Tuesday, September 15, 2009

LEN: Block Of Ages

By Lorraine Swanson, Editor
Lake Effect News
For the generations of McKeevers, Browns, Clarks, Jenkins, Thurmans, Austins, Grays, Lewises, Joneses, Colliers and Bakers that grew up on the 4600 block of North Winthrop, most thought it was just a place where their folks wanted to live.
The sons and daughters of railroad porters, department store clerks and domestics, the families that comprised the North Side’s oldest black community handled the cold reality of enforced segregation with aplomb, forming a close-knit extended family. Consigned as second-class citizens to one short block in Uptown in the early 20th century, the families of Winthrop thrived. They held block parties, watched out for each other’s children, left their front doors unlocked, gathered on summer nights to watch outdoor movies beamed on the brick wall of a Hillman’s grocery store, started businesses, fought in two world wars, and did an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Continue Reading

Also read Lorraine's great editorial entitled, "We Are Winthrop Avenue" here.

View a slideshow of the garden dedication here.


  1. i had heard some work was happening on this project and i am delighted to see it all come together. what an interesting background story. i have visited some of these gardens around the city and have been very impressed with the outcome. over the years i hope the garden will become a huge success and a great place to gather for the community. great work everyone.

    that said, i would most desire that names of politicians not be put on signs while they are still alive... please!!!!

  2. I see Shiller attended this event.

    Since it has nothing to do with CAPS or addressing any of the pressing needs of the community at large, I'm not surprised.

    I love how these people respect and honor the history of their community.

    Too bad they allowed someone to attend who is overtly working to tear down everything their predecessors worked so hard to build.

    Ie - self-respect, self-determination and non-subsidized success.

  3. I attended this block club event 3 years ago and have a fond memory of one of the men publicly asking a woman there for her hand in marriage. We all applauded when she said yes.

    When I saw the couple last weekend, I relayed that touching event and they then announced to the group that they just learned they are having a baby. Applause again.

    The stories of everyone there were captivating. One man went through the stories, decade by decade. They spoke tenderly of the way they all looked out for one another. I have a great photo of one of the women who grew up there... she's now 102 years old and she had such a gentle way about her.

    Some remembered that I joined them in a line dance 3 years ago, and I did it again... I was awful, but they were just delighted to see their new friends join them and I was delighted to feel so welcomed.

  4. This is a great piece of little known Black history, especially since folks don't historically associate the North side with the black migratory experience. I had no clue this was the case. Yo, really, Shiller was there, you don't like her, you don't think she's responsive enough... but must you use this as an opportunity to cast a sour light on a really beautiful event and the families and history it recognizes? I understand your feelings about Shiller, but I just think that was unnecessary.

    Also, the slide show you can link to is beautiful. Thanks for posting such an enlightening story, UU.

  5. Uptown Writer - I don't think Yo was casting a "sour light" on this event at all. It's not like he went to the event and heckled Shiller. He's posting what he thinks on a blog.

    And I think what he said is dead on.

  6. i support Yo's comments.

    the fact that Shiller attended and has been a proponent to keep these people second-class citizens all these years later is shameful!

  7. ...to keep these people second-class citizens

    They're second class citizens?

  8. No, MOS. The UptownD's comment refers to Shiller's false claims that she's really helpful to those in need. You honestly don't need examples of this, do you?

  9. For all of the years I've lived right around the corner, I've never heard of this event or the history of the block. We go on about our business and rarely learn about the people around us. Great that our NEXT alderman is already in touch with many facets of our community!

  10. The UptownD's comment refers to Shiller's false claims that she's really helpful to those in need.

    I didn't see quote marks around those words so I assumed they were the sentiments of the write. So did Shiller say they were "second class citizens" and she's just being quoted? Because the way it's written it sounds like the person already consideres them second class citizens and Shiller is working to keep them that way.

    Just wanted clarification...