also became home for the renowned Delta blues musicians Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Ruth Brown and Chuck Berry; soul and jazz musicians Sam Cooke, Jerry Butler, and Nat King Cole; entertainers Oscar Brown, Jr., and Sammy Davis, Jr.; and the queen of gospel music, Mahalia Jackson. Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, John Coltrane and nearly every great jazz artist came to play there, whether by road tour or for an extended period of time.  Charlie “Yardbird” Parker played his last gig there.  Chicago’s South Side Bronzeville is said by many to be second only to Harlem in providing a legacy of African-American cultural gifts to America and the world.

Chicago’s South Side 1946-1948

Photographer Gordon Parks

Like many African-Americans during the 1940s, the celebrated photographer Gordon Parks really got his big start on the South Side of Chicago. Soon after his arrival in Chicago, Parks began working for the entrepreneurial Marva Louis, wife of the boxer Joe Louis. In a very short period of time, he was exhibiting his photographs at the Southside Community Art Center, located in the creatively teeming area called Bronzeville. While in Chicago, Mr. Parks produced a number of society portraits and fashion images, but he also turned to documenting the slums of the South Side.

Gordon Parks: Images of Chicago’s South Side

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