Center of the 1951 Cicero Riots


Between July 10 and 12, 1951, crowds of two to five thousand white Cicero residents repeatedly attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family. Historian Arnold Hirsch described the scene: "The burning and looting of the building's contents lasted several nights until order was finally restored by the presence of some 450 National Guardsmen and 200 Cicero and Cook County Sheriff's police" (Hirsch, p. 53). The accompanying photograph shows one of these National Guardsmen being helped away from the scene of the riots, blood running down his face. (Chicago History Museum, DN-N-7954) Hirsch explains that the Cicero riot was especially important because, unlike previous violent attempts to drive black residents out of otherwise all white neighborhoods, the press widely covered the Cicero events. Whereas the press virtually ignored violent upheaval at the Airport Homes Project in 1946, the Fernwood Park Project in 1947, in Park Manor in 1949, and in Englewood in 1949, the Cicero riots became news across the United States and the world. Word of the violence reached such far flung outlets as the Singapore Straits Times and the Pakistan Observer (Hirsch, p. 53). Perhaps most importantly, the Cicero riots began a new phase in Chicago's violent confrontations over race; rather than focusing on housing sites specifically, "battles over the use of schools, playgrounds, parks, and beaches became the dominant mode of interracial conflict" (Hirsch, p. 63). See: Arnold Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983, repr. 1998).

Labor Trail

Labor Trail

The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) is proud to present the Interactive Labor Trail, made possible by a generous grant from the Illinois Humanities Council. This on-line history resource builds on “The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle,” a map of 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people -- often unsung -- who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. This Interactive Labor Trail expands the number of locations and provides a greater depth of information, while giving map users the chance to add their knowledge of locations and events in the Chicago area’s working-class history.

We invite all individuals, groups, and institutions interested in the labor and working-class history of Chicago, Cook County, the Calumet Region, and Illinois to contribute to the map. Users can add new sites, edit or build upon existing entries with additional text, photographs, primary sources, audio and video files, as well as links to related websites.

Easy-to-use instructions for adding to the on-line version of the map are available at

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at:

The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle

Project Director:
Leon Fink, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Advisors:
Tobias Higbie, Newberry Library
Lisa Oppenheim, Chicago Metro History Education Center
Liesl Miller Orenic, Dominican University

Administrative Director:
Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Assistants:
Aaron Max Berkowitz, University of Illinois at Chicago; John H. Flores, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Gellman, Northwestern University; Dan Harper, University of Illinois at Chicago; Emily LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Chicago

Web Design:
William Atwood and Melissa Palmer