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Chicago History Museum's oral history project working with Breakthrough Ministries to interview East Garfield Park residents
Chicago History Museum's oral history project working with Breakthrough Ministries to interview East Garfield Park residents
61 backers pledged $4,517 to help bring this project to life.

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Forty Blocks: The East Garfield Park Oral History Project

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A Collaborative Effort

The Chicago History Museum plans a collaborative oral history project with Breakthrough, a social service provider located in East Garfield Park with broad connections in the community. The Forty Blocks project will train students from East Garfield Park to record oral histories of neighborhood residents. This project will be a rich educational experience for the students and an important opportunity to document East Garfield Park's history. 

Student Oral Historians

Breakthrough, in its Arts and Science Academy, has organized middle and high school students into the Film Crew, meeting at Breakthrough. Video, sound, and photographic professionals meet with the Film Crew to create documentary films and other video and audio pieces.

Members of the Film Crew and their professional mentors will work with the Museum's Forty Blocks project. In March, the Film Crew will learn, discuss, and try out oral history interviewing techniques while studying and discussing East Garfield Park's history. After this training, Film Crew members will conduct oral history interviews of local residents at Breakthrough's FamilyPlex building in East Garfield Park.

Your Support

Funds from this campaign will purchase new audio recorders, pay for professional oral history transcriptions, and staff the project. This support will also mean the oral histories will become available through the Collection Online portion of the Chicago History Museum's website. 

Forty Blocks of History

East Garfield Park, today a predominantly African American neighborhood, is located in the middle of Chicago's West Side and has undergone enormous shifts since World War II. Like many communities on the South and West Sides, it experienced racial change during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

 In 1966, during the Chicago Freedom Movement, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to East Garfield Park and other Chicago neighborhoods. Dr. King, the SCLC, and other civil rights leaders worked with local organizations and residents to fight racist practices in housing, education, and employment. 

Since the 1970s, East Garfield Park has become synonymous with poverty and violence. More recently, the area has emerged as a possible zone of gentrification and redevelopment. Yet, the community is much more than this. That's why the Chicago History Museum and Breakthrough's Film Crew are working together to document its history.

Risks and challenges

Our major challenge lies in the lack of historical research covering East Garfield Park's history since 1970. The Forty Blocks project, however, will overcome this and create a historical understanding of the community in the last nearly fifty years.

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Funding period

- (30 days)