Encyclopedia ofChicago
Entries : Bud Billiken Day Parade
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Bud Billiken Day Parade

 

 

 

Bud Billiken Day Parade

In 1923 Chicago Defender founder Robert S. Abbott and his managing editor, Lucius Harper, formed the Bud Billiken Club. Abbott had long expressed a concern for Chicago's African American youth, and the success of the Defender's “young people's page” convinced him that a club would also be popular. Harper apparently chose the name “Bud” because it was his own nickname, and “Billiken” because of its association with of an ancient Chinese mythical character believed to be the guardian angel of all children. By 1929 the Bud Billiken Club, with its membership cards and identification buttons, was so popular among Chicago's black youth that Abbott decided to initiate an annual parade to celebrate it. He led the first parade in his Rolls Royce, and Frank Gosden and Charles Correll of Amos 'n' Andy fame were the first guests of honor.

Since the 1940s the Bud Billiken Day Parade has been sponsored by the Chicago Defender Charities, and has become known as the oldest African American parade in the country. Participants in the parade, which proceeds south on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from 39th to 51st streets culminating with a picnic in Washington Park, have included presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson; Nat King Cole; Michael Jordan; and Muhammad Ali. Toward the late 1990s spectator estimates of the Bud Billiken Day parade, held on the second Saturday of August, ran into the millions, and the event was routinely considered one of the largest of its kind in the United States.

Bibliography
“Who Was Bud Billiken?” Chicago Sun-Times, August 13, 1977.
Calloway, Earl. “A History of Bud Billiken Day.” Chicago Defender, August 8, 1998.