History

Nelson Mandela

Remembering Nelson Mandela on His Centennial

Look back on the life and legacy of the revered human rights icon and first democratically elected president of South Africa with a biographical portrait from Frontline, special reports from PBS NewsHour, and an archival segment on Mandela from Chicago Tonight.
Tom Burrell in the 1980s

How Tom Burrell Convinced Corporations That "Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People"

In 1961, Tom Burrell became the first African American to work in a Chicago advertising agency – in the mailroom. Within a decade, he had started his own agency, which became a pioneer of targeted advertising, incorporating black culture and positive images of black people into commercials.
The 2014 Special Olympics. Photo: John Huet

"The World Will Never Be the Same After This": 50 Years of the Special Olympics

The first Special Olympics were held 50 years ago in Chicago, thanks in part to the championing efforts of a Kennedy. A celebration of the Special Olympics will be held on their anniversary here in July.
Chicago's Union Stock Yards in 1947

When Chicago Was 'Hog Butcher to the World'

A square mile of the city just upstream from downtown devoted to turning livestock into products that saw 18 million animals in a year at its peak: the Union Stock Yards are almost unimaginable now, but they once epitomized Chicago, and gave us the assembly line and refrigerated rail cars.
The Harlem Globetrotters

The Harlem (Actually Chicago) Globetrotters

The name is deceiving: they're not from Harlem, and they definitely didn't travel the globe at first. The Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Chicago by five high school stars and a short Jewish man, and originally played in small town gyms outside the city.
Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy during the McClellan Senate hearings circa May 1957. Photo: Howard Jones for Look Magazine / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

50 Years After the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

50 years ago today, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the midst of the 1968 presidential campaign. Explore his unrealized potential in a 1969 Studs Terkel interview. "There was this great strength to him, a decency and simplicity and a willingness to listen and a willingness to learn."
Women detainees at Angel Island. Photo: California Historical Society

The Chinese Exclusion Act and Chicago

With the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned all Chinese immigration and naturalization, many Chinese immigrants began moving eastward to towns like Chicago, where they slowly cemented a presence despite the demographic restrictions of the Act. 
Chicago's Grant Park

How 13 Chicago Parks Got Their Names

Who are some of the more prominent parks in the "City in a Garden" named after, and why? From Humboldt Park to Horner Park to Sherman Park, learn about the history of Chicago's 8,800 acres of parkland and the origins of some of the parks' names.
Tom Wolfe

Era-Defining Journalist and Novelist Tom Wolfe Has Died

Tom Wolfe, who wrote The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities and gave us the terms "'Me' decade" and "radical chic," died yesterday at the age of 88. Watch him discuss his trademark white suit and the similarities between counterculture and evangelicalism in this archival interview.
Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers Saves Public Media with Heartfelt Testimony

On May 1, 1969, 49 years ago today, Fred Rogers managed to convince the cynical politicians of Washington to prevent funding cuts to public media through his direct, deeply convincing testimony. Watch it here.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. Photo: Getty Images

Martin Luther King and Fair Housing in Chicago

50 years ago, on April 11, 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act. Martin Luther King, Jr. had come to Chicago in 1966 for his first campaign outside the South to advocate for fair housing, but it took the riots caused by his assassination for the bill to be passed.
John McCain; Donald Trump behind Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photos: REUTERS/Brian Snyder; REUTERS

From McCain to Trump: The Transformation of the GOP

"Donald Trump is in some ways John McCain 2.0," says Frontline producer Michael Kirk. The progression from one Republican presidential candidate to the other is illustrative of the radically changed Republican Party – and perhaps the end of the GOP as we know it.
Cesar Chavez on Chicago Tonight with John Callaway

From the Archive: Cesar Chavez

Before watching Independent Lens: Dolores, take a look back at this 1985 interview with Dolores Huerta's compatriot and fellow labor organizer Cesar Chavez, in which he discusses his activism, the decline of labor, and the difficulties facing the movement.
Conservative leader and anti-"women's liberation" activist Phyllis Schlafly in 1977

From the Archive: Phyllis Schlafly

Illinois just became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which sought to prohibit discrimination of women, more than 40 years after Congress approved it. Watch a 1977 interview with the woman who led the successful opposition.
Bessie Coleman

The First Female African American Pilot

Only eighteen years after the Wright brothers' first flight, Bessie Coleman overcame both racism and sexism to become the first African American woman to earn a pilot's license, with the help of the Chicago Defender. But her high-flying career was cut tragically short. 
Subscribe to RSS - History