The Newberry Library and the National Council on Public History (NCPH) are pleased to announce that Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots has earned the 2020 Outstanding Public History Project Award. The NCPH presents the award annually to a project “that contributes to a broader public reflection and appreciation of the past or that serves as a model of professional public history practice.”
In 2019, the Newberry Library—in partnership with 13 cultural organizations in Chicago—led Chicago 1919, a year-long initiative commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Chicago race riots. The project engaged scholars, teachers, activists, poets, journalists, filmmakers, and citizens in a series of community conversations about the decisive role the riots played in cementing racial division in Chicago.
“This project is a model umbrella initiative that stretched across the city and brought people together to remember one dark event and its aftermath,” noted the NCPH award committee. “The most impressive aspect of the project is the way diverse organizations such as the Chicago Urban League, Chicago Architectural Club, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Library, and the Newberry Library worked together to make this project happen.”
“The Newberry Library shares this honor with our project partners and with the city of Chicago,” said Daniel Greene, president and librarian of the Newberry. “The community conversations at the heart of Chicago 1919 relied on so many people coming together to wrestle with the legacy of this painful chapter in the history of Chicago.”
Nearly 2,700 Chicagoans participated in 11 public programs as part of Chicago 1919. The programs, held at multiple locations throughout the city in 2019, included discussions on institutionalized racism in housing, education, and policing; a youth poetry slam reflecting on the 1919 race riots; and a bike tour of the major sites of violence and resistance in 1919.
The collaboration among scholars and cultural organizations also resulted in new, free online learning resources, including tools to support teachers in teaching the race riots.
“Chicago 1919 was a unique opportunity to engage some of the youth we serve in a history lesson that not only began with the murder of a teenager 100 years ago, but also had a clear connection to present-day Chicago and the issues many of the city’s African American residents face daily,” said Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “Congratulations to the Newberry for leading this award-winning effort and bringing together a stellar group of partners that are already considering future collaborations.”
“Convening people for public conversations about difficult history is essential to critically examining the landscape of our city today,” said Greene. “The Newberry looks forward to building on the partnerships we formed during this project and continuing to engage the public with interactive programs about the legacies of the past and the challenges of the present.”
Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project was also made possible in part by the generous support of Edith Rasmussen Ahern and Patrick Ahern, as well as by Allstate—the youth engagement sponsor for Chicago 1919.
Chicago 1919 Project Partners:
- Black Chicago History Forum
- Black Metropolis Research Consortium
- Blackstone Bicycle Works
- Chicago Architectural Club
- Chicago Collections Consortium
- Chicago History Museum
- Chicago Public Library
- Chicago Urban League
- City Bureau
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- Kartemquin Films
- Middle Passage Productions
- Newberry Library
- Young Chicago Authors