Rush, Durbin & Kirk to Introduce Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act
WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) will introduce the Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act when Congress returns from recess. U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate. This legislation would create the Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area to provide national recognition and resources to the story of African-American perseverance from the Civil War to the modern day.
“Providing national recognition to the rich historical and cultural influence of this area will generate economic development and encourage tourists from around the world to visit and be proud of the contributions the African-American community has made to Chicagoland, our state and our nation,” said Kirk.
The Heritage Area will help bring to life the well-documented impact of the African-American community to Chicago’s culture and economy since the Great Migration, when thousands of African-American migrants moved north to escape oppression in the South. The proposed National Heritage Area recognizes the community that fostered the efforts of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Jesse Binga, Ida B. Wells, Jack Johnson, Nat King Cole, Mahalia Jackson, John Johnson and Muddy Waters. The Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission, which includes First Lady Michelle Obama on its Steering Committee, has been collaborating with community leaders to fight for this recognition for years. The legislation authorizes up to $1 million in federal matching funds per year, designates the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission as the Local Coordinating Entity and establishes requirements for a management plan to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
“Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood has remarkable national historical significance, from its important role in America’s civil rights movement to its position as a national hub for the arts,” said Senator Durbin. “Our bill to elevate this unique neighborhood to national park status will help preserve the rich history of Bronzeville, increase tourism and facilitate economic development in the community.”
“I live in the heart of the Bronzeville community and have for over 20 years. I see its beauty, majesty and its need for landmark recognition as it is the birthplace for much of the African-American community’s ingenuity, poetry, artistry and contributions to the City of Chicago,” said Representative Rush.
“I thank Senator Kirk for leading this Congressional effort to solidify the legacy of the African-American community in our state at a pivotal moment in history. By establishing the National Heritage Area, tourists from our state and across the world will be able to explore and learn more about our community’s rich cultural and historical significance,” said Paula Robinson, President of the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission.
The City of Chicago’s Black Metropolis offers historical recognition to African-American achievement in all segments of society, from business, to the arts and politics. The historical significance of the region is also tied to the Great Migration of 1910–1970, when approximately 500,000 African-Americans migrated north to Chicago for new opportunities. The introduction of the legislation coincides with the efforts of the Great Migration Centennial Commission which the Illinois legislature created in 2010 to promote a deeper knowledge, understanding and engagement in the life and time of the African-American Migration Experience. The Illinois legislation requires the Centennial Commission to work in coordination with the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Project Steering Committee to broaden outreach and voluntary assistance to the effort.
The Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area is home to over 200 historical assets including:
- Camp Douglas: Union Army Recruitment and Training Camp
- Eighth Regiment Armory: First armory in the U.S. built for an African-American regiment
- Abbot House: A National Historic Landmark, home of the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper
- Liberty Life/Supreme Life Insurance Company: Headquarters of most successful early African-American owned and operated insurance company in the Northern US, founded in 1919
- Bronzeville Walk of Fame: Monument to the Great Migration
- Bud Billiken Parade: Celebrating Chicago’s youth since 1929
The Heritage Area is supported by the Chicago Urban League, the Chicago Community Trust, the Chicago Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, the Millennium Reserve Steering Committee, and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership.