Skip to main content

While CAC docents, staff members and volunteers practice safe spatial distancing, we’re listening to, viewing, and reading various media to rediscover why design matters.

In light of current events, we’re reflecting on past periods of political unrest in Chicago. While public protests are at times the direct result of design and planning decisions, they can also impact and influence how such decisions are made afterward. This week’s articles, podcasts and videos address Chicago protests in 1919 and 1968. As it’s true that “what’s past is prologue,” we hope that Chicago can apply today lessons learned from its response to prior protests.



In the summer of 1919, unrest and violence shook Chicago to its core. In just one week, 38 people were killed, more than 500 people were injured and more than 1,000 were left homeless. To mark the 100th anniversary of those riots, WBEZ’s reporter on race, class and communities Natalie Moore co-wrote an audio play recreating the events of 1919 as they would have been heard and experienced then. Moore’s collaborator on the piece, which first aired in October 2019, was Jeremy McCarter, founder and executive producer of local storytelling nonprofit the Make-Believe Association.



For many longtime Chicago residents, current events have surfaced old memories. In a recent interview on WGN-TV, Chicago History Museum Senior Vice President John Russick compares today’s protests with those that occurred in Chicago in the 1960s.



The day after the assassination in Memphis of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Chicago and other cities erupted in sustained protests and violence. Chicago neighborhoods on the West Side were among the most profoundly affected and slowest to recover, a painful process that many note continues even today. Upon the 50th anniversary of those riots—and the response to them by law enforcement—the Chicago Tribune gathered archival materials to explore their lasting impact.

CAC Recommends content does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Chicago Architecture Center, members of its board and staff, or other stakeholders.