Encyclopedia ofChicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Shoreline Development

Back | Page 1 | Page 2 | Forward

Race Divisions on Public Beaches

The fight between public and private interests over the lakeshore included racial divisions that resulted in the segregated use of the beaches and waters of Lake Michigan. Through the first decades of the twentieth century African American children were not welcome at most of the bathing beaches in the city. In 1912 an African American child was attacked for attempting to bathe at the 39th Street Beach. As a mob grew, the police responded and quashed the riot. Racial tension soared again in 1919 over a similar incident. On a hot summer day in July at the 29th Street Beach white beachgoers threw rocks at an African American teenager who crossed an invisible line in the lake that extended from the racially segregated beaches. The black teenager drowned, igniting a race riot in the city that lasted for seven days. Though the beaches in Chicago were never officially designated by race, racial segregation continued along the lakeshore for much of the twentieth century.

31st Street Beach, 1931

In 1931 the 31st Street Beach continued to be a beach primarily used by African Americans.

See also: Douglas; Leisure; Racism, Ethnicity, and White Identity

Jackson Park Beach, 1928 and 1949

Located at 57th Street, Jackson Park Beach remained a beach used predominantly by whites through most of the twentieth century

See also: Hyde Park; Leisure; Racism, Ethnicity, and White Identity

Back | Page 1 | Page 2 | Forward