47th-South Parkway

The intersection of 47th Street and South Parkway was, during much of the early twentieth century a bustling center of commerce and entertainment that developed to serve the needs of the city’s growing African-American population. During the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of African-Americans, eager to escape the social and economic hardships of the South, moved to and started a new life in Chicago. Racial hatred, however, limited their housing options. Most were compelled to live in increasingly dilapidated tenement buildings on the city’s Near South Side. As more and more African-Americans moved to the city, the neighborhoods in which they settled became severely overcrowded, in no small part due to exclusionary housing practices in predominantly white residential districts. Such density, however, helped concentrate black economic power, and the 47th Street business district grew as a result. Chicago’s African-American consumers, seldom treated half as well as whites when shopping downtown, enjoyed far better customer service in the stores and theaters along 47th Street. Drawing comparisons to New York City’s bustling center of African-American culture and commerce, some referred to the area as “Chicago’s Harlem.”

Department Stores




Dance Halls and Cabarets


Other Information