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Everyday People: 30 Photos Of Black Life In Chicago During The ’70s

By 08.05.13
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John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (9)

Clicking through the worldwide web led me to one of the best photo sets I've seen in a long time. The images are a depiction of Black life in Chicago during the 1970s, captured by John H. White.

"John H. White was hired by the Environmental Protection Agency as a freelance photographer for the “Documerica Project.” In addition to taking photos “relating to environmental problems,” he was sent to capture images of “everyday life in the 1970s."

I imagine many of the faces seen in the set are one to two generations removed from the Great Migration. White's photos remind me that several Midwestern cities were once thriving portals of not just Americana, but also the Black experience in America. It may have not been grand but life wasn't wholly bleak either.

For the virtual trip to the past, click through the gallery to view the photos.

Photos + Captions: National Archives and Records Administration on Flickr

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (2)

“Blacks And Whites Take To The Water At A 12th Street Beach On Lake Michigan On Chicago’s South Side In The Summer Of 1973.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (3)

“The Rev. Jesse Jackson Speaks On A Radio Broadcast From The Headquarters Of Operation Push, At Its Annual Convention.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (4)

“A Young Black Man Showing His Muscle During A Small Community Program In Chicago On The South Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (5)

“The Kadats Of America, Chicago’s Most Loved Young Black Drill Team, Shown Performing On A Sunday Afternoon At A Community Talent Show On The South Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (6)

“World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, A Black Muslim, Attends The Sect’s Service To Hear Elijah Muhammad Deliver The Annual Savior’s Day Message In Chicago.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (7)

“‘The Fruit Of Islam’, A Special Group Of Bodyguards For Muslim Leader Elijah Muhammad, Sit At The Bottom Of The Platform While He Delivers His Annual Savior’s Day Message In Chicago.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (1)

“A Senior Citizens’ March to Protest Inflation, Unemployment and High Taxes.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (8)

“Black Muslim Women Dressed In White Applaud Elijah Muhammad.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (10)

“Black Man Enjoying A Nap On A Chaise Lounge On Chicago’s South Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (11)

“A Black Band Performs At The Lake Meadows Shopping Center In Chicago.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (12)

“Black Products And Services Was One Of The Themes At The Annual Black Expo Held In Chicago.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (15)

“Black Children Play Outside The Ida B. Wells Homes, One Of Chicago’s Oldest Housing Projects.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (16)

“Sunrise On Lake Michigan With Chicago Shown In The Background.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (17)

“Artist Ron Blackburn Painting An Outdoor Wall Mural At The Corner Of 33rd And Giles Streets In Chicago.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (18)

“Black Ghetto Child Savors A Snow Cone Just Received From A Sidewalk Vendor On Chicago’s West Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (19)

“Chicago Ghetto On The South Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (20)

“Worshippers At Holy Angel Catholic Church On Chicago’s South Side. It Is The City’s Largest Black Catholic Church.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (21)

“Black Student In A Black Studies Class In A West Side Chicago Classroom Reading A Book About Great Rulers In Africa’s Past.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (22)

“A Swimsuit Clad Black Woman Enjoys Her Summer Outing At Chicago’s 12th Street Beach On Lake Michigan.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (23)

“A Class Of Black Student Welders With Their Instructor At A Former Grade School In The Heart Of The Cabrini-green Housing Project.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (25)

“Black Family Enjoying The Summer Weather At Chicago’s 12th Street Beach On Lake Michigan.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (26)

“Black Members Of The Chicago City Council During A Budget Hearing.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (29)

“Black Youths Play Basketball At Stateway Gardens’ Highrise Housing Project On Chicago’s South Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (30)

“Black Man Operating A Newsstand In Chicago On The West Side The City Is Believed To Be The Black Business Capital Of The United States.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (31)

“Minority Youngsters Who Gathered To Have Their Picture Taken On Chicago’s South Side During A Community Talent Show.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (33)

“Black Neighbors Outside On Chicago’s West Side.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (34)

“Lake Meadows Apartment Complex On Chicago’s South Side Inhabited 70% By Blacks.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (35)

“Washington Park On Chicago’s South Side Where Many Black Families Enjoy Picnicking During The Summer.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (38)

“Vote Registration Drive Was One Aspect Of Black Expo.”

John H. White - Chicago Documerica Project (40)

“Lerone Bennett, Well Known Black Writer Who Is Senior Editor At Ebony Magazine, In His Office At Johnson Publishing Company In Chicago.”

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TAGSchicagoDocumerica ProjectEDUTAINMENTEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA)EVERYTHING ELSEJohn H. WhiteNational Archives and Records AdministrationSMOKE BREAK
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