Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Morgan Park Community is home to Chicago's pioneer Negro settlement, dating back to the 1880s.

The earliest days of Morgan Park included a small settlement of Negroes, some of whom were former slaves and others descended from Southern slave families who migrated north after the Civil War. 

French immigrants also settled in Morgan Park. They settled east of Vincennes Avenue, near the main line of the Rock Island railroad.
Map of Morgan Park, Illinois, as laid out by Thomas F. Nichols for the Blue Island Land and Building Company, 1870.
Morgan Park is 13 miles south of the Loop and is one of the city's 77 official community areas. It was laid out in the 1870s by Thomas F. Nichols, so Morgan Park's winding streets, small parks, and roundabouts evoke images of an English country town. In 1869, the Blue Island Land and Building Company purchased property from the heirs of Thomas Morgan, an early English settler, and subdivided the area from Western Avenue to Vincennes Avenue that falls within the present community area. Although the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area in 1852, regular commuter service to downtown was established in the suburban line opened in 1888.

They established their own churches, beginning with Beth Eden in 1891 which was the first of more than 19 churches organized by Negro families who lived in the segregated district east of Vincennes, near the main line of the Rock Island railroad. Public institutions such as the Walker Branch Library (founded in 1890) and the Morgan Park High School (built in 1916) were always integrated.

On the other side of the tracks near 117th Street, French Roman Catholics who worked in the local Purington brickyard established Sacred Heart Church (1904).

The battle over annexation to Chicago in 1911, which sharply divided the community, dragged on in court until 1914.

By 1920, 674 of Morgan Park's 7,780 residents were Negroes (11.5%). The official report published in the wake of the city's 1919 Race Riot (aka Red Summer) noted that, while whites and blacks in Morgan Park "maintain a friendly attitude," nevertheless, "there seems to be a common understanding that Negroes must not live west of Vincennes Road, which bisects the town from northeast to southwest
Second grade at Holy Name of Mary School. 1955
Reflecting the reality of urban segregation, black Catholics established Holy Name of Mary (1940) at the east end of the community. Racial integration in the larger Morgan Park area did not occur on a large scale until the late 1960s. By then, however, the west leg of Interstate 57 had effectively isolated the older black settlement east of Vincennes.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. Wonderful historical article. My grandmother and her family moved to Morgan Park when she was about 12 years old (she was born in 1908), both my parents including myself were born and raised in Morgan Park. Great History lesson, some of this I knew, but what a great eyeopener and history lesson for the younger generation that knows about Morgan Park and for those that don't.

  2. My grandparents were there in the early 1920s. The Brown family. Sophronia & John Brown. Children were: Julia, Sophronia, Evelyn & John Jr. All went to Shoop School and Morgan Park high school.

  3. I remember two other John Browns that lived in the Racine courts right next door to each other. What a coincidence. I went to Shoop too and my kids and grandkids. I always welcome more history of Morgan Park. My family moved there in 1964 and my mom is still there.

  4. I arrived in 1952. I attended the 4 room school house know as 'Little Shoop!later Shoop and then MP H.S I was 5 years old when I got my first library card from Walker branch library. I would slip across the Tracks, at 10 on my bike to enjoy the tree lined streets and the bakery at the Commuter tracks. I loved MP. Mr. Walters store, Miss Massey's and Mr Ward who had a store on 93rd and South Park. I loved this article. Thank you

  5. My family moved to Morgan Park in 1942. I was yet a year old and lived there until 1959. In the true sense of the word, we had a community. We had our own doctors, lawyers, dentist, grocery stores, barbers, newspapers,beauticians, etc. We were pretty-much self sufficient. Our schools and churches were within the community. All adults were respected and revered. It was a community of inspirational adults to all it's children. It was a great place to be a child. We were allowed to explore and grow. I loved the Morgan Park of my generation.

  6. Thomas, i was born in Racine courts im 1952 my family move therecwhen they were built in 1950. I remember how we could not go beyond aberdeen or vincines after dark. Love those days.

  7. My family lived at 113th and Loomis.The apt burned in 1951 and we were allowed to choose from the last 2 available units in Racine Cts. 4 bedrooms with a bath and a 1/2. I attended Shoops extension which became Bates and then Shoop proper graduating in June 1965 at which time we moved to 95th and Parnell. Morgan Park was special for me primarily due to segregation. We had everything we needed plus Ada Park with its swimming pool. There were also many activities all year long. I remember Ruby Dee visiting our church during the filming of A Raisin in the Sun. Yes it was a Special Place to grow up.


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